Oldest golf major winners in history: 2021 PGA Championship win would place Phil Mickelson atop list

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Phil Mickelson will turn 51 years old one day before the U.S. Open later this summer. He last won a major championship in 2013, with his career-best run coming in the mid-aughts. Yet on the longest course in major championship history under blistering heat and with winds swirling, he is within reach of claiming history after getting to 5 under on the week Friday to take the lead at the 2021 PGA Championship.

Of the five major champions in the history of the game over age 45, none were as seasoned as Mickelson is now. A win on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island would not only make him the oldest major winner if his lead holds another 36 holes — it’d make him the oldest by nearly two years. The current record is held by Julius Boros, who at 48 years, 4 months and 18 days old won the PGA Championship in 1948. The second and third-oldest major champions, Tom Morris Sr. and Jack Nicklaus, were both 46 years old. 

Here is a look at the list of top 10-oldest major winners via PGATour.com. 

Oldest major championship winners in history

Julius Boros

1968 PGA Championship

48 years, 4 months, 18 days

Tom Morris Sr.

1867 The Open Championship

46 years, 3 months, 10 days

Jack Nicklaus

1986 Masters Tournament

46 years, 2 months, 23 days

Jerry Barber

1961 PGA Championship

45 years, 3 months, 6 days

Hale Irwin

1990 U.S. Open Championship

45 years, 14 days

Lee Trevino

1984 PGA Championship

44 years, 8 months, 18 days

Robert De Vincenzo

1967 The Open Championship

44 years, 3 months, 1 day

Harry Vardon

1914 The Open Championship

44 years, 1 month, 10 days

Raymond Floyd

1986 U.S. Open Championship

43 years, 9 months, 11 days

Ted Ray

1920 U.S. Open Championship

43 years, 4 months, 16 days

Win or not, for Mickelson to be in this position already launches him into exclusive company. The last golfer age 50 or older to be inside the top five through 36 holes at the PGA Championship came in 1999 with Hale Irwin. The last golfer age 50 or older to to hold a lead at any major championship was Fred Couples at the Masters in 2012. And while the latter isn’t a guarantee, the former feels like a near-certainty with wind expected to pick up and course conditions likely to become more challenging as the day drags on. Just don’t expect Lefty to celebrate.

“If you were to tell me that, like, Sunday night, I’d really enjoy that,” he told Marty Smith on ESPN after learning post-round that a Branden Grace double-bogey on 17 had thrust him into the lead. “Right now there’s a lot of work to do. I’m not sure if it’s going to stand after today.”

Mickelson is an improbable contender and betting odds from William Hill Sportsbook suggest right now he’d be an improbable winner — he’s double the age of reigning champion Collin Morikawa, who turned 24 earlier this year! — but he’s squarely in the hunt for a sixth career major championship after weathering tough conditions the first two rounds. Another two days like Thursday and Friday, and he very well might pull off what no one his age in the sport has done before.

“The fact is I’m headed to the weekend with an opportunity,” he said. “I’m playing really well and having a lot of fun doing it.”

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