(May 23) What Phil Mickelson did Sunday in winning the PGA Championship three weeks shy of his 51st birthday is one of the great sports achievements of our lifetimes. It also puts him squarely among the dozen greatest golfers of all time.

Mickelson’s win makes him the oldest major champion of all time — by an almost unimaginable two and a half years and another two years over the third oldest. The feat is all the more impressive when considering how golf has evolved in the past 20 years into a contest among weightlifting, highly toned younger athletes who bomb the ball more than 300 yards. This is not the cigarette-smoking, hard-drinking golf tour of the 1960s when Julius Boros won a PGA at age 48. The torque and pressure on the bodies of today’s top players is far greater than it was in the 20th century. And Mickelson did it after a full decade of fighting major psoriatic arthritis.

Phil the Thrill did it on the longest course in major championship history, one featuring a diabolical bevy of hazards. He did it with four prior major title winners pressuring him before finishing in the next four spots on the leader board. He did it in typical Phil phashion, surviving six final-round bogeys by holing a bunker shot, answering his own bogeys with birdies, slashing shots out of the rough, and, on the final hole, laughing off unruly fans literally jumping out to hug him and appearing almost to pull him down.

This victory vaults Mickelson from the ranks of accomplished superstars such as Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, and Billy Casper into the higher pantheon. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Bobby Jones inhabit one level, then Ben Hogan, then Sam Snead. But now, with his six majors and status as the oldest major winner, along with his 45 PGA tour titles and 11 (!) major second-place finishes and seven thirds, he joins the conversation among Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Byron Nelson, Walter Hagen, and Gene Sarazen to fill out the even dozen of all-time greatests….. (The rest of the column is at this link.]


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