Every golfer out there could do with hearing and heeding the advice Phil's caddie gave him on 6
"It hit me in the head... From there on, I hit a lot of really good shots."
Phil Mickelson knew what he needed. Back in 2017, when he made Tim Mickelson caddie, legions of golf fans bemoaned his separation from long-time bagman Jim 'Bones' Mackay.
'Lefty' was already in his twilight but was looking to re-work his game after struggling to compete with the new generation of big boomers coming through. Mickelson was convinced he still had the game to compete, but needed a change of mind-set. He needed to change his routines and work-outs. He needed a change.
And so Bones headed off as Tim Mickelson stepped in to carry his brother's bag.
There were wins at the AT&T Pro-Am and a WGC event in Mexico, but it looked as if Mickelson would be cashing out with five Majors. There may be low rounds and stunning flop shots, but most of us doubted if he had four big rounds, in a big tournament, left in him.
At Kiawah Island's Ocean Course, from Thursday to Sunday, Mickelson rolled back the years. Over the first 45 holes, Mickelson was a force of nature. He reached -10 and had everyone else crumbling. He was going flat-out and most of his risks were playing out to perfection. He was making it look easy.
The back nine, as it did to so many, took a couple of chomps back, on Saturday, but the 50-year-old was able to scramble to close out with a 70. He would go into the final round one shot clear of Brooks Koepka, who had moved ominously into position.
On the first hole, the script was instantly flipped. Mickelson bogeyed while Koepka birdied. For the first time since Friday afternoon, Lefty was not in the lead.
The tension was getting too much for Mickelson's poor mum, as his sister later revealed with this text exchange:
While you guys were busy on the golf course, I was busy fielding Mom’s “nervous texts”.😂 @PhilMickelson @goodwalkspoiled pic.twitter.com/ZyZZ5xvdRN
— Tina Mickelson (@TinaMickelson) May 24, 2021
"He won't listen to his mother!"
Mary Mickelson knows her son only too well.
Sure, it was only two years ago that Mickelson's mother recalled him sneaking out of the house, and skipping Thanksgiving dinner, to go play golf. When his parents drove to the golf course, later, to get him, he told them, "Every day I don't practice is another day until I'm great!"
Back at Kiawah and the first six holes were a rollercoaster. Kevin Streelman made an early run, Koepka double-bogeyed the second hole and Mickelson carded only one par. He was edgy and brilliant and there were birdies and bogeys, wayward shots and amazing saves.
And then, Tim grabbed a word before he teed up at the 7th. As he reflected on his sixth Major win, later that day, Mickelson spoke about the spurring words from his brother, and caddie, that lit a fire under him:
"I'll tell you a perfect example, and this is an intangible that makes him relatable or understand me, get the best out of me and makes him a great caddie is I'm walking off 6, I had made some uncommitted swings the first six holes.
"I had been striking the ball awesome the first three days. I had a wonderful warm up session, like I was ready to go and I made some uncommitted swings the first six holes. He pulled me aside and said, 'If you're going to win this thing, you're going to have to make committed golf swings'.
"It hit me in the head, I can't make passive... I can't control the outcome, I have to swing committed. The first one I made was the drive on 7. Good drive on 7 gave me a chance to get down by the green and make birdie. From there on, I hit a lot of really good shots because I was committed to each one."
Hitting committed golf shots put Mickelson in a position to win it, and staying committed would finish the job.
Mickelson striped one off the seventh tee and holed a clutch birdie to give him some breathing space. It meant he reached the turn at even par [-7 overall] and put the pressure back on the field. A birdie on 10th saw most pretenders lose hope.
Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen kept scrapping until the end, but Mickelson played smart and he played brave. He ended up winning by two strokes and, he later revealed, all with a busted 2-iron.
"As I was teeing off today my 2-iron face cracked. I mean, just you can't swing it as hard as I hit it and not expect them to crack -- I'm kidding.
"Tim noticed when I put it back that it had cracked across the face. It happens. In fact, if it doesn't happen, you start to question the manufacturer, hey, aren't we making this as hot as we can. It's certainly part of it, but fortunately I had a 4-wood that's a very comparable club to that 1-iron distance-wise and I was able to use that club effectively. I used it off 3 tee, 4 tee. There was a few times that I hit it and I hit that club very well.
"It's just one of those things that happens and you just have to be prepared for it, which is why I bring backup clubs out here."
A kick up the ass on the 7th, spotting the 2-iron crack, and invaluable guidance down the stretch.
Tim Mickelson more than earned his 10% caddie bonus of $216,000.