Phil Mickelson may be a product of the West Coast, where he was born and raised, attended college and still resides. But for the entirety of his career dating back to his days as a junior golfer, he has felt right at home in Georgia.
Phil Mickelson has enjoyed most of his success in golf on the West Coast, accumulating 19 of his 43 wins in California and Arizona, the two states he has called home for almost 48 years.
But Mickelson has enjoyed almost as much success in a relative handful of events in Georgia, winning eight times as a professional in the state and coming within an eyelash of adding several more victories in the Peach State.
Much of Mickelson’s success in Georgia has come from his stellar history in the Masters, which includes three victories, six other top-3 finishes and a total of 15 top 10s In 24 career starts as a pro. But his record of achievement in the state extends beyond the grounds at Augusta National.
Mickelson also won three times in the BellSouth Classic at TPC Sugarloaf, an event that has been defunct for a decade, and is the lone multiple winner in the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, capturing that prestigious title twice. Mickelson nearly added to his major championship total in the 2001 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, but settled for second place behind David Toms despite posting the second lowest 72-hole score in the history of the four majors.
Even before he enrolled at Arizona State, where he scored his first PGA Tour victory while still in college, Mickelson had established his affinity on Georgia golf courses, winning the Rolex Tournament of Champions, one of the top tournaments in junior golf, three straight years in the late 1980s at Horseshoe Bend in Roswell, the headquarters at the time of the American Junior Golf Association.
Even with his stellar record in Atlanta area tournaments, the course Mickelson is most associated with in Georgia is Augusta National, where Mickelson has excelled since his second appearance as a pro in 1995 at the age of 24.
Mickelson’s career in the Masters began as an amateur in 1991, following his win earlier that year in Tucson, the last by an amateur on the PGA Tour. He shot 69 in his first competitive round at Augusta National, landing him only two shots off the Thursday lead, and wound up in a tie for 46th at 2-over 290 to earn low amateur honors.
Four years later in his second Masters start as a pro, Mickelson again got off to a fast start, sharing the opening round lead at 66. He remained within a shot of the lead after 54 holes, but finished T7 after a final round 73, six shots behind winner Ben Crenshaw.
The 1996 Masters will always be remembered for its final round duel between Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, with Mickelson relegated to the role of the forgotten third actor in a two-man play. His opening 65 would have been the low score by two shots had Norman not tied the course record of 63, He was seven shots behind Norman going to Sunday and wound up third, one behind Norman, at 282, with Faldo firing a superb 67, the best round of the day, to demolish Norman by 11 shots and win by five after trailing six after 54 holes.
That turned out to be the first of five third-place finishes in Augusta for Mickelson, including three straight from 2001-03. Those followed finishes of sixth and seventh the previous two years, with Mickelson shooting himself out of contention in 2000 with a third round 76 after being only one shot off the lead after 36 holes.
The 2001 Masters was highlighted by a final round three-way battle between Mickelson, David Duval and Tiger Woods, with Woods winning by two with a birdie on the 72nd hole to complete the non-calendar year Tiger Slam.
The next year, Mickelson was one of a number of the game’s top players who were unable to challenge Woods in the final round, again finishing solo third, four off the lead. Mickelson followed with a third straight solo third in 2003, shooting a final round 68 to finish two shots out of a playoff between the unlikely duo of Mike Weir and Len Mattiace.
Mickelson finally broke through with his first major title in 2004, edging Ernie Els by a shot with a final round 69 that included birdies on five if his last seven holes, capped by just the fourth 72nd hole birdie to win the tournament. Three straight 69s gave Mickelson a winning score of 9-under 279.
After tying for 10th in ’05, Phil Mickelson won again in less dramatic fashion in 2006, preserving a one-shot lead after 54 holes with another Sunday 69 to win by two on a day in which he was in control from start to finish.
Phil Mickelson did not fare well as defending champion in the weather-marred 2007 Masters, and followed with back-to-back finishes of fifth the next two years. Mickelson was never a serious factor in ’08, but provided some Sunday fireworks the next year. Paired with Woods in the final round, seven shots off the lead, Mickelson shot 6-under 30 on the front nine to tie the course record and close within one of the lead.
But Phil Mickelson splashed his tee shot and made double bogey at the 12th, and missed short birdie putts at 15 and 17 after fighting his way back into contention. He settled for a 67 to finish three shots out of a 3-way playoff, with his mistakes on the closing nine costing him a chance to shoot the first 62 in major championship history.
Phil Mickelson collected his third green jacket in 2010, breaking out of a tie for the lead with birdies on four of his final five holes for a bogey-free 67 and a 3-stroke victory. Even before the final round, Mickelson produced a treasure trove of highlights earlier in the tournament, playing 13, 14 and 15 in eagle-birdie-birdie on Friday to stay in contention, and outdoing himself the next day when he again eagled the 13th, holed out for eagle on 14 and almost eagled the 15th from the fairway after laying up.
Although he missed a 4-footer Sunday for a third straight eagle on the 13th, his memorable 6-iron from the pine straw between some trees is one of the iconic shots of Masters history. A pair of 67s on Saturday and Sunday gave him a winning score of 16-under 272, the fourth lowest 72-hole score ever in Augusta.
Mickelson has contended only twice since, beginning with a tie for third in 2012, finishing two shots out of the Bubba Watson-Louis Oosthuizen playoff. A triple bogey on the 10th hole Thursday put him in an early hole, but he played the next 44 holes in 12-under to begin the final round one shot off the lead. He suffered another triple Sunday on the par-3 fourth, resulting from a tee shot that ricocheted off the greenside stands into thick foliage. The often erratic lefthander played his last 14 holes in 3-under, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Three years later, Mickelson recorded his first runner-up finish in Augusta, tying Justin Rose at 274, four shots behind Jordan Spieth’s record-tying score of 270. Mickelson opened with scores of 70 and 68, but trailed Spieth by eight shots after 36 holes, and rounds of 67-69 on the weekend were not nearly enough to overtake the leader.
Mickelson’s record at TPC Sugarloaf in the BellSouth Classic was equally impressive. He made eight straight starts in the tournament between 1999 and 2006 and finished in the top 10 seven times, winning on three occasions and placing third twice. His first win came in a playoff over Gary Nicklaus in 2000, with the final round washed out.
After third-place showings in 2001 and ’02, he again won a weather-shortened tournament in playoff in 2005. Following rainouts Thursday and Friday, Mickelson opened with a 74 in Saturday’s first round in awful conditions. He shot 65-69 the next two days to make it into a 5-way playoff, with his final round 69 including three balls in hazards on the front nine. But he notched four birdies on the back to get into the playoff, winning with birdies on the third and fourth extra holes.
Phil Mickelson made his final appearance at Sugarloaf in 2006 and shattered almost every tournament record, winning by a whopping 13 shots thanks a 28-under total of 260. He tied the course record with an opening round 63 and followed with scores of 65-67-65 to expand his lead each day.
The Tour Championship has been played at East Lake 17 times since 1996, and Mickelson is the only player to win it twice in Atlanta, capturing the season-ending title in 2000 and 2009. He came from behind to take down Woods on both occasions, winning by two after a closing 66 in 2000 to finish two ahead of Tiger. He was four shots off the lead and two in back of Woods after 54 holes in ’09, but fired a final round 65 to finish three in front of runner-up Woods.
Mickelson was also a major player in one of most exciting Tour Championship finishes in 2008, tying for third, one shot out of playoff between Camilo Villegas and Sergio Garcia.
The other Georgia highlight for Mickelson came in the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta AC, where he shot 265, a 72-hole total no player had shot in the history of the four majors. Unfortunately for the then 30-year-old Mickelson, who had not a major to that point, Toms shot 264 that year to edge him by a shot.
Henrik Stenson matched Spieth’s 72-hole total in the 2016 British Open at Troon, with Mickelson’s 267 matching the previous low total in Open Championship history. It was Mickelson’s second runner-up finish in the event and 11th career runner-up finish in majors, including a record six in the U.S. Open.