STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Phil Mickelson won the rain-delayed PGA Championship yesterday in New Jersey. He birdied the 18th hole for a one-shot victory over Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn. It was the second major title of Mickelson's career. And commentator John Feinstein joins us now.
JOHN FEINSTEIN (NPR Commentator): Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Big deal for Mickelson here.
FEINSTEIN: It really is. He had not had a good year to date. He had struggled in the majors. He'd struggled in most of the tournaments he played in for Phil Mickelson. And he came in, made a little swing change just so he was hitting the ball with a fade instead of a draw, which meant he didn't hit it as far as he normally hits it, but he had a lot more accuracy hitting fairways. He took the lead on Thursday, and even though he was up and down, up and down all weekend, he held on right to the finish when, as you said, he made that birdie out of the rough to hang on and win. It was a roller coaster ride, but he got to the finish intact.
INSKEEP: Worth mentioning, John, this is a guy that, before the days of Tiger Woods, was seen as the next great golfer, the next great player, and then was frustrated for years in winning major championships. And now, one of the guys he beat, Thomas Bjorn, said Phil Mickelson is not a one-major guy, he's a 10-major guy.
FEINSTEIN: Well, he may not get to 10, but I think he's got a shot now to get to four or five, which makes him a hall of famer. And you're right, Steve. He won a tournament as an amateur while still in college and was considered a--when he came onto the tour in 1992 he was going to be the next guy, and he played very well. But he couldn't win a major championship and got to the point last year where he was about to turn 34, which isn't old in golf but is the same age when Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson stopped winning majors. And he hadn't won one, and he finally made that breakthrough with the great finish at the Masters. And now he's got two majors and counting. And he is the guy, to me, who is most likely to challenge Tiger Woods for supremacy over the next three or four years--not Vijay Singh, not Ernie Els, not Retief Goosen. Mickelson's the one with the best chance.
INSKEEP: This was quite a finish yesterday, wasn't it?
FEINSTEIN: It was a great finish. And again, it's a shame that it happened on Monday morning. It shouldn't have happened on Monday morning. The PGA of America made a terrible mistake teeing the leaders off as late as they did Sunday afternoon, knowing there were thunderstorms in the forecast. And the tournament director said, `Well, it was for scattered thunderstorms.' Now come on, Steve. It's a Sunday in August. You've got to assume the worst. And as a result, most spectators, most volunteers who worked all week, couldn't see the great finish because it happened at 11:00 on Monday morning instead of at 6:00 on Sunday night. But it was a stampede of players coming down at the very end, bunched together, and Mickelson breaking out to avoid a three-way playoff on the last hole.
INSKEEP: He birdied the last hole, which does not happen that often in a major championship, to win by a shot.
FEINSTEIN: Right, but it's the second time he's done that. He birdied the last hole at Augusta last year, a par four. This was a par five; made it a little bit easier, but he birdied the last hole there to beat Ernie Els, and now he birdies the last hole at the PGA. So you can say Phil may only have won two major championships, but each time he's done it in very dramatic fashion.
INSKEEP: Now I got to ask about Tiger Woods, who ended up--finished for--tied for fourth. Looked like he was going to end up even worse.
FEINSTEIN: Yeah. I mean, he got off to a terrible start. He was seven over par for the first 22 holes of the tournament. It looked like he wouldn't even make the cut and play the weekend at that point. But that's--one of his great strengths is that no matter how far behind he is, he never gives up. He kept grinding. He made the cut right on the cut number and then almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat on the weekend. He was within two shots of Mickelson at the end. And the way the guys were playing on Sunday before the rain delay, making bogeys all over the place, hitting the ball into the woods, the deep rough, it looked as if Tiger might have to stick around till Monday for a playoff. So he deserves a lot of credit. He showed why he's Tiger Woods without winning, because he hung in there and almost stole this tournament.
INSKEEP: Good talking to you, John.
FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: The comments on John Feinstein. His book, "Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story," is now out in paperback.
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