Phil Mickelson: Career Highlights of a True Golfing Legend

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Phil Mickelson is one of the most decorated players in golf history. He has amassed a total of 45 PGA Tour championships, which is tied for 8th on the all-time list, and bagged six major championships in his career so far. 

“The object of golf is not just to win. It’s to play like a gentleman, and win.” 

Awards and Accomplishments
World Golf Hall of Fame2012
Masters 2004, 2006, 2010
PGA Championship2005. 2021
US Open2nd or T2: 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013
Open Championship 2013
Haskins Award1990, 1991, 1992
PGA Tour Titles45 (Tied 8th All-Time)

Phil is one of 17 players in golf history to win at least three of the four majors. After winning the PGA Championship in 2021, he became the oldest player to win a majors title at 50 years, 11 months, and 7 days.   

To say that Phil is destined to be great in golf right from the get-go isn’t a stretch by any means. After all, he already showed a keen liking to the sport when he was a toddler. Before moving up to the professional ranks at 22, “Lefty” already had a tremendous career at Arizona State, winning three NCAA individual titles.   

Although he didn’t win the first majors title of his career until the 2004 Masters, Phil still went on to become one of the best players of the decade, winning another four major championships. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at his impressive career, which is arguably one of the greatest of all time.   

Early Life and Amateur Career

On June 16, 1970, Phil Mickelson was born to Philip and Mary Mickelson in San Diego, California. His father, a Navy fighter jet pilot who later flew commercial airlines, taught him how to play golf as a young kid.  

Despite being right-handed, he played the sport left-handed, emulating his father in their backyard. His parents were both avid golfers and encouraged him to play golf early on.  

Phil began playing amateur golf as a teen when he won the San Diego Junior Golf Association title 34 times. Thanks to his father’s job as a commercial airline pilot, he was able to tour around the country and participate in amateur golf tournaments. Meanwhile, his mother took a second job to help pay the American Junior Golf Association fees. Phil’s greatest achievement as an amateur occurred in January 1991, when he won his first PGA Tour event, making him one of the few golfers in history to win a PGA Tour title as an amateur.

He went on to win three consecutive AJGA Rolex Player of the Year awards, along with three NCAA titles, to become the face of US amateur golf in 1992. By the time he graduated from Arizona State University, he had amassed 16 tournament wins and tied Ben Crenshaw for the most NCAA individual championships with three. Phil quickly turned professional in June 1992. 

Professional Career

By virtue of his 1991 win in Tucson, Phil Mickelson bypassed the PGA Tour qualifying tournament (Q-School). The said title earned him an exemption for two years. From 1992 to 2003, Phil won several PGA Tour tournaments, including the ff:  

  • Byron Nelson Golf Classic and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 1996
  • AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 1998 
  • Colonial National Invitation in 2000
  • Greater Hartford Open in 2001 and 2002 

Although he had excellent performances in the majors he played in, with 17 finishes in the top 10 and six-second or third-place finishes in tournaments between 1999 and 2003, he failed to register a majors title up to this point. Phil’s inability to win any of them had many golf pundits describe him as the “best player never to win any majors.” 

Triumph at the Majors (2004-2006) 

After being hailed as the best player never to win at least one of golf’s “big four” tournaments, with a slew of near-misses prior, Lefty got over the hump in 2004. He prevailed by a single shot over Ernie Els at the Masters, producing the green leap, one of the most iconic final-green celebrations of all time. 

His performances went even better from there as he added five major titles to his resume, joining an elite group that includes fellow legends of the sport, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo.

After winning the first major of the year in 2004, Mickelson came close to bagging the second leg of the calendar grand slam at the US Open, losing in an epic duel to Retief Goosen at Shinnecock Hills.

He then won for the second time at Augusta, beating South Africa’s Tim Clark by two shots to make it three majors in three seasons. After presenting Tiger Woods with the Green Jacket in 2005, Woods had to return the favor at the Masters’ one-of-a-kind closing ceremony in 2006. Phil’s third major title win propelled him to second place in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is his career-best, trailing only Tiger Woods at this point. 

US Open Debacle

Phil Mickelson had won two consecutive majors when he strode to the first tee at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, aiming for a third and a place in history alongside Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods. They’re the only two players to win three successive majors up to this point. 

He shared the third-round lead with Kenneth Ferrie and led by a stroke going into the final hole. A par was all Phil needed to win, but his tee shot on the par-four 18th hole went way left, landing in the shade of a hospitality tent. Rather than playing the ball back onto the fairway, he chose to go for the green.

Phil’s second shot struck a tree, pushing him only 25 yards closer to the hole. His third shot landed in a greenside bunker on the left. He blasted his fourth shot, which carried through the green and into the rough. He chipped on inside 10 feet and putted in for a double bogey.

Geoff Ogilvy, who had putted out at the 18th hole thinking he had finished second, was celebrating his first major title in the clubhouse all of a sudden.  As soon as he stepped off the course, Phil knew he made terrible mistakes, famously saying, “I’m such an idiot.” 

He will go on to finish in 2nd-place at the US Open a record six times. 

Further Triumphs at the Majors 

After his win at the Masters in 2006, it’ll be four years before Lefty adds another major title to his career haul. He will do it by overcoming a one-shot deficit to Lee Westwood to claim his third green jacket at the 2010 Masters. 

Mickelson subsequently came from five strokes behind to win the 2013 Open Championship with a brilliant final-round 66 at Edinburgh’s daunting Muirfield links.

That appeared to be the end of his majors conquest as he approached and crossed the age threshold to play on the Seniors Tour, but Mickelson proved he had more than enough gas left in the tank at the 2021 PGA Championship.

He not only defeated one of the strongest fields ever assembled, but he did so on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, the longest course in major championship history.

Only 11 players in golf history have won more majors than Phil Mickelson, with Jack Nicklaus holding the record with 18.

However, a career grand slam still eludes the dynamic lefty, thanks in no small part to his record runner-up finishes in the US Open.

Phil Mickelson’s Major Titles 
2004 Masters at Augusta National (-9) at 33 y/o 
2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol (-4) at 35 y/o 
2006 Masters at Augusta National (-7) at 35 y/o 
2010 Masters at Augusta National (-16) at 39 y/o  
2013 Open Championship at Muirfield (-3) at 43 y/o 
2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island(-6) at 50 y/o 

Personality and Playing Style 

Many describe Phil’s competitive approach as “aggressive”. His strategy involving difficult shots (poor lies, obstructions) tends to be risky most of the time.

On the course, he’s known for his strong and often inaccurate driver. However, it’s his exceptional short game that has garnered the greatest praise from critics, particularly his daring “Phil flop” shot, in which a big swing with a high-lofted wedge against a tight lie launches a ball high into the air for a short distance.

Phil was consistently in the top ten in scoring during his heyday. He led the PGA Tour in birdie average, most recently in 2013.

Where He is Now

In February 2022, Phil Mickelson says he needs “some time away” from playing professionally. During this time, he apologized for comments about a Saudi-backed golf league. He said he “used words I sincerely regret,” wherein he brushed aside human rights violations by the Saudi regime. 

The said comments already cost him longtime endorsements. Nevertheless, he pointed out in a statement how “golf desperately needs change, and real change is always preceded by disruption.” 

Having said that, many people believe, including fellow golf legends, that it will only be a matter of time before the Phil Mickelson comeback tour is upon us. 

Phil Mickelson: What’s in the Bag 2022

This Phil Mickelson What’s in the Bag is accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2022. 

Callaway Golf 2022 Rogue ST Max LS

Callaway Golf 2022 Rogue ST Triple Diamond LS

Apex Utility Wood by Callaway

Callaway Golf 2018 Men’s X Forged Utility Individual Iron

Triple Track Chrome Soft X Golf Balls by Callaway 

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