At the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the first leg of the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs, Phil Mickelson will make his first title defense on the PGA Tour Champions.
Despite winning the Constellation Furyk & Friends two weeks ago for Lefty's third win in four starts on the Champions tour, the 51-year-old isn't planning on going all-in yet on a quest to become the senior circuit's G.O.A.T.
"It's not where I'm at yet," Mickelson said. "I'm using [the Champions tour] as an opportunity to have fun, to be around people that I know, guys that I know. I'm using it as a chance to be competitive but in an environment that doesn't beat you up."
Though Mickelson's 2020-21 PGA Tour season included one top-10 finish, it was a triumph at the PGA Championship, making him the oldest player ever to win a major at 50. And he hopes that his experience on the senior tour will help round out his game for another miracle victory in the twilight of his Tour career.
"I like being able to play aggressive, so [the Champions tour] lets me have fun and play the way I like to play out here," he said, "and then I try to take that back to when I play on the regular tour and try to implement that type of play."
Mickelson won the Furyk & Friends – where he was the first reigning major champion to make a tour start – ranking 81st in driving accuracy. However, he took advantage of his ability to out-drive the field, which was his goal.
"I'm a really good wedge player," he said, "so if I get wedges in my hand, I'm going to be tough to beat."
The six-time major winner is on the fence about playing next week in Boca Raton, Florida, but he's penciled himself in for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix, Arizona. Mickelson is 26th on the Schwab Cup points list and can clinch a spot in Phoenix with a strong showing in Richmond, Virginia, this week, as the top 36 in the standings advance to the championship.
However, Lefty is 1,786,056 points behind Bernhard Langer, who's first in the Charles Schwab Cup standings. Even if Mickelson were to sweep the three playoff events, the deficit is likely too great for him to ascend to the top of the points list.
Langer has won the Charles Schwab Cup five times and in four out of the past six seasons. Despite having not won since March 2020, 23 top-10 finishes have him atop the standings. The two-time Masters winner (1985, '93) from Germany has 41 Champions tour wins (second all-time behind Hale Irwin’s 45) and is first all-time with 11 senior major wins.
"Obviously, Bernhard Langer's the (Champions tour's) gold standard, right?" Mickelson said. "That man at 64, what he's been doing is incredible. That's the guy to look up to to elongate your career, have a great quality of life. And it's fun for us to be able to play golf, feel good, come out here and compete. There's a high quality, high level of play out here."