Golf: Phil Mickelson pays tribute to Lydia Ko as ‘inspiration’ for historic win at PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson has named Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko as an inspiration behind his historic PGA Championship win last weekend.

The 50-year-old Mickelson, who broke a winless streak of more than two years on the PGA Tour, became the oldest player to win a major, shooting a one-over 73 on the final day to claim a two-shot victory.

Speaking ahead of the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Golf Course in Texas, Mickelson spoke about how many of his peers have inspired him to keep at it and focus on getting back to his best.

One of the names he mentioned was Ko, who herself went through a tough winless period before her drought-breaking title at the Lotte Championship in April.

“I think that every player goes through challenges,” Mickelson said. “We saw it on the LPGA Tour with Lydia Ko after struggling for a little while and dominating and then struggling a little bit. For her to come back and play as well as she has, that’s an inspiration.”

Mickelson also paid tribute to Jordan Spieth and Stewart Cink as inspirations behind his victory.

Ahead of his next challenge in Texas, Mickelson said he allowed himself to get distracted for a couple of days after his victory at the PGA Championship.

“Because when I’m doing it, I’m not fully aware because I’m so in the moment,” Mickelson said.

Now Lefty is trying to get his focus back on playing.

“That’s going to be the biggest challenge for me because I kind of went from keeping my mind off of all the distractions and the noise during the week of the PGA to really letting it come in the last two days, enjoy it,” he said. “And really it hit me in the last two days what just happened.”

Still, the two-time Colonial champion (2000 and 2008) said it never crossed his mind to skip the trip to Hogan’s Alley. This is his last scheduled tournament before his hometown US Open next month at Torrey Pines, which he is now in without any need of a special exemption.

“I feel like now that I’m playing well, gosh, I want to play,” he said.

Mickelson is grouped the first two rounds with defending champion Daniel Berger and local favorite Spieth, whose six top 10s in his eight Colonials include a victory in 2016 and two runner-up finishes.

“Obviously, Phil is going to be riding a huge wave of confidence,” Berger said. “I expect the crowds to be huge and obviously with Jordan being a Texas boy and being a local favorite here, it’s just going to be a great experience. I love those pairings. I love to have the crowds out there. It’s going to be a completely contrasting environment than to last year when we didn’t have the fans.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge was played in June last year without any spectators on the course, and marked the PGA Tour’s return to competition after a 12-week hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Berger won on the first playoff hole when he saved par from behind the 17th green and Collin Morikawa missed a 3-foot par putt.

While there will be some limits, fans will be on the course for the 75th anniversary of the Colonial, which has been held since 1946 and is the longest-running PGA Tour event at the same venue.

– with AP

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