On May 23, 2021, Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship, and in so doing became the oldest golfer to win one of golf’s major championships at 50 years and 11 months. Mr. Mickelson broke the record previously set by Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at 48 years and 4 months. Mr. Mickelson’s historic feat in 2021 inspired me to write an article about the 16 closest attempts on Boros’s record from 1968 to the 2021 PGA:
In order to make my list, the golfer in question had to be older than Mr. Boros at the conclusion of the major in question (obviously…) and have either finished in the top five in the standings or, if outside the top five, within five shots of the leader. The criteria were only satisfied on sixteen occasions between the 1968 and 2021 PGA Championships.
Mr. Mickelson’s triumph at the 2021 PGA raises the bar. In order to meet the criteria for a new list, the golfer will have to finish in the top five in a major, or otherwise within five shots of the winner, while being older than 50 years, 11 months, and 7 days. The 2023 Masters saw the first golfer to satisfy the post-Mickelson 2021 criteria. Despite his poor play in recent months, I am not at all surprised that the first golfer to pass the new Mickelson test is none other than Phil Mickelson.
On Easter Sunday in 2023, Mr. Mickelson entered the final round of the Masters at one under par, 10 shots behind the 54-hole leader (Mr. Brooks Koepka), after shooting a three-over 75 in the third round. One would have thought that Mr. Mickelson would have been out of contention, but he would birdie five of the final seven holes in his final round to complete a seven-under 65, his best-ever final round at the Masters (no small feat in light of the fact that Mr. Mickelson is a three-time Green Jacket winner). This final round shot Mr. Mickelson up the standings, placing him in a tie for second place with Mr. Koepka at eight-under, four behind the champion, Mr. Jon Rahm. Moreover, Mr. Mickelson is the oldest golfer to finish as high as second at The Masters.
In my original article which catalogued threats to Mr. Boros’s former age record, only one golfer finished second in a major while being older than Mr. Mickelson. That honor goes to Mr. Tom Watson, who lost in a playoff at the 2009 Open Championship at the age of 59 years, 10 months, and 15 days. If that were not enough, it is worth adding that Mr. Watson had a relatively short putt on the final hole of regulation to win outright, but alas, he missed and then struggled in the four-hole playoff.