KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA (REUTERS, AFP) - Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship by two shots over Brooks Koepka and South African Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday(May 23) to become the oldest major winner in history.
At 50 years, 11 months and three days old, Mickelson wiped out the mark of oldest winner of a Major that was set by Julius Boros, then 48, in the 1968 PGA Championship. Mickelson will turn 51 on June 16.
"This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed that it was possible but yet everything was saying it wasn't," Mickelson said. "I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work, a little bit harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but gosh, is it worth it in the end."
The American took the US$2.1 million (S$2.8 million) top prize with a stunning shot-making display on the windy Ocean Course.
He delivered a win for the ages by firing a final-round one-over 73 to finish 72 holes on six-under 282 with four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka (74) and South African Louis Oosthuizen (73) second on 284.
"What an achievement to win a Major at 50 years old, and he deserves all of that," said Oosthuizen. "It was not easy with the wind, and you know, he kept calm. That's unbelievable and great stuff."
Golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods both offered their congratulations to Mickelson.
Nicklaus holds the record for most men's Majors with 18 and Woods is second on the all-time list with 15, and while both have won far more than Mickelson's six, his performance clearly impressed them.
"Fantastic golf this week at Kiawah," Nicklaus, who won the last of his Majors at the 1986 Masters aged 46, said in a video posted on Twitter.
"You played great, you didn't make any dumb mistakes, which is the whole key to winning Major championships.
"There is something strikes me; 50-years-old is older than 46. Well done my friend."
"Truly inspirational to see @PhilMickelson do it again at 50 years of age. Congrats!!!!!!!," Woods, who is still recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a February car crash, tweeted.
Mickelson, who had been atop the leaderboard in some fashion since Friday, briefly lost the lead near the beginning of the last round. But Koepka, who had taken the lead, took a dip, eventually going through a seven-hole stretch at four over.
"The thing was, Phil played great," Koepka said.
Mickelson needed to be sharp given the circumstances.
"I love the challenge of competing against such great players," he said. "What an incredible competitor and tough player Brooks Koepka is, and to have a chance to play in the final group with him was an exceptional honour."
Mickelson's lead over Oosthuizen shrunk to two strokes before a birdie on No. 16. A bogey on the next hole kept up the suspense.
A surreal scene at the 18th hole saw spectators surround the green and chanting "Lefty" as he two-putted for par to complete a record-breaking victory for the ages.
It was a sign of the tremendous support he received during the tournament.
"I don't think I've ever had an experience like that, so thank you for that," Mickelson said. "Slightly unnerving, but exceptionally awesome."
Other results of note were turned in by defending champion Collin Morikawa (68) and Masters runner-up Will Zalatoris (70). They were among a cluster of nine golfers tied for eighth.
Reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had his worst round of the tournament with a 77, falling to a tie for 38th at three over.
The victory by Mickelson marked the sixth Major championship win of his career and first since the 2013 British Open.
Mickelson's best 2021 finish entering this week was a tie for 21st at the Masters in April. He now has won 45 times on the PGA Tour. This was his first win since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2019.