Phil Mickelson will be a force to be reckoned with at The Open – Tom Watson
Five-times Open winner Tom Watson has warned Phil Mickelson will be a force to be reckoned with at this summer’s Championship after striking a blow for golf’s fifty-somethings.
Mickelson became the game’s oldest major winner last month when he claimed the 103rd US PGA title at Kiawah Island at the age of 50.
The American will be among the field at Royal St George’s in July hoping to repeat his 2013 victory at Muirfield, and compatriot Watson would not bet against him making a significant impression once again.
He told the PA news agency: “You look at what Phil Mickelson did at age 50. I’ve always contended that you don’t stop winning on the PGA Tour or the regular tours against the kids, you don’t stop winning in your fifties, you can still win in your fifties.
“It hasn’t happened very often, but you can still win. You’ve got your strength – Phil still hits the ball a long way and can compete against those kids; I could hit the ball a long way in my 50s and still compete.
“If you keep your focus and trying to be the best into your fifties, you can still do it.
“He’s got a great short game. If he can miss the landmines, which are the bunkers – you don’t hit the ball in the bunkers off the tee. If you hit the ball into the bunkers of the tee, it’s like hitting it into a water hazard. It’s a stroke penalty.
“If you can avoid those landmines and you’re putting pretty well, you can win in links golf.”
Watson, who was speaking as the R&A launched a ticket ballot for next year’s 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, famously came agonisingly close to winning the Claret Jug as a 59-year-old at Turnberry in 2009, ultimately losing to Stewart Cink in a play-off.
Almost 12 years on, he admits the near miss still hurts.
He said: “It does still sting. I had the opportunity. When I birdied the 17th hole and playing 18 right down-wind, it was, ‘I may have this’.
“The iron that I hit was as well as I could hit it and it just didn’t stop. It caught a gust of wind and it just trickled over the green – and I screwed up.”
Watson’s five Open titles came during a remarkable eight-year purple patch between 1975 and 1983 at Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale, although never at St Andrews, where he was runner-up to Seve Ballasteros in 1984.
Only Harry Vardon has more victories, although Watson modestly insists he has played only a small part in the Championship’s glorious history.
He said: “I’m a small part of the history, I agree with that, but there’s Harry Vardon, there’s Young Tom Morris at the beginning of the Open Championship, there’s of course Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, there’s probably the greatest links player ever, Peter Thomson, who won five times.
“We all accented the history of the Open Championship and it knitted a very rich cloth, I guess you might say, to the history of the Open Championship.”
First staged in 1860, the Open will take place for the 150th time at the home of golf between July 10 and 17 next year.
In an effort to ensure the fairest possible distribution of tickets, a ballot will run from Thursday, July 1 until Monday, October 4 this year priced at GBP 95 a day for adults on Championship days and between GBP 20 and GBP 50 on practice days, with no weekly tickets available.
Children will be able to take advantage of the “Kids go Free” programme, while half-price tickets are available to 16 to 24-year-olds. Further details are available at www.TheOpen.com.
Matt Fitzpatrick relishing favourite tag as he chases first PGA Tour title
Fitzpatrick bounced back from his Ryder Cup disappointment to win the Andalucia Masters.
Lee Westwood: From winning the Race to Dubai to sitting outside the top 100 in the rankings
The Englishman needs a good end to the regular season if he is to make the DP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP at Jumeirah in Dubai.
Japanese golfing hero Hideki Matsuyama’s top five PGA Tour victories
Following his victory on home soil in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP we take a look at the 29-year-old’s finest PGA Tour moments.
Mallorca champion Jeff Winther nearly missed final round due to bathroom drama
Winther’s six-year-old daughter had to come to the rescue.
Jeff Winther claims maiden European Tour title with Mallorca victory
The 33-year-old Dane finished one shot clear of Sebastian Soderberg, Pep Angles and Jorge Campillo.
Hideki Matsuyama triumphs on home soil to take ZOZO Championship title
Matsuyama finished five shots clear of runner-up Brendan Steele.
Hideki Matsuyama one shot in front heading into final round of ZOZO Championship
The 29-year-old Japanese held a three-shot advantage at one stage down the back nine.
Matt Wallace remains in contention at ZOZO Championship after strong finish
Wallace was two over par for his first 15 holes at Narashino Country Club but birdied the 16th, 17th and 18th to add a 69 to his opening 65.
Matt Wallace two shots off the lead after first round of the ZOZO Championship
Home favourite Hiroshi Iwata led the way on seven under.
Collin Morikawa looking forward to having fans back in Japan
The American is racking up the miles as he contends at the start of the PGA Tour season and the end of the European Tour campaign.