“I do believe that I believe that if I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines. This could be my last really good opportunity to win a US Open, so I’m going to put everything I have into it”
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 24/05/21 2:12am
Phil Mickelson’s historic PGA Championship victory has revived his belief that he can complete a career Grand Slam of majors at the US Open next month.
Mickelson credited hard work on his fitness and his renewed mental strength for his memorable two-shot victory at Kiawah Island, becoming the oldest major champion in history in an emotionally-charged atmosphere on the Ocean Course.
And he has now set his sights on the one major to elude his collection, and he sees no reason why he cannot defy the odds once again at Torrey Pines in June, despite the fact that he will celebrate his 51st birthday in the build-up to the third major of the year.
Mickelson has endured a number of near-misses in his national Open, finishing runner-up a remarkable six times in his 29 appearances, and he had already accepted a special invite to this year’s edition before his PGA win earned him a five-year exemption for all four majors.
“I do believe that I believe that if I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines,” said Mickelson, who held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen to clinch his record-breaking triumph, a closing 73 enough to land his sixth major title.
“I’ll take two weeks off before that and go out to Torrey and 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 to win a US Open. So I’m going to put everything I have into it.”
Mickelson’s focus at Kiawah Island appeared sharper than ever over the four tournament days, and he insisted he still had the belief and desire to compete at the highest level despite failing to post a top-20 finish in his last 19 starts – a run of form that saw his world ranking tumble to 116th.
“I believed for a long time that I could play at this level again,” added the left-hander, who has now jumped back to No 32 in the world. “I didn’t see why I couldn’t, but I wasn’t executing the way I believed I could, and with the help of a lot of people, I’ve been able to make progress and have this week.
“It’s very exciting because I’ve had a few breakthroughs on being able to stay more present, be able to stay more focused, and physically, I’m striking it and playing as well as I ever have but I haven’t been able to see that clear picture.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
“Although I believed it, until I actually did it, there was a lot of doubt, I’m sure.”
Predictions of Mickelson being scuppered by fatigue over the final round on the long and punishing South Carolina layout were comfortably wide of the mark, and he put an exclamation mark on the work he has put in on his fitness when he hammered a 366-yard drive at the 16th – the longest drive of anyone on that hole all week.
“I just had to work harder physically to be able to practice as long as I wanted to and I’ve had to work a lot harder to be able to maintain focus throughout a round,” he added. “That’s been the biggest challenge of late.
“My desire to play is the same, and I’ve never been driven by exterior things. I’ve always been intrinsically motivated because I love to compete, I love playing the game. I love having opportunities to play against the best at the highest level.
“That’s what drives me, and I think that that’s what is – the belief that I could still do it inspired me to work harder. I didn’t see why it couldn’t be done. It just took a little bit more effort.
So where does this victory rank among his lengthy list of accomplishments?
“Certainly one of the moments I’ll cherish my entire life,” he said. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling of excitement and fulfilment and accomplishment to do something of this magnitude when very few people thought that I could.
Final day as it happened
Relive the action from the final round of the 103rd PGA Championship at Kiawah Island
“It’s very possible that this is the last tournament I ever win, 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.”