Kiawah Island, South Carolina – It turns out Phil Mickelson might be getting better with age.
Mickelson became the oldest golfer to win a major championship, shooting a final-round 1-over-par 73 to capture the PGA Championship by two shots at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on Sunday.
"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."
Before the 50-year-old Mickelson's win on Sunday, the record for the oldest to win a major belonged to Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48. Mickelson will turn 51 on June 16.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama shot an even-par 72 in the final round to finish at 1-over, seven strokes behind Mickelson.
His bid for the title effectively ended in the third round, when he plummeted into a tie for 23rd with a 4-over 76, as four bogeys and a double-bogey on the back nine proved costly.
The 29-year-old shot four birdies against two bogeys and a double-bogey on Sunday to remain tied for 23rd.
"I couldn't get back into a flow easily," Matsuyama said. "By the time I started playing a little better, it was already over. I'm very disappointed my game fell apart on the back nine of the third round."
The victory gave Mickelson his sixth major title, a haul that also includes a win in the 2005 PGA Championship. His most recent victory in a major was the 2013 British Open. Mickelson has now won majors across three different decades.
He finished the tournament at 6-under 282.
"What an achievement to win a major at 50 years old, and he deserves all of that," said South African Louis Oosthuizen, who finished tied for second with Brooks Koepka. "It was not easy with the wind, and you know, he kept calm. That's unbelievable and great stuff."
Mickelson, who had been atop the leaderboard in some fashion since Friday, briefly lost the lead near the beginning of the final round. But Koepka, who had taken the lead, took a dip, eventually going through a seven-hole stretch at 4 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 honor."
Mickelson's lead over Oosthuizen shrunk to two strokes before a birdie on No. 16. A bogey on the next hole maintained the suspense.
Given the global pandemic and the recent return of galleries for professional tournaments, it was a jarring scene to watch Mickelson make his way through the crowd to the 18th green after his approach shot from the rough.
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."
Koepka (74), the winner in 2018 and 2019, and Oosthuizen (73) shared second place at 4 under.
Koepka held the lead after the first hole with his birdie and Mickelson's bogey. But a double-bogey on the par-5 second hole reversed the order, It was a strange turn of events given Koepka's strong showing on par-5 holes during the tournament.
But Mickelson had other golfers marveling at his steady play all week. Then he put on the finishing touches Sunday.
"It's pretty incredible," Jordan Spieth said Saturday. "I know he's talked about how he's been less competitive here versus the Champions Tour and it's just been getting harder, whatever. … The guy has got four good rounds on any golf course in him, and no one would bet against that."
Mickelson's best 2021 finish entering this event was a tie for 21st at the Masters in April.
Mickelson has won 45 times on the PGA Tour. This was his first win since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2019.
Koepka and Oosthuizen were left feeling like they let too many chances slip away.
"I'm super disappointed, pretty bummed. I'm not happy," Koepka said. "I don't know if there's a right word I can say on here without getting fined, but it hurts a little bit. It's one of those things where I just never felt comfortable over the putts. I don't know why, what happened."
Oosthuizen was also a runner-up in the tournament in 2017.
"I feel like I could have probably get two or three more shots out of my game," Oosthuizen said. "I tried to be as aggressive as I could without doing stupid things."
Shane Lowry (69) and Padraig Harrington (69), both from Ireland, tied for fourth place at 2 under with Harry Higgs (70) and England's Paul Casey (71).
Abraham Ancer of Mexico shot 65 for the best round of the tournament. He finished at 1 under in a tie for eighth place.
"I was working the ball nicely with the wind and kind of getting close to some pin placements that I couldn't get close to the previous days," Ancer said.
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.
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