The moment came just before 9 a.m. ET. Phil Mickelson drained a birdie putt to put himself in a tie for the lead at the PGA Championship.
There were still 52 holes to play, and Mickelson being Mickelson, he carded three bogies over his next seven holes to push him back down the leaderboard. But seeing him at the top, even if for only a moment, it makes you wonder: What’s with all the old guys still doing it?
Tom Brady, 43, is still winning Super Bowls.
LeBron James, 36, is still willing his team to victory.
Can Phil Mickelson, at 50, still win a major?
It would be a record, of course. Julius Boros holds that record, winning the 1968 PGA at 48.
Jack Nicklaus won his last major at 46. Way back in 1986, a Masters victory for a 46-year-old six years removed from his last win at a major seemed improbable.
How about a 50-year-old eight years removed from his last major victory?
Though nearly a decade has passed since he won The Open, 2021 Phil Mickelson looks more fit than 2013 Phil Mickelson. Certainly the calves. As the golf world has shed some poundage, so has Mickelson.
Whatever parts of his game that have faded as the years have piled up do not include his flair for the dramatic. After making the turn at +2 on his round Friday — a front nine that certainly crushed visions of a Sunday victory across the country — Mickelson birdied his 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th to put himself right back in contention.
Then he rolled in a 22-footer for birdie on 18.
When he holed out at 12:38 ET, Mickelson was -5, alone in second, just one shot off the lead held by Branden Grace. Fifteen minutes later, Grace plunked a tee shot in the water that led to a double bogey ... and Mickelson was in the lead all by himself.
"If you were to tell me that Sunday night, I’d really enjoy that. Right now, there’s a lot of work to do," Mickelson said when told by ESPN's Marty Smith he's leading the tournament. "Fact is, I’m heading into the weekend with an opportunity and I’m playing really well and I’m having a lot of fun doing it."
An afternoon wave of heavy hitters climbed up to challenge Mickelson's lead, including Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen, but none could supplant him atop the leaderboard.
There are still 36 holes to play. But when Saturday’s Round 3 begins, Mickelson, in the final pairing, will be in as good a position as any to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
Improbable? Not so much anymore.
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