Why Phil Mickelson deserves to be back in favour with Scottish golf fans

Let’s not beat about the bush here. Phil Mickelson blotted his copybook in the eyes of a large number of Scottish golf fans when he publicly threw Tom Watson under the bus over his captaincy at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

Phil Mickelson gives a thumbs up after winning the 2021 PGA Championship held at the Ocean Course of Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Picture: Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Sure, Mickelson may have been correct about Watson perhaps being out of touch with not only the event but also some of his players as the Americans suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Paul McGinley’s side in Perthshire.

But, just over a year after winning the Scottish Open and The Open on successive Sundays in the home of golf, Mickelson’s image in the eyes of many in this country was certainly tarnished by him slaughtering Watson in a press conference in front of a man revered by an army of Scottish golf fans.

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Many may never forgive Mickelson, but even those reluctant to do so will surely acknowledge that someone who has provided the strongest support for the Scottish Open over the last 20 years of any American fully deserves to now be the toast of the sporting world.

Phil Mickelson was highly critical of captain Tom Watson during the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images

Just think about it for a few seconds. Winning a major at 50 and almost 51. Both physically and mentally, that is some achievement and hats off to Mickelson for achieving history by producing a sensational performance in the 103rd US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

After lots of hearts had been broken when Watson, who was 59 at the time, came up agonisingly short at Turnberry in 2009 in his bid to land a sixth success in the Open Championship, and you feared history might repeat itself.

That it didn’t was down to Mickelson getting the bit between his teeth following a tentative start and hitting quality shot after quality shot on the back nine in particular, including a mighty 366-yard drive - the longest of the week - as he split the fairway at the 16th.

His second at the last from the left rough was a thing of beauty, clinching his sixth major victory with a success that was every bit as impressive as Tiger Woods winning the 2019 Masters after fearing his career might be over due to back issues.

Woods, who is recovering from serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash in Los Angeles in February, described Mickelson’s effort as “truly inspirational” as the 15-time major winner was one of the first to offer public congratulations.

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Doing likewise, world No 2 Justin Thomas spoke about how seeing a 50-year-old come out on top in one of the game’s biggest events had made him realise the full beauty of his chosen profession.

“Golf is insane,” wrote Thomas on a post on social media. “It’s just hitting me. The golf ball has no recollection of how old you are, and players can compete at any age. You just have to work and be willing to sacrifice things others aren’t. One day it’s great, the next it’s awful. What a sport I decided to play.”

What a sport, indeed, and it’s been quite a spell for the old boys, with Lee Westwood having won a third European Tour Race to Dubai title at 47 then Richard Bland winning for the first time on that circuit at 48 in his 478th start in the Betfred British Masters a week past Saturday.

Oh, and let’s not forget Stewart Cink, Watson’s conqueror 12 years ago at Turnberry, winning twice on the PGA Tour this season at the age of 47.

In this sort of form, Mickelson might yet land that elusive US Open to beat both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in the race to become just the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

You can also be assured that 46-year-old David Drydsdale will have watched both Bland in the British Masters and Mickelson in the US PGA and feel rejuvenated in his bid to win for the first time on the European Tour before he’s done and dusted.

Go get ’em, DD.

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