Phil Mickelson became the oldest winner of a major in the history of golf when he triumphed at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. The American outlasted Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen to claim the crown by strokes in difficult conditions.
It was his first major since his victory at The Open in 2013, and sixth overall. Mickelson’s time at the top was seemingly over after he dropped out of the top 100 in the world rankings, but he enjoyed a resurgence at the Ocean Course. The left-hander managed the wind to great effect and was able to hold his composure when it mattered the most to ensure that his compatriot Koepka and Oosthuizen could not close in.
Mickelson’s triumph is a huge moment for the game, proving that the older players on the tour are still capable of magic. The big hitters of the sport such as Bryson DeChambeau have taken the headlines for their exploits, reaching distances off the tee that few believed were possible. However, Mickelson has shown that the game is all about nuance and the ability to hold your nerve on the green to deliver in key moments.
The American may pave the way for other veterans of the tour to believe that their respective major dreams are not over. But, despite his triumph in the PGA Championship, Mickelson is not considered one of the leading contenders for The Open being backed at +5000 in the golf betting odds to claim the Claret Jug for a second time. Rather, Dustin Johnson is the favourite for the title, while Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are also strong contenders in the minds of the bookies.
It has been a long time since McIlroy won a major, dating back seven years to his triumph at the PGA Championship. Johnson only won the second major of his career last year in The Masters, where he capitalized on a different Augusta to the one players were accustomed to in April. More often than not, Johnson has flattered to deceive on the grand stage despite his pedigree. Thomas has failed to make his mark on a major since winning the PGA Championship in 2017, while Rahm has yet to make his breakthrough at one of the four leading competitions.
The current year has been a curious one at the majors. Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian-born player to win one of the leading crowns when he triumphed at The Masters. Mickelson’s subsequent win has made further history in the game. Pundits and fans now more than ever must consider the field before lining up a potential winner at an event. Time was Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods would sweep up all the major crowns before them. McIlroy and Jordan Spieth threatened to match their predecessors, but have lacked the consistency and the instincts to carry their success after winning titles at a young age.
When The Open commences in June, every contender in the field will be in play for the crown, and we cannot take world ranking or past performance into account. The game is more unpredictable than ever before and it’s great to see.