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‘It’s very possible that this is the last tournament I ever win:’ Can Phil win again?

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Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson on Sunday after his victory at the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.

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Phil Mickelson, a half-hour or so after his PGA Championship victory on Sunday, was asked what it meant to him to become, at 50, the oldest major winner ever. 

His answer spoke to whether he could break his own record. 

“So it’s very possible that this is the last tournament I ever win,” Mickelson said. “Like if I’m being realistic. But it’s also very possible that I may have had a little bit of a breakthrough in some of my focus and maybe I go on a little bit of a run, I don’t know.

“But the point is that there’s no reason why I or anybody else can’t do it at a later age. It just takes a little bit more work.”

Can Mickelson do it at an even later age? On June 16, he’ll turn 51. On June 17, the U.S. Open, the one major that has escaped him, begins. At Torrey Pines in San Diego, his hometown, to boot. A month after that, the Open Championship will be played at Royal St. George’s, where 10 years ago, he tied for second. Then, at the end of September, comes the Ryder Cup — and will be played at Whistling Straits, a Pete Dye, links-style course, much like the Kiawah Island track he just won at. 

Let’s take a closer look at those three:   

U.S. Open, June 17-20, Torrey Pines 

If you thought the PGA Championship victory was a story …

Phil Mickelson on No. 18 at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

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To recap, Mickelson has 10 top 10 finishes at the U.S Open, dating back to his first, in 1990. He has six — SIX! — runner-up finishes. But he’s placed no better than that. To complete the career grand slam — he’s won the Masters three times, the PGA Championship now twice and the Open Championship once — he’ll need to win at Torrey Pines. 

Speaking of Torrey Pines. He’s played the course 32 times in his career, both at what is now called the Farmers Insurance Open, and at the 2008 U.S. Open. He’s won the Farmers three times (and finished second twice). He was 18th at the Open, which was won by rival Tiger Woods in a memorable playoff with Rocco Mediate.  

Oh, and Torrey Pines is in San Diego, Mickelson’s hometown. 

So yeah, it’s a big deal. So big, in fact, that Mickelson was granted a special exemption into the tournament a little over a week ago, as he had not yet to qualify. That’s now not necessary thanks to the PGA win — he gets invites to the next five U.S. Opens — and he said Sunday that he’ll prep for Torrey by playing in this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, then head home. 

“I do believe that if I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines,” Mickelson said. “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 U.S. Open. So I’m going to put everything I have into it.”

Open Championship, July 15-18, Royal St. George’s 

“I think in the Open Championship, because it’s much more of a precision game and it’s impossible to overpower links golf, I feel like as you get older in your career, you have more and more chances.”

phil mickelson thumbs up

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The author of that quote?

Phil Mickelson, in his Chronicles of a Champion Golfer film for the Open Championship official site. 

He’s played Royal St. George’s twice — tying for 59th in 2003 and tying for second in 2011. And since 2010, according to the Open’s website, no player has finished in the top two more than Mickelson — besides 2011, he won in 2013 (at the age of 43) and finished second in 2016.  

Ryder Cup, Sept. 24-26, Whistling Straits 

Though not an individual tournament, the Ryder Cup is golf’s biggest team event, and Mickelson has played on every U.S. team since 1995 (12 total). With his PGA win, Mickelson jumps to 16th in the U.S. standings, with the top six automatically making the team. 

On Saturday, one day before Mickelson’s victory, Steve Stricker didn’t rule out making Mickelson one of his six captain’s picks. In three PGA Championships played at Whistling, Mickelson has finished sixth (2004), 12th (2010) and 18th (2015). 

“Oh, geez, I don’t know,” Stricker said. “But obviously if he were to go on and win here and continue to play some great golf — but he hasn’t played really all that well up to this point, spurts here and there. He’s won on the Champions Tour a couple times. I don’t know if you’ve got to count anything out there. But it’s nice to see him playing well. I’ll be glued to the TV just as all you guys will and see what he does.”

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Nick Piastowski

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