The reports of Phil Mickelson’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
His confidence, however, is not.
Approaching five years without a win in 101 starts since lifting the claret jug at the 2013 British Open, the 47-year-old Mickelson took down world No. 2 Justin Thomas in a playoff at the WGC event in Mexico in early March.
“I knew that that wasn’t going to be my last one, no,” he said of the previous win. “And this isn’t either.”
In fact, Mickelson has no doubt he’s got at least seven more wins in him to reach 50 for his career.
“Oh, I will – I’ll get there,” he said.
Getting No. 43, however, was a much needed validation boost after nearly five years of falters and close calls, including runner-up finishes at the PGA (2014), Masters (2015) and British Open (2016).
“I can’t really put it into words given the tough times over the last four years and the struggle to get back here and knowing that I was able to compete at this level but not doing it and the frustration that that led to,” he said. “To finally break through and to have this validation means a lot to me.”
The timing of it a month before the Masters was ideal. A three-time winner at Augusta who more often than not seems to elevate his game when he drives down Magnolia Lane, Mickelson would dearly love to match Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods with a fourth green jacket.
He believed he was trending toward victory after tying for fifth, second and sixth in consecutive weeks in Phoenix, Pebble Beach and Riviera.
“I had confidence it was going to happen, and it means a lot to me to do it now, especially before Augusta,” he said. “I needed to get a win before Augusta so I wasn’t trying to win for the first time in four-and-a-half, five years at that event. This certainly boosts my confidence and gives me a lot of encouragement on the things I’ve been working on.”
Mickelson attributes his inconsistency over the longest winless streak of his career to some technical flaws that he believes he’s ironed out and has led to his showing up every week in the hunt.
“I will play consistently well each week with an occasional off week as opposed to playing poorly every week with an occasional on week,” he said. “I’m very optimistic and believe that this is just a stepping stone of some more good things to come. I feel like I’m starting to play some of my best golf again.”
Mickelson isn’t ceding any ground to the young players he’s been mentoring through the years, relishing the opportunities to compete with Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy the same way he went head-on against Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
That he’s already a year older than Jack Nicklaus was when he set the bar as the oldest Masters winner in 1986 doesn’t faze Mickelson at all.
“I don’t feel that age,” he said. “My body feels great. I’m starting to play some of my best golf. I’m actually hitting some shots better than I ever have in my career. I’m starting to putt better than I ever have in my career. And I’m actually starting to drive it better than I ever have in my career, which is not great but it’s average and that’s all I need.”