PHOENIX – Phil Mickelson stood on the 18th green of the Phoenix Country Club, a big smile on his face as he held another PGA Tour Champions trophy in his hand.
Next to him is 64-year-old Bernhard Langer, who grins just as broadly as he does at an age when most players play from the front tees and do not fight for championships, raising the Charles Schwab Cup trophy.
One ceremony, two champions with very different styles.
Mickelson made three of the final holes on Sunday with a birdie to win the season-end Charles Schwab Cup championship and Langer held on to win his sixth PGA Tour Champions season points title.
“We have so much fun coming back and playing in front of everyone and then ending up up here, that was a special week,” said Mickelson, who played collegially in nearby Arizona State is the gold standard for work ethic, discipline, and talent great golf game. To win the championship at 64 is pretty impressive, pretty inspiring. ”
For Mickelson, it has always been about lightning and creativity, to get shots that few others would consider. He’s done it with six big titles and 45 PGA Tour wins, and he’s kept it going on the senior lap.
Mickelson was at his creative best at the Phoenix Country Club and shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 in the finals to win four of their first six starts on the 50-and-over tour along with Jack Nicklaus as the only player.
Lefty demonstrated his skills in the short game of dodging bogeys and put in six birdies in the final round on Sunday.
“I enjoyed playing here and seeing so many guys I grew up with and spent decades with lifelong friends,” said Mickelson. “Then it makes a lot of sense to play well and have some success.”
Langer has made a name for himself through an outstanding career with precision and toughness and won two Masters and 64 times internationally. The German star became unstoppable with his 50th birthday and won a total of 11 major championships and 42 tournaments.
Langer had to rely on this toughness to survive four laps at the Phoenix Country Club. Because of severe back pain, he almost withdrew two holes into the tournament and fought when the symptoms subsided a little from day to day.
Langer shot for the first time in the third round under his age, a 63 without bogey-free with bookend eagles, which moved him to Jim Furyk’s 16-under lead within 6 shots. He drew birdies to # 1 and # 4 within 2 strokes, then rolled in a 15-foot eagle putt on the 306-yard par-4 fifth to reach 14 under.
Langer struggled the rest of the way causing putts to fall, battling his way through a 2-under 69 to finish at 12 under. He finished 17th but was still able to win the Schwab Cup after playing all 39 PGA Tour Champions events.
“I’m just overwhelmed, you know, at 64, winning this thing six times,” said Langer. “It will probably be my last, I’m almost sure, but it’s very, very special.”
He had to wait a bit to get it.
Furyk had to win the tournament or finish third and end up having Langer finish worse than eight to win his first title in the PGA Tour Champions series. He dropped a long birdie putt on the 17th par-4 to pull up to 2, but Mickelson’s birdie at number 18 made 3 strokes.
Furyk needed an eagle to win the Schwab Cup, pulled his second shot into the stands to the left of the 18th green and had to throw in mulch. His next shot was over the green into the rough and he stood up and down to par. Furyk shot 71 and finished in fifth with 16.
“How exciting was it to go down the track?” Said Langer. “Literally to the last shot. If he had reached 18, he would stand here and lift the Charles Schwab Cup trophy and be the winner. I am overwhelmed with emotion.”
New Zealander Steven Alker, a PGA Tour Champions qualifier just three months ago, shot 67 and finished second at 18. Darren Clarke had a 64 and David Toms a 65 to finish third with 17 Under.
After his 50th birthday in July, Alker no longer had any status and qualified for the Boeing Classic in August. He racked up top 10 finishes each week to keep playing and qualifying for the postseason, including a win last weekend at the TimberTech Championship in Florida.
Alker kept the reel going on Sunday, overcoming a bogey on the second par-3 with five birdies to finish one behind Mickelson.