American Phil Mickelson claimed a piece of golfing history on Sunday evening.
The 50-year-old became the oldest man ever to win a major title as he survived a tense final round to lift the US PGA Championship trophy for a second time.
Some 16 years on from his 2005 win, Mickelson carded a one-over-par 73 in his fourth and final round, but managed to hold on for victory, closing on six-under-par for the tournament. The veteran finished two strokes clear of his countryman Brooks Koepka – with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen a further couple of shots back on two-under.
Mickelson led by just a single stroke overnight and found himself immediately under pressure when he started with a bogey. To make matters worse, Koepka landed an early birdie to take the lead.
The experienced Mickelson knew better than to panic, though, quickly reclaiming pole position with a birdie of his own. The highlight of a back-and-forth day, however, came at the par-three fifth – where Mickelson secured an unlikely birdie with a sublime chip from the sand.
A crowd of 10,000 spectators was permitted for each day of the championship – and every single one of them was on their feet as the ball found its way into the hole.
For as great as Mickelson was at times, he was still struggling to shake off the chasing pack as the action drew to a close. Three shots clear with two to play, the tension was palpable. When he could only manage a bogey on the 17th, the tournament leader knew that there was no room for complacency as he approached the 18th and final hole.
Thankfully for Mickelson, a strong approach shot at the par-four hole all but secured his victory. Chaotic scenes followed after, with spectators wishing to congratulate the American having to be held back by security.
While this is not the sort of behaviour that anyone wants to see regularly, it was refreshing to see a live audience celebrating such a huge win.
In becoming the oldest man ever to win a major, Mickelson smashed a record that had stood for 53 years. The previous mark had been set by Julius Boros – who was 48 years of age when he won the same championship in 1968.
Overall, the win marks the sixth major triumph of Mickelson’s career – a feat all the more impressive when you consider that he had dropped outside of the world’s top 100 players in the lead-up to the championship.
Mickelson’s long-time rival Tiger Woods was among the thousands of well-wishers who sent their congratulations via social media. He wrote: “Truly inspirational to see @PhilMickelson do it again at 50 years of age. Congrats!!!!!!!”
A fitting acknowledgement of a performance for the ages by Mickelson.