By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP News.
STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Phil Mickelson allowed himself to get distracted for a couple of days after his victory at the PGA Championship, taking some time to relish the historic achievement of becoming the oldest player to win a major.
“Because when I’m doing it, I’m not fully aware because I’m so in the moment,” Mickelson said Wednesday.
Now Lefty is trying to get his focus back on playing. Only four days after raising the Wanamaker Trophy, after not winning on the PGA Tour in more than two years, the 50-year-old Mickelson is set to tee off Thursday in the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial.
“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 U.S. 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 Jordan 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.
Morikawa said the playoff hole is his only bad memory among a lot of good ones in his only Colonial appearance, and that he learned from the experience. Only two months later, he won the delayed PGA Championship at age 23. He finished tied for eighth at this year’s PGA while someone much older won.
“I thought about Phil’s win, and it’s not like I’ve seen Phil’s entire career. He won his first event 30 years ago. I’m 24 now. I still consider him as a competitor,” Morikawa said. “He’s trying every day to get better. It’s cool to see someone at 50 like that come out and win because it just gives me hope. It gives me just that passion because I love this game because I love this game and want to play as long as I can.”
After flying home to California following his victory Sunday at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Mickelson was up most of the night with wife Amy and got to see highlights of his victory. He spent time at home Monday and Tuesday before flying to Texas, where he played a nine-hole pro-am Wednesday morning.
Mickelson said it was now time to get off social media, get back on the practice range and “start to get my mind quiet again and get rid of the distractions and get back in the present.”
Spieth actually had a longer winless drought on the PGA Tour than Mickelson before winning the Valero Texas Open last month. Spieth had gone nearly four years since tapping in a final putt at the 2017 British Open for his third major and 11th victory overall in his first five years as a pro.
The week after the Texas Open, Spieth tied for third at the Masters. He then took a month off before a ninth-place finish at the Byron Nelson, and then was 30th the PGA Championship in the major that now splits the two Dallas-Fort Worth area tournaments.
“I actually really like this part of the season for major prep and for the ability to play well in these hometown events. It’s a stretch that I very much enjoy,” he said. “I’ve had pretty good success with this part of the schedule, and just looking to try and build on that this year.”