2021. What can you say? So far it’s been the year of the comeback.
A year where we’ve seen past champions capture glory while seemingly, turning the clock back. Winners like past Major Champions Jordan Spieth and the LPGA’s Lydia Ko. Say what you will about those golfers that turn 50 that set their sights towards the PGA TOUR Champions (or Champions Tour if you prefer). Former Masters Champion and fellow Canadian Mike Weir also won recently for the first time in what must have felt like an eternity. coming to think of it, that was a move that has paid dividends for Phil Mickelson too.
The same Phil Mickelson who just did amazing things this past weekend at the second major championship of the year. The PGA Championship held at the lovely, serene, and pure Kiawah Island Golf Resort – Ocean Course. What can you say about the man lovingly referred to as “Lefty”. If there was a tournament that was geared towards a player like Phil Mickelson, it was THIS PGA Championship which consequently had the feel of a New York City area U.S. Open.
This was the first tournament since COVID reared its ugly head where we saw anything resembling a real gallery. An event where fans do what fans at golf tournaments do. Cheer. Sure, there was the usual stupidity yelled from the galleries and quite honestly I didn’t miss that. At one point I thought to myself maybe no fans in attendance is a good thing. But, the atmosphere that this tournament created was something that we haven’t seen in such a long time. It felt so different as if there was a “sort of” hope and everything in the world was okay again. Utter mob scene notwithstanding.
Hope. Thinking about that word, Hope was one of two things that my mother wisely once told me gave you a reason or a purpose to wake up every morning. The second thing were dreams. These two things can give you drive and motivation. Mom knew it too and she epitomized this thinking. She left Hungary in 1956 s a 17 year old, escaped soldiers of the former Soviet Union through a minefield, found her way to Austria and then England afterward. Eventually making her way to Canada where she met my father, While teaching herself how to speak English she also went to nursing school and became a nurse. All of this fueled by hope and a dream.
Watching Phil Mickelson this weekend was so much fun, it was entertaining, and quite frankly it was good for the game of golf. As I sat here and reflected on this past weekend I got to thinking about several aspects of this particular championship. The fans were great even though the mob scene in the 18th fairway of the 72nd hole was admonished by so many. There really was a “Happy Gilmore” vibe to it. Moreover, it reminded me of a by-gone era when galleries followed closely behind the final pairing. I think of the final scene of the movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. Or past episodes of “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf”. Albeit less reserved and perhaps a bit more inebriated. It seemed so intimate. Granted, the potential of this gallery growing ever-so raucous was there. Very easily Phil or Brooks Koepka could have been on the receiving end of a fluke injury. Something that the aforementioned Mike Weir knows all too well. There was crowd control, but you have to ask yourself, was it sufficient? Was their the over serving of alcohol? Some thing may need to change or maybe this was some sort of anomaly, and people were just happy to be back.
Watching Phil engage with the fans the way that he did was very “Phil-like” in every way. After missing the 11th fairway a spectator in the left hand rough picked up his golf ball. Phil being Phil joked around, making comical and witty remarks was unphased by the fans actions. It was just like he was out there playing a casual recreational round, sipping beers with a buddy on a muni somewhere in San Diego. Folks, if you go to a professional golf tournament and an errant shot lands near you, please don’t touch the golf ball.
There’s one thing that I would love to know. Call it speculation if you want. Am I the only one that feels that the fans really put the wind into Mickelson’s proverbial sails? Would we have seen him grind it out the way that he did if the only spectators were shorebirds on the beaches of South Carolina? Had the spectators and atmosphere not been there, would the Mickelson gas tank (presumably filled with Coffee For Wellness) have emptied thus opening the door for Koepka to steal a victory?
Speaking of Koepka, there are a lot of people (maybe people that placed bets on him to win) suggesting that he took a fall for Mickelson. If you believe that for a second, than may I suggest that you’re gullible and naïve. If you think for a second that an “Alpha” personality type like Brooks would step aside in a tournament, let alone a major championship you’ve got another thing coming. There is no way that happened! To that end, I feel that Koepka made several unforced errors during the final round. On numerous occasions I said out loud “What is he doing?”. His second shot trying to go over the sandy area on 11 cost him a stroke for sure. Coming out of that sandy area I thought that he didn’t take enough club (he didn’t). There’s a lesson here. Just go for the fairway (landing area). Especially into the wind when you’re 300 yards out. There were a couple of putts that were awful efforts including a short miss. Koepka could have won but he didn’t.
Phil winning at 50 makes him the oldest Major winner ever. A stat that we’ve heard endlessly and I’m okay with it. It’s a heck of a milestone. It was historic and fun to be a part of or at least watch unfold. Heading into the U.S. Open Mickelson was looking at getting into the field via an invite from the USGA. Phil said that he would love to get in on his own merits and this victory did exactly that. Not to mention the 5 year exemption that came with the victory.
Usually, I don’t spend much time watching the PGA Championship as I rank it dead last among the Major Championships and behind THE PLAYERS. I admit that the only reason why I had any interest was mostly because of the venue itself and Phil being in contention with a shot at making history. I am so thankful that I watched it.
It really felt different. It was historic, it offered hope and in a way it felt like COVID was gone and a thing of the past. Especially seeing that there was not a mask in sight that I saw amongst the gallery. Hope is on the horizon and watching Phil was inspiring. Time to dream.
Phil winning this past weekend wasn’t the only comeback to happen. Golf here in Ontario has once again resumed after our lockdown. We’re back baby!! I had my first range session of the re-start and we’re clicking. Next stop, the golf course.
Until The Next Tee!!