Man, was that an incredible finish to the WGC Mexico or what?
Mickelson had about as rock-solid a day as anyone could have had. His drives were on the mark, he was making recoveries, his putter was working. After a slight stumble on 11, just his second bogey of the day, he made three straight pars, putting him in a tie with Justin Thomas at -14. So you figure, just keep it up, get one more birdie, and cruise to victory, right?
Make no mistake, this was big for him. He’s 47 now, and his last win was in 2013. That meant that pretty much all his big exemptions would be hitting their expiration this date. Go winless another year and the safety net is gone; he’s clawing and scratching for FedEx points to cling to his card for another season. He’d been in contention a lot of times since then but just could never seal the deal. He needed this resounding “Not yet, kiddo!” to prove to the world that he still deserved to be considered PGA elite, that he still had the ability to triumph and not just scrach and claw and grind for his bread from week to week.
And then Thomas fricking chips in on 18 for eagle.
Isn’t this just classic? Mickelson never. ever gets the wimp who utterly crumbles under pressure or throws in a boondoggle at the worst possible time. No, it’s always a steel-nerved, fire-eating, lionhearted, eagle-eyed, bazooka-armed terror with the blessings of a hundred gods who laughs in the face of adversity as he turns it up fifty notches. Sheesh. Now Mickelson needs to go -2 in the last four holes just to force a playoff.
Which he does. It takes two incredibly clutch putts on 15th and 16th (15 and 20 feet), but he evens the score. Now it’s on to the first playoff hole. Thomas is eventually left with about 8 feet for par, while Mickelson can seal the deal, put the knife in, regain the elite status he felt he still deserved, by sinking a 16-footer.
It lips out.
Good lord…I still remember the inexplicable lipout that denied him a 59. How many times can this happen? How many missed-it-by-microns? How does such a man retain the will to get up in the morning? Well, nothing anyone can do now. Thomas has a much shorter one to force a second playoff hole. He’s been on target all day, and…
…it’s not even close. To the left by two, three inches, easily.
When the final reckoning comes for just what the impact of Phil Mickelson’s career was, there’s going to be plenty to debate, that’s for sure. But one thing that absolutely needs to be included is this: That old bastard just wouldn’t quit.