Mickelson confirms place in golf history
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US PGA Championship | Wrap | 16 Aug 2005
Round Four (Monday Finish) Photo Gallery
Despite his win at the Masters in 2004, Phil Mickelson perhaps still had something to prove to the golfing world. Today he has gone a long way towards doing just that.
Mickelson has been such a regular top five finisher in majors that he needed more than just one major alongside his name to prove that he was capable of finishing off majors and standing alongside players such as Woods, Singh and Els as one of the greats of the last ten years and perhaps the modern era. His gutsy and determined PGA Championship win today, on an increasingly difficult Baltusrol, has done just that.
Mickeslon returned to the 14th green today facing a three and a half foot putt for par and no doubt, having had fourteen or so hours to think it over, a putt which might well have gotten longer during that time. On the newly cut greens and cleaner surfaces than he was faced with the previous evening. he made it and proceeded to the 16th tee with his one shot lead still in tact.
Ahead, Elkington made a solid par at the 16th after a superb two iron to the par three and Thomas Bjorn, who had bogeyed the 15th, parred the 16th. So as Mickelson reached the 16th tee, he had a one shot lead over Elkington and two over his playing partner Davis Love, Bjorn, and Tiger Woods who had not even had to get out of bed early.
Vijay Singh, who many felt might have still had some life in him in this sprint to the line, went backwards instead of forwards, and he would fall back to eventually finish in a share of 10th. He bogeyed both the 16th and 18th on his return.
Elkington made the first of two ordinary tee shot swings at the 17th and missed the fairway left. He was able to get back into play and eventually left himself a 30 footer for birdie. That missed and so it was off to the 18th at 3 under and, courtesy of a dropped shot by Mickelson at the par three 16th, a share of the lead.
Playing immediately behind Elkington was Bjorn and when the Dane hit his third from 126 yards at the 17th to 15 feet, he had set up a birdie which he would make to join the three way tie for the lead.
Mickelson had bogeyed the 16th after his tee shot caught the front left trap leaving a bunker shot of some 30 yards to try and save par. He left that 25 feet from the hole and two putted for bogey and he was back at 3 under and now tied with Elkington and soon to be Bjorn who was about to make a birdie at 17.
Mickelson stood on the 17th tee and hit a good solid drive along the right hand side of the fairway. It was not far enough to consider going for the green in two and so he laid up some 110 yards short. His pitch from there was long but spun back to 14 feet. His putt for birdie to open up a one shot lead again caught the edge but stayed out and there were three still tied.
Ahead, Elkington had hit another poor tee shot but a got a good break and was able to hit a very good second shot some 90 yard short of the green. Although he was in a divot he managed to squeeze out a shot that left him with just 12 feet for birdie. His putt was always left and he had finished at three under and perhaps one short.
Bjorn drove it well at the last but had a fairway wood for his second. He pulled that well left and was faced with a bunker shot of some forty yards from an awkward stance. He was able to give himself a chance from 20 feet but that was all it would be, a chance, as he missed and finished at 3 under.
Standing on the 18th tee, Mickelson figured that he might need a birdie to tie. After hitting his tee shot perfectly he realised when he got to his drive that he now needed a birdie to win outright. From 247 yards Mickelson hit a fairway wood that started just right of the green and although it tried to work its way back to the edge of the green it caught the right rough only three yards from the green edge. He was faced with a tricky little pitch but he executed it to perfection and left himself just two feet to take out the title.
He did just that and the 2005 PGA Champion celebrated in the arms of those people who mean the most to him, his wife and family.
Mickelson has crept back ahead of Els into third place on the world ranking and as the last eighteen months have suggested, there appears more to come. His decision to play with less of the reckless abandon early in 2004 has yielded two wins and four other top tens in the eight majors he has played in that period. His win at Augusta in 2004 was the start of all this, but to a large extent it may well have been his great showing at Shinnecock Hills, when runner up to Goosen on a course foreign to his previous style of play, that proved Mickelson now had the smarts to go with his brilliance. He followed that with an all time best third at the Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Elkington’s revamped swing let him down at the crucial moment today when he needed a good drive on the 18th to set up the birdie that would have tied. He hooked that shot for the second tee shot in a row and he will be both elated and disappointed with his week. His unusual pre-shot routine of setting the club on his backswing is so strange to see coming from a man who has arguably the game’s finest swing but it has worked for him and he now appears to be back close to his best.
Elkington may well have thought, as did many others, that his week was good enough to convince Gary Player that he was worthy of a place on the Presidents Cup team but for some strange reason it did not. After all it was Tim Clark’s third placing at Oak Hill in 2003 that had convinced Player to select him that year. Clark’s form in the lead up to the PGA that year had been far worse than that of Elkington this year, having a best of 52nd in his seven previous starts on the PGA Tour in 2003. Perhaps Player did not want the team to be dominated by Australians and was looking for geographical balance and he chose his fellow countryman Trevor Immelman to join Peter Lonard as the wild card selections.
Bjorn has again had a near miss at a major but like Elkington he will hold mixed emotions. He has contended at the highest level and this time did not let himself down on a demanding course against the world’s best. It was Bjorn’s fourth top three in major golf.
Davis Love III was not able to get things going today, four pars to finish seeing him finish on his overnight score tied with Woods for 4th at 2 under and two behind the winner.
Geoff Ogilvy continued his great season in 2005 with his second top ten in majors when sharing 6th with Michael Campbell, Retief Goosen and Pat Perez. Ogilvy was of course 5th at St Andrews and he too is perhaps unlucky that he didn’t get the second Captains pick for the Presidents Cup team.
Stuart Appleby closed with three pars today to finish 15th after starting his final round in 4th place.
The only downside to the week was the administration of the tournament, which allowed the need for a return on Monday morning to happen in the first place. It was clear, even as early as Thursday, that Sunday afternoon could well see an issue with weather delays. That they blindly continued with tee times that walked a fine line, showed scant disregard for their own Championship and placed the needs of television above those of the tournament itself.
This is, after all, a major and at a time when the PGA struggles to maintain its status amongst the major events, that decision did little to help. There is little doubt that the television ratings today, on a Monday morning, would have been well down on those of an earlier tee time on Sunday.
Photo – Anthony Powter