Just a Number
Nicknamed Lefty, Phil Mickelson is a golfer who’s attracted a strong following based on his iconic play as well as his unforgettable personality. He’s known primarily for the skills that have helped him take home 44 event titles in the PGA Tour, which includes five major championships, three Masters titles, one PGA Championship, and one Open Championship.
However, Mickelson now stands out given his age on the putting greens—and that’s a high compliment. Throughout the sport of golf, many professionals are able to continue playing at a high level unlike their pro-league counterparts in, say, the NHL or MLB.
In fact, the likelihood of star players continuing their professional career well into their 50s is so high that the PGA Tour has a separate branch for these athletes: PGA Tour Champions. This is a professional senior golf tour that’s fully regulated as a branch of the PGA Tour, where players continue to battle it out for hefty purse prizes.
It should come as no surprise that Mickelson, who’s approaching his 50th birthday in June, isn’t the oldest professional golfer to keep playing (and winning) well into his later years. In fact, the likes of Sam Snead, Davis Love III, Fred Funk, and Craig Stadler are all PGA Tour alumni who took titles past the age of 50. In fact, Mickelson remains a favorite amongst analysts as well as pundits looking to bet on main golf events, especially given his recent title-grabbing performance at the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The Recent Years
Though Mickelson is signed on to host an upcoming event, The American Express Golf Tournament (formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic), he’s also made sure to keep his play sharp.
In fact, only three years ago, at age 47, Mickelson was pleased with his play at the WGC Mexico Championship. During this tournament, Mickelson faced off against Justin Thomas, a golfer half his age, and seemed to make a show of dominating Thomas.
The big question coming up as Mickelson’s 50th birthday isn’t whether or not the 44-time PGA Tour winner has the chops to continue on the putting greens. The question is actually whether or not he should move to the PGA Tour Champions league.
Normally, the criteria that determine a move from the PGA Tour to its Champions counterpart isn’t age. While the Champions Tour is only open to those aged 50 or above, it’s not uncommon for top athletes to keep playing in the PGA Tour.
In fact, golfer Tom Watson competed in the 2009 Open Championship despite being a Championship Tour candidate. Aged 59 years, many expected this to be the last run for Watson, but, in the end, he was one putt away from taking the Championship. His advice consisted of two points: competitiveness and clubhead speed. So long as a player has both, there’s no need to switch to the PGA Tour Championship.
Sure, Mickelson may be expected to support the senior circuit with some appearances and, certainly, some kind words, but he won’t be shoehorned into an inferior competition. After all, Mickelson’s got enough flashy shirts to compete for another decade and pretend he’s in his 40s.
Staying Sharp: Phil’s Way
Many fans and pundits may expect Mickelson to emphasize wit to stay sharp, especially considering the popular memes that have been circulating lately with the caption ‘What will Phil do next?’
But for all the antics this player tends to entertain, both on and off the course, he’s got more than his lefty swing down pat… or, rather than down pat, the swing he’s purposefully kept long, loose, and wildly unpredictable.
First, Mickelson emphasizes his hand technique rather than his body technique. That isn’t to say that the pro hasn’t spent countless hours perfecting his full-body stance—just that he prefers to focus on his hands, and believes this is the crutch for a strong swing.
Mickelson is also a huge proponent of mental visualization. Not only does he consider physical rehearsal important, but he also recommends that players visualize the game mentally before it’s time to take to the putting greens.