July 21, 2013: Phil Mickelson, trailing by five strokes entering the final round, roars back to win his first British Open (now commonly known as the Open Championship) at the age of 43. Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes on the final day en route to a five-under 66, equaling the lowest round of the tournament on Scotland’s testy Muirfield course. He won by three shots over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson to capture his fifth major championship.
Mickelson got a late start in the major championships business. He finished in second or third place in eight majors and became known as the best player in golf to never win a major before he got one. Mickelson won his first on his 47th try, capturing the 2004 Masters in his 13th pro season at the age of 33. He took his second Green Jacket with a championship in the 70th edition of the Masters in 2006. That propelled Mickelson to No. 2 in the World Golf Rankings behind Tiger Woods. Mickelson has never made it to No. 1.
Lefty won the Masters a third time in 2010. He’s also been victorious in two PGA Championships, including last year, when at 50 he became the oldest player ever to win a major. But he has yet to win the U.S. Open (he’s been the runnerup in that event six times). Mickelson is the second-leading career money winner on the PGA Tour, but he’s made far more than that via endorsements and appearances.
Now we wonder what side of history Mickelson will land on. Stenson, too, for that matter. Mickelson was one of the early supporters of LIV Golf, the new tour financed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been accused of trying to “sportswash” their atrocities, such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the executions of gay people. Mickelson’s excuse is that it’s all for the betterment of golf, but many aren’t buying it. Just Wednesday it was announced that Stenson will no longer serve as Team Europe’s captain at the 2023 Ryder Cup, as he is also expected to join the LIV Golf series.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)