Phil Mickelson will make some more history this week when he tees it up in the PGA Tour Champion’s Constellation Furyk & Friends.
The six-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member will become the first reigning major winner to play in a PGA Tour Champions event.
But Mickelson said this was by default after winning the PGA Championship last May at Kiawah Island.
“It’s just math,” Mickelson said on Wednesday after playing in the first of two tournament pro-ams at the Timuquana Country Club. “Nobody in their 50s has won a major [before him].”
Since Julius Boros had been the oldest player to win a major before Mickelson, at 48 — and since Champions Tour eligibility starts at 50 — Mickelson’s point was that he didn’t have to do anything, except show up.
But he’s here, heading an all-star field of past PGA Tour and international stars who came running largely because of two factors: the historic Donald Ross course and the respect they have for tournament host Jim Furyk and his wife Tabitha, whose foundation is running the tournament.
“Basically because of Jim Furyk, because what a quality guy he is,” Mickelson said. “He and Tabitha had done an amazing job of getting a new tournament and making it unique and making it special. It’s fun for me to be a part of it and support them.”
Mickelson is playing on the Champions Tour for the first time since February and for the fourth time overall. He played twice last year, winning both, to get his Champions Tour phase off to a running start.
The fact that he won a major this year in the best indication as to why Mickelson is only playing his first Champions event of the calendar year: he’s still competitive on the PGA Tour. Mickelson finished 70th on the FedEx Cup points list last season, is currently 64th on the world golf rankings and is coming off a tie for 36th in the Fortinet Championship two weeks ago.
Mickelson has played Timuquana once in the past, a round set up by long-time friend and attorney Glenn Cohen which included Tim Tebow. Mickelson loves the history and the challenges offered by the course.
“I love Donald Ross courses,” he said. “I think they’re terrific and this one’s no different. They’ve done a good job, this club has, of keeping it in great shape and showcasing his talents as a designer.”
While players often use the putter on the closely-mown areas around the greens, Mickelson said it’s not shaved enough that good players can’t get a wedge under the ball — which expands his versatility around the greens.
“There’s slight roll-offs on all sides, a little bit like Pinehurst but not as severe,” he said. “There’s very soft movements, so if you hit good shots and you get on the green, you have great looks at birdie. I thought the fringe area, like the chipping area maybe 30-yards short of the green and all around the green was some of the best I’ve ever seen. It allows you to get a wedge underneath the ball and actually hit decent chips and have options when you want to chip it or putt it.”
Mickelson said it’s a subtle difference between Timuquana and other course set-ups.
“Nowadays, I don’t know why, we’ve been making it so tight around the green that you simply can’t get a wedge underneath it,” he said. “This is different. You’ll see a lot of nice little pitches around the green, and the grass around it is incredible.”