Phil Mickelson may have achieved without the thrills Saturday from the PGA Championship.
Losing a five-shot cause a period of five holes on the back nine. One tee shot into the water, yet another which ended up beneath a cart . It was all part of a wildly entertaining day in Kiawah Island that ended with Mickelson nearly holing a flop shot which can test the nerves of just about any 50-year-old however him.
That brought Mickelson to the cusp of history not many could have seen coming.
That par save for a 2-under 70 gave him a one-shot head over Brooks Koepka and left him 18 holes away from becoming the oldest champion in the 161 decades of their majors.
When he curled in the 4-foot putt for par on the 18th hole, Mickelson became the oldest player using a 54-hole lead at a significant since 59-year-old Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009.
For Mickelson, it is an opportunity to become the earliest major winner. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
Asked to describe such an event, Mickelson was too busy glancing at his watch. Sunlight was evaporating and he wished to practice. These chances don’t come along as often as they formerly did.
“I am not actually dwelling back on what happened now,” he explained.
Sunday should get his attention, starting with the guy who joins him at the final group. Koepka survived what he predicted the worst putting of his career. Statistically, he was middle of the pack, but he missed a 6-foot par on the final hole for a 70 which cost him a share of the guide.
No matter. At stake for Koepka is a shot in his third party Wanamaker Trophy in four decades. No one has won the PGA Championship so frequently so fast since it switched to stroke play in 1958.
“I’m in the final group,” Koepka explained. “That’s what you want.”
Mickelson was at 7-under 209. For all his success in the majors — five victories, runner-up finishes in all four of these — that is only the third time he’s held the 54-hole lead.
Koepka, shaking off consequences in ligament surgery on his right knee that has limited him to two tournaments in three months prior to coming at Kiawah, wasn’t surprised to have another shot in a major. He already has four of these in the previous five decades.
“It just feels great, feels ordinary. It is what you’re supposed to do, what you practice for,” he said. “I’m right where I want to be, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
Louis Oosthuizen started the next round tied with Mickelson and needed a long three-putt bogey. The South African never caught up, though he had his chances until missing a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th along with a 5-foot par putt on the par-3 17th.
“Probably the worst I have played in a while,” Oosthuizen said. “I was just sort of fighting to stay inside and at the end there, began judging the greens wrong and everything just fell apart. Overall, two behind entering Sunday, I’ve got to have a lot of positives out of this.”
They have a opportunity.
Mickelson broke away quickly with four birdies in seven holes, and he even managed to prevent losing his attention. 1 diversion came in the fourth fairway, when Mickelson saw a drone in the air left of this green and said to a CBS spotter,”Can you radio into the TV guys to find the drone out of the flight of my shooter ?”
He went out in 32 — Mickelson played the front nine Friday at 31 — and was five shots clear when he walked off the 10th green. Five holes later, the guide was gone.
He pulled his tee shot into a bunker on No. 12 and had to play back to the fairway, resulting in his first bogey of the round.
And then he drove to the water to the 13th with his 2-wood, had to hit his third shot in the tee due to where he believed it crossed the hazard line, and missed a 12-footer to shoot double bogey.
Mickelson, without so much as a leading 20 the last ten weeks, is going after his first important since the 2013 British Open, and the last hour made it clear that this may not be simple.
But it will be loud. The gallery is the biggest at a significant since the pandemic — the PGA of America has said there will be 10,000 people, a few that felt much more — and Mickelson was the thing of their raucous shouting.
Kevin Streelman bogeyed the 18th for a 70 and was alone in fourth in 4-under 212, followed closely by Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, each with a 72.
Jordan Spieth matched the low round of the afternoon with a 68, nevertheless seven shots behind and most likely too far back to compete with a dozen players before him.
Spieth was led back to his leasing home to flip on the TV, a charm for him.
But it’s Phil. It is theater.
“I don’t watch golf but I promise you I will turn it to watch him today,” Spieth explained. “It is pretty incredible. I have no way to link to it, right? But I also don’t think it’s necessarily that special since did not he win a World Golf Championships in the last couple years?
“The man’s got four good rounds any golf course in him, and nobody would bet against that.”
Mickelson has had three great ones at Kiawah Island.
One more for history.