The secret to his success? The family members of Phil Mickelson provided some novel insights into how the 50-year-old wizard conjured up his old magic in becoming the oldest winner of a Major by lifting the Wanamaker Trophy as the US PGA champion.
Phil’s sister, Tina, uploaded a text conversation which she had with her mother, Mary: “Tina, txt Philip and tell him just to par in. Don’t hit bombs or activate calves. Just par. They will have to catch him. He won’t listen to his mother so you txt him. Hurry.”
To which Tina replied, “I’ll text Tim. He’s the only one Phil is listening to today!”
If that gave some context to the family dynamics, Tim - his brother and caddie - revealed a conversation which had occurred after the Wells Fargo. “He told me three weeks ago, ‘I am going to win again soon’. I just said, ‘Well, let’s make sure we’re in contention on a Sunday’. I was trying to downplay the situation, but he said he was going to win again soon. And sure enough, obviously, it worked.”
Mickelson’s sixth Major win came in brilliant fashion to add another storied chapter to his career and again put the spotlight on his quest to complete the Grand Slam, with the US Open at Torrey Pines next month offering again the opportunity to claim the one missing link in the chain.
The final round of the drama was an absorbing one, with Brooks Koepka playing his part too. Among the acts that added to the highly charged atmosphere was a hole-out for birdie from the sand on the fifth hole. Mickelson, though, revealed it took a word in his ear from his brother to regain his focus. After three bogeys in his opening six holes, along with two birdies and a par, Tim took the opportunity of the walk from the sixth green to the seventh tee for his pep talk.
In recollecting the moment, Mickelson told the tale: “This is an intangible that makes him relatable or understand me, get the best out of me and makes him what a great caddie is. I’m walking off six, I had made some uncommitted swings the first six holes. I had been striking the ball awesome the first three days. I had a wonderful warm up session, like I was ready to go and I made some uncommitted swings the first six holes. He pulled me aside and said, ‘If you’re going to win this thing, you’re going to have to make committed golf swings’.
“It hit me in the head, I can’t make passive (swings), I can’t control the outcome, I have to swing committed. The first one I made was the drive on seven. Good drive on seven gave me a chance to get down by the green and make birdie. From there on, I hit a lot of really good shots because I was committed to each one.”
Ultimately, Mickelson took control of his own destiny and, in spite of a bogey on 17, hit his approach from the rough on the last to 16 feet to close the deal and for the crowds to swarm onto the 18th fairway to add chaos to his victory march.
Of that crowd surge onto the finishing hole, Mickelson said: “It’s an incredible experience. I’ve never had something like that (happen). It was a little bit unnerving but it was exceptionally awesome, too.”
The latest US PGA win - to add to his 2005 success - was, as he himself observed, the result of putting in the hours: “I just had to work harder physically to be able to practice as long as I wanted to and I’ve had to work a lot harder to be able to maintain focus throughout a round. That’s been the biggest challenge of late.
“My desire to play is the same. I’ve never been driven by exterior things. I’ve always been intrinsically motivated because I love to compete, I love playing the game. I love having opportunities to play against the best at the highest level. That’s what drives me and I think the belief that I could still do it inspired me to work harder. I just didn’t see why it couldn’t be done. It just took a little bit more effort.”
Mickelson’s win earned him a cheque for €1,768,9212 ($2.16m) to edge him closer to a milestone that only one other golfer - Tiger Woods - has achieved of earning more than $100m in prize money (not including sponsorship deals). Mickelson has accumulated $94,611,711 in on-course earnings in his illustrious career to date.
The one missing piece of Major silverware in Mickelson’s collection remains the US Open trophy, a championship in which he has finished runner-up five times.
And he is up to the challenge. “If I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines. I’ll take two weeks off before that and go out to Torrey and spend time, spend time on the greens and really try to be sharp for that week because I know that I’m playing well and this could very well be my last really good opportunity, although I get five more, but really good opportunity to win a US Open. So I’m going to put everything I have into it.”