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Phil Mickelson on the Champions Tour? Not quite yet

Want to feel old? Phil Mickelson turned 50 this week and is now eligible to play on the Champions Tour. Let that sink in.

But even though he’s hit the threshold, don’t expect to find him on the Champions Tour anytime soon.

“When I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour,” he told the Golf Channel earlier this year. “But I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now.”

He’s certainly right about that, averaging 301.4 yards off the tee this season. Not the longest player on Tour, but pretty awe inspiring for a 50-year-old.

Awe inspiring is a perfect description of Mickelson’s career, which started with his first PGA Tour win as a 20-year-old college student. His 44 victories are the ninth most in Tour history and include five majors, and his $91 million in earnings rank second only to Tiger Woods.

It’s fitting that Mickelson’s birthday always falls around U.S. Open week, which would have been played this weekend had the coronavirus not disrupted golf’s schedule. It is the one tournament Mickelson has coveted his entire career, and the one major that has so cruelly eluded him.

He holds the record with six second-place finishes, most of them painful defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

* In 1999 at Pinehurst, Payne Stewart birdied the 17th hole to beat him by a shot. It was a tournament that Mickelson wasn’t certain to finish, vowing to leave if his wife went into labor with their first child. Mickelson became a father the day after the tournament. It was also Stewart’s last victory before his untimely death in a plane crash later that year.

* In 2002 at Bethpage Black, he bogeyed the 16th and 17th holes on Sunday to finish three shots behind Woods.

* In 2004 at Shinnecock Hills, his three-putt from five feet on the 17th hole was the difference in losing to Retief Goosen by two shots.

* In 2006 at Winged Foot, Mickelson had his most famous meltdown. Needing only to par the final hole to win his third consecutive major, he drove the ball nowhere near the fairway, hit a tree with his second shot, hit his third into a greenside bunker and walked away with a double-bogey, one stroke behind Geoff Ogilvy. It led to Mickelson’s famous summary, “I am such an idiot.”

* Back at Bethpage Black in 2009, he bogeyed two of his final five holes to finish two shots behind Lucas Glover.

* In 2013 at Merion, he led after each of the first three rounds, But on Sunday, he double-bogeyed two of the first five holes and bogeyed 13, 15 and 18 to lose by two strokes to Justin Rose.

Will he get another shot to complete the career grand slam? Odds are against him. Julius Boros is the oldest player to have won a major when he was 48, and only seven men have won any PGA Tour events in their 50s. But count Mickelson out at your peril.

Chip Shots

* A total of 97 players are in the field for next weekend’s Southern Nevada Amateur Championship. The two-round event will be contested Saturday and Sunday at the Snow Mountain course at Paiute Golf Resort.

* Brady Exber of the Summit Club shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday to win the championship flight at the Southern Nevada Golf Association Tour event at Bears Best. Kenny Ebalo of Southern Highlands Golf Club matched him at 1-under 71. Other winners included Trevor Cross of Revere Golf Club (Championship Net), Kelly Knievel of Golf Summerlin Club (Senior Gross and Senior Net), JeffreyEnglish of Sun City Men’s 18 Holers (Silver Gross) and Scott Walker of The Legacy (Silver Net).

* Nick Watney, who lives in Henderson, became the first PGA Tour player to test positive for the coronavirus Friday at the RBC Heritage event in South Carolina. He was forced to withdraw and must self-isolate for 10 days, per Tour policy. One positive test will not impact the Tour’s schedule, but it is the first dent in its plan. Tour officials have not said how many positive tests from players and caddies would trigger changes.

Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at robertsongt@gmail.com

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