His last act was a real stunner: a great champion at 50 years old.
Mickelson won his sixth major and by far the most surprising on Sunday at the PGA Championship. He made two first birdies with that magical wedge play and let a group of suitors fall too far to catch him in the shifting wind of Kiawah Island.
He finished with a 1 of 73, building a five-stroke lead over the back nine and not making any critical mistakes that kept him out of his place in history.
Julius Boros held the distinction of oldest major golf champion for 53 years. He was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship in San Antonio.
Pure chaos erupted along the 18th hole after Mickelson hit the 9 iron safely from just over 15 feet, which practically earned an unlikely victory. Thousands of fans engulfed him down the fairway – a scene typically seen only at the British Open – until Mickelson appeared with a thumbs-up.
Songs of “Lefty! Lefty! Lefty! Chased him onto the green and into the scoring tent, his last one-week assignment he won’t soon forget.
Three months after Tom Brady, 43, won a seventh Super Bowl, Mickelson has added ageless wonders to this year. Mickelson became the first player in PGA Tour history to win tournaments 30 years apart. The first of his 45 titles dates back to 1991 when he was still a junior at Arizona State.
Mickelson became the 10th player to win major tournaments in three decades, an elite roster that begins with Harry Vardon and was recently completed by Tiger Woods.
Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen had their chances, but briefly. Koepka had 4 points on par 5 while the game was still in progress and finished with a 74. Oosthuizen hit in the water as he tried to make one last run and shot 73.
Mickelson finished 6 under 282
The victory came a week after Mickelson accepted a special exemption at the US Open because, ranked 115th in the world and without a win for the past two years, he was no longer exempt from qualifying. He hadn’t finished in the top 20 in his last 17 tournaments in nearly nine months. He was worried that he would not be able to concentrate on 18 holes.
And then he beat the strongest peloton of the year – 99 of the top 100 players – and made it easy.