50-year old Phil Mickelson breaths life into dying professional golf scene
Most people that I know who've turned 50 seem to lament the fact they are getting old. For a professional golfer, or for that matter any professional athlete it generally means you've moved on to other things in your life.
Yes, I know golfers have the "Senior Tour", but that is basically just a way for them to make money and live the life they've always lived out of the spotlight.
That's why watching now 50-year old Phil Mickelson march his way around Kiawah Island's golf course, winning the PGA Championship in impressive fashion (he led from start to finish) was arguably an act of revelation.
Mickelson stoically managed the tournament, winning by two shots and claiming his second PGA Championship title.
(BTW--He turns 51 on June 10)
The win was without question a throwback to a bygone era where Mickelson and Tiger Woods dominated the golf headlines and the TV ratings for the sport were arguably at their peak.
Ironically Woods became the bigger name of the two, often grabbing all the headlines and attention harkening back to the Arnold Palmer/Jack Nicklaus era of golf.
Mickelson hasn't had much success the past few years, occasionally grabbing a win but not garnering much attention. Woods meanwhile has floundered, grabbing more attention with his off the course problems.
Woods's professional playing career has likely come to an end after his serious car accident incident.
In the meantime golf flounders. Guys like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson or Bryson DeChambeau win and get barely a mention in the sports headlines of the day.
Professional golfers now do things unheard of some 20-years ago. Even Mickelson has grown with the game. Sunday, in the final round he blasted a 366-yard drive on the 16th hole, some 5-yards longer then the nearly 20-years younger Koepka.
Yes, 360-plus yard drives. We're talking serious bombs here. In the 1990's, seeing someone hit a 320-yard drive was a major achievement. We're talking an extra 40-plus yards now. The game is a different one because of the technology and strength of the competitors.
For most of us, golf is a game we play for fun and to relax. Hitting a 300-yard drive is often the highlight of an amateur's round. Or 250 for us hackers.
I'm not saying PGA Tour golf is going to go away because it won't. There's far too much money in the sport appealing to an older demographic, one with money. And that will always play with advertisers.
But at the same time, much like NASCAR, Tennis, and other lesser known sports, they'll struggle for attention. Like many other things in this era, the competition for eyeballs is fierce, with a seeming billion options for people to watch a variety of different things. Sports needs to distinguish themselves in a unique way to stay in the headlines. It's something some do much, much better than others.
Phil Mickelson at any age winning a golf major is a big headline and on a weekend where we had the NBA and NHL Playoffs kicking off along with baseball in season, it made for a busy sports weekend. It was a weekend where the PGA got most of the headlines and attention (at least on Sunday) and it should bode well for them if they can do something with it.
The question is how? How do you monopolize the return of one of your legends, one who may not be able to repeat what he did on one weekend where everything came together and he played one of the best tournaments of his stellar career.
Is there someone waiting in the wings? So far, it doesn't appear like it...