No ‘fluke’: Mickelson sizzles with 65 at Masters

No ‘fluke’: Mickelson sizzles with 65 at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Two years after shocking the world and winning the 2021 PGA Championship at age 50, Phil Mickelson carded a 7-under 65 Sunday at the Masters — his best-ever final round in the event — to finish tied for second with Brooks Koepka at 8 under.

At age 52, Mickelson is the oldest player to finish in the top five of a Masters, and his day was the lowest round in Masters history by a player age 50 or older.

“To come out today and play the way I did and hit the shots when I needed to, it’s so much fun,” Mickelson said.

A lot has happened for the three-time Masters winner since he won that PGA Championship. Mickelson left the PGA Tour for the rival LIV Golf, apologized for comments he made about the Tour and organizers of the Saudi-financed LIV, skipped last year’s Masters, turned into a pariah of sorts among his peers and failed to play anything resembling decent golf on LIV. (Mickelson’s three finishes this year on LIV were 27th, 32nd and 41st.)

Mickelson called Augusta an ideal course for his struggling game, saying he was about to go on a tear. Two days earlier, he had literally called his shot.

“I know I’ve been hitting it, playing better than I’ve been scoring,” Mickelson said Friday. “I’m looking forward to just putting one round together that I know I’m capable of, and if I do that, it’s going to be a really fun weekend.”

On Sunday, he did just that. Mickelson began the day at 1 under, 10 shots behind then-leader Koepka, and proceeded to make seven birdies and only one bogey. On the back nine, Mickelson birdied five of his last seven holes, including Nos. 17 and 18. The last time Mickelson had shot 65 in a major championship was the 2016 Open Championship.

“[No.] 6 was a big moment for him,” said Jordan Spieth, Mickelson’s playing partner Sunday. “That was such a hard hole for him today with the wind. Your normal wind, it’s a good little par-3, but today it’s brutally difficult. When he birdied there, I think he started to get a little pep in his step. Then he kind of carried it on from there.”

Wearing all-black Hy Flyers gear (worn by his LIV team) and aviator sunglasses, Mickelson walked up the 18th green to cheers before draining an 11-foot putt for birdie that sent the crowd to its feet as he pumped a fist twice.

“It just reaffirms that I knew I was close,” Mickelson said. “I’ve been hitting quality shots. This doesn’t feel like a fluke.”

After such turmoil surrounding Mickelson the past two years, it was unclear whether his game could return to a competitive level. But Mickelson showed Sunday that he’s still got it.

“Today is hopefully a stepping stone to really kick-start the rest of the year and continue some great play because I have a unique opportunity,” Mickelson said. “[Age] 52, no physical injuries, no physical problems, being able to swing a club the way I want to, to do things in the game that not many people have had a chance to do later in life.”

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