KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA | That was bonkers, wasn’t it?
Maybe it was pandemic fatigue – or the alcohol consumed on a long Sunday in the sun. Or maybe it was just the fact a nearly 51-year-old man far enough past his sell-by date that he hadn’t posted a top-20 finish in almost a year was 176 yards and a few more strokes from making history.
That cocktail of circumstances led to a total loss of decorum. There was no stopping the thousands of fans who poured onto the 18th fairway and right past the players still trying to finish the PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka and his tender knee were none too amused. Phil Mickelson, with a stroke left to give, called it “harrowing … and awesome.”
The final scene made an already amazing PGA Championship unforgettable. Mickelson did what no AARP-eligible golfer had ever done and collected his sixth major in trademark Phil phasion.
It was glorious.
When Phil was a spry lad of 39, he saw a 59-year-old Tom Watson on a new hip come a whisker from winning the 2009 British Open a year after Greg Norman nearly did the same at 53. So why not him one day?
“It was one of the greatest performances in the sport, and it’s inspiring, yeah, to see people like that do it,” Mickelson said of Watson. “And I hope that this inspires some to just put in that little extra work, because first of all, there’s no reason why you can’t accomplish your goals at an older age. It just takes a little more work.”
Let’s review what just happened:
BIRDIE: Mickelson. Every day you expected the old man to turn back into a pumpkin and every day his play was more inspiring than the last. Phil the Thrill has always been golf’s greatest showman. This feat solidifies his legend.
BOGEY: Brooks Koepka. With a second consecutive Sunday 74 in the PGA, Koepka has blown two straight chances after winning two straight Wanamakers in 2018-19. Making a double and bogey on the front-nine par-5s proved to be a killer.
BIRDIE: U.S. Open. Suddenly Torrey Pines in three weeks has a subplot we all realistically thought was a dead end – can Mickelson finally complete his career slam? AT AGE 51! Bonkers.
BOGEY: Julius Boros. The late great “Moose” loses his trivia claim to fame of being the oldest to win a major at age 48 in the 1968 PGA in Texas. His legacy will have to settle for simply being a three-time major champ and Hall of Famer.
BIRDIE: Pádraig Harrington. Not only did he have his best major finish since 2012, his T4 earns the current Ryder Cup captain a return to the Masters for the first time since 2015.
PAR: Louis Oosthuizen. Another runner-up for the sweet-swinging 2010 Open champ who already possesses the career slam. Please, Louis, can we get another “Rise Up” video?
BIRDIE: Tiger Woods fans. Mickelson’s performance might be just the thing that inspires Tiger to make the significant and painful rehab effort it will take to be competitive again. No way he wants to let Phil have the last word.
BOGEY: Gallery guards. They were unprepared for the spontaneous chaos when fans rushed the fairway and threatened the health and safety of players trying to finish. Koepka hinted his balky knee was a target: “It’s cool for Phil, but getting dinged a few times isn’t exactly my idea of fun.”
BIRDIE: Atmosphere. The PGA of America wouldn’t admit it, but they opened the gates to all comers instead of the 10,000 spectators they said would be allowed in February. There seemed to be that many on the last fairway. It felt normal and the buzz was as amazing as the views.
BOGEY: Social distancing. The pandemic appeared to be over on Kiawah Island – even before the super spreader congregation on 18. There were more others scored on the par-3 17th hole this week than there were masks anywhere inside or outside on the whole island.
BIRDIE: Rickie Fowler. Made the most of his special invitation by finishing T8. Unfortunately, a bogey at the last cost him a top-four and ticket back to Augusta. As always, Rickie had the sense and the class to stick around to watch and congratulate Phil.
OTHER: Cameron Tringale. Tied for second at 3-under after an early birdie on Friday, he plummeted 123 spots on the leaderboard at warp speed with a triple-quint-quad combo on 14, 16 and 17. He did make two birdies on his second nine and only missed cut by three shots.
BIRDIE: Harry Higgs. A bogey-free 70 on Sunday earned the most relatable guy in golf a T4 in his first career major start. Welcome to the Masters, Harry.
BOGEY: Drones. The views from the drones and blimp were spectacular, but don’t count Mickelson a fan. One hovering over the fourth hole Saturday was right in Phil’s eye-line. “Can you please move that drone from my flight?” Phil said on air. “Not only is it annoying, but it’s gonna hit it.” The drone moved.
BIRDIE: Shane Lowry. Third straight big event that the Irishman has posted career-high finishes. The reigning Open champ capped this T4 in front of his friend and the European captain as Lowry hopes to secure a spot in the Ryder Cup.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. Fresh off a win at Quail Hollow and returning to the site of his 2012 PGA win, McIlroy was a non-factor thanks in large part to making six bogeys on par-5s and playing them 2-over. “The par-5s were a killer,” he said. “I really put myself behind the 8-ball with that.”
BIRDIE: Rich Beem. The 2002 PGA champ doubled 18 to miss the cut on Friday then turned around and walked 18 more holes with Koepka-McIlroy-Thomas group working as an on-course commentator for Sky Sports. Beem, 50, said Kiawah might be his last PGA as a competitor.
BIRDIE: Paul Casey. Another near miss. But hey, 43 is still young. Missing a 12-footer for birdie at the last left him T4, earning a thank you from Harrington for his Masters invite. “How’s that for taking care of your captain?” said Casey, who ensured a wild-card pick should he need one.
BOGEY: Dustin Johnson. Becomes the first world No. 1 since Greg Norman in 1997 to miss the cut in the first two majors of the year. Poor guy only got to keep his green jacket for five months and now this.
BIRDIE: Kerry Haigh. Longtime PGA of America set-up boss outdid himself with perfect plan, moving tees to account for wind and not getting carried away with 7,876 yards at his disposal. Turf conditions were pristine. “Probably the best major setup I’ve ever seen,” said Harrington.
BOGEY: Springboks. While Oosty hung in, fellow South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Branden Grace started Sunday T5 playing together. They shot 77 and 78, respectively, and disappeared fast.
BIRDIE: The Ocean Course. This place has come a long way since the horror show that was the 1991 Ryder Cup. In 30 years the Pete Dye creation has matured into a real beauty. I suspect we’ll see it again in the vacant 2030 PGA spot. And perhaps a 50th anniversary Ryder Cup return in 2041.
BOGEY: John Daly. He looks like Bad Santa and his golf was just bad – 85-86. He lost to all the club pros and hasn’t made a major cut since finishing T18 at Kiawah in 2012.
BIRDIE: Kiawah. After the logistical nightmare that was 2012, the island proved more capable of accommodating a more reasonable sized crowd. Also, May is a less crowded season for the resort. Not having to shuttle 2.5 hours in from Charleston in summer traffic makes everything more tolerable.
Top: Phil Mickelson is assisted by security as he is followed up the 18th fairway by a sea of fans during the final round. (Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images)
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