Those of us who chose an overcast Sunday around Puget Sound to watch some sports on TV owe a tip of the trident cap to Fernando Tatis Jr. After recently returning from an eight-day COVID-19 staycation, he completed a weekend savaging of the Mariners with a timely grand slam in the seventh inning of the Padres’ 9-2 win (box), their ninth straight, and the Mariners’ sixth loss in a row.
Voyeurs at that moment who were toggling the remote control between the unraveling of the Mariners and the renaissance of Phil Mickelson were relieved of the pressure by Tatis’s decisive homer.
Along with the rest of the U.S. sports world, Mariners followers are going to see plenty more home runs in the spectacular career of San Diego’s human exclamation point — perhaps for as long as we see the Mariners unravel.
Although it’s a better bet that Tatis, 22, will age out in 20 to 25 years. Unlike Mariners futility.
Something viewers may never see again was happening with Mickelson at the 103rd PGA Championship.
He was ageing in.
I assumed Mickelson, at 50 years, 11 months and seven days, was on the slow slide to the Senior Tour, a very good golfer whose career was forever in the shadow of Tiger Woods. I did not expect to see him leading a near-riotous crowd of screamers down the 18th fairway at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.
It was as if John Lennon decided to leap off the album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for an encore.
In one of the splendid early moments of the slow return to semi-normalcy in the sports world, a maskless, un-distanced herd of jubilation rolled over the spectacular Ocean Course and nearly consumed Mickelson and his peeved playing partner, Brooks Koepka. Both were jostled at times when course marshals temporarily lost control of the beach party that was “limited” to 10,000.
When was the last time a major tournament seemed dangerous?
Said Mickelson: “Slightly unnerving but exceptionally awesome.”
Maybe like when the Mariners don’t get no-hit.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 23, 2021
Mickelson hadn’t won a tournament since 2019, hadn’t had a top-10 finish in a major since 2016. But for four wind-whipped days of 70-69-70-73 for a two-stroke win at 6-under 282, he had a firm grip on mind and body.
It was his sixth major win, first since the 2013 British Open, and made him oldest golfer to win a major, surpassing Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at 48.
In a time when data, technology, equipment, weight training and youth are nearly everything in golf, Mickelson beat the field and the longest course on the PGA Tour with his will.
“This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed that it was possible, but yet everything was saying it wasn’t,” Mickelson said. “I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work, a little bit harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but gosh, is it worth it in the end.”
Mickelson isn’t the first top-tier competitor to reach deep to go long and high, although he’s the oldest among the active.
In tennis, Serena Williams was the oldest woman to win a major at 35 in 2017 at the Australian Open, and made four subsequent Grand Slam finals before losing. She’s ranked eighth in the world heading into the French Open later this month.
At 36, LeBron James is in the NBA playoffs for the 14th time and seeking his fifth title.
And Mickelson’s pal, Tom Brady, did three months earlier at 43 what many thought preposterous after he left New England during the pandemic and joined one of the NFL’s most futile franchises. He won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay.
Mickelson is the first in PGA Tour history to win tournaments 30 years apart. The first of his 45 titles was in 1991 as a junior at Arizona State. Someone who can pull off that feat probably thinks he can do it again.
“So it’s very possible that this is the last tournament I ever win,” he said. “Like if I’m being realistic. But it’s also very possible that I may have had a little bit of a breakthrough in some of my focus. and maybe I go on a little bit of a run, I don’t know.
“But the point is that there’s no reason why I or anybody else can’t do it at a later age. It just takes a little bit more work.”
His simple truth is there for Mariners fans too. Forty-three years in, it just takes a little bit more work.