PGA Championship Takeaways: Phil the Thrill make history

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May 24th, 2021

It was a history-making PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, as Phil Mickelson held his nerve on Sunday to win by two strokes and become the oldest major champion in history. Chaotic scenes followed Phil the Thrill on the 18th green as the crowd erupted for the golfing legend.

Here are the big takeaways from the PGA Championship.

Mickelson makes history

Watching the crowd follow Phil Mickelson down the 18th fairway to the green was a goosebump moment. Not only was this momentous in that fans were back after a torrid year globally, but they were following a golfing legend who was in the middle of tearing up the record books.

Mickelson’s last success came in a Champions Tour event 10 months ago, his last win on the PGA Tour was in the AT&T Pebble Beach more than two years ago, and he turns 51 next month. Yet he just demolished the longest course ever used for a major, by sending a few bombs off the tee and playing a perfect short game.

There have been 456 professional major championships dating back to the 1860 Open. Only one winner has been over the age of 50. That’s Lefty.

It was a stunning victory and gives Phil his sixth major – eight years after winning the 2013 Open Championship. It also comes more than 30 years since his first victory on the PGA Tour. An incredible statistic which heralds the longevity and enduring talent of one of the sport’s most legendary players.

Age is just a number

It wasn’t just Phil the Thrill performing for the older generation. The average age of the top 16 players in the PGA Championship was 34 with Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose, and Kevin Streelman leading the way for fellas pushing middle age!

Harry Higgs was the only person inside the top seven under 30 as the wealth of experience paid dividends at Kiawah Island, despite this traditionally being a tournament were players in their 20s have excelled.

Rory’s opening round woes

Rory McIlroy went into the PGA Championship as a hot favorite after demolishing this course nine years ago on his way to winning. He was recently coming off a victory in the Wells Fargo. But an opening round of 75 really hurt the Northern Irishman and he never recovered, finishing +5 and down in 49th place.

This isn’t the first time an opening round has hurt Rory in a major and it’s one to note for bettors going forward. Going back over the nine majors in the last three years, McIlroy has shot a round over par in six of the nine opening rounds. His combined score in the opening round is 15-over-par, compared to his other rounds of a combined 18-under-par.

At the Masters this year he shot an opening round of 4-over-par, and would miss the cut. At Augusta in November, he shot an opening round of 3-over-par. He recovered in that tournament to finish fifth after shooting 11-under-par over the next three days, but that opening round killed him.

The last time they played the Open Championship in 2019, McIlroy hit an 8-over-par opening round and missed the cut as well. If he wants to add another major to his CV, he needs to get out of the blocks a lot quicker. 

Brooks Koepka worth backing in the Open Championship

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island was simply stunning. An incredible location to view from the couch, and a course that played tough enough to give us a rollercoaster four days of action, with plenty of risk and reward shots.

As expected, given the conditions, links form was key again with Mickelson, Oosthuizen, Lowry, and Harrington all former Open Championship winners.

With that in mind, Brooks Koepka is the man to take out of this if you’re looking for a bet in the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in England in July, as this form is going to hold up well.

We are only two months removed from Brooks’ knee surgery, and there is no way he was playing at 100%. A four-time Major winner, Koepka won the Waste Management Phoenix Open and was second in the WGC Workday Championship before his surgery, so was in fine fettle.

Given he has another two months to rehab the knee and that he has three top 10 finishes in his last four Open Championships, Koepka is worthy of a bet for July’s major.  

Shane Lowry’s ticket to the Ryder Cup?

"I will say, that was probably my most enjoyable round of golf I’ve had on the course in a long time. It’s amazing when you play with a friend, it definitely helped both of us to relax and just play golf, and both of us played really well."

That’s what Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington told reporters after a final round playing alongside fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, with both men finishing in the top 4. It’s those words and the mood of Harrington that might just help Lowry punch his ticket into the Ryder Cup.

The current Open Champion has three top 10s this year and put in his best performance at the Masters, finishing 21st. He will be champing at the bit to defend his major title in July, and might just have proved his worth as a good man to have in the locker room when it comes to the Ryder Cup selection.