It lasted for 26 years—more than most couples manage in marriage—but a tied 28th finish in the HSBC Champions in China signalled the end of era for Phil Mickelson.
While the result itself would have been a little disappointing for the American, as he finished 14 shots adrift of winner Rory McIlroy, his position on that leaderboard after the four rounds at Sheshan Golf Club had a far more significant impact.
That was because the result confirmed something many—Mickelson included—had known was potentially coming… as he dropped out of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time since 1993.
It was a staggering quarter-century-plus run, or 1,353 weeks of world ranking releases, inside the top 50. But the old adage that all good things must come to an end proved to the case for the 49-year-old as he slipped to 51 in the OWGR standings.
“It was a good run,” Mickelson said after learning the impact of his result in China. “Unfortunately, the last eight months I played terribly and have fallen out. But I’ll get back in there.”
The HSBC Champions will be the last tournament of the year for Mickelson, who will now recharge the batteries and come back in 2020 looking to prove there is still life in the old dog just yet.
Mickelson had started the year with a runners-up finish in the Careerbuilder Challenge in January before winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in February.
But tied 18th in the Masters at Augusta in April was his only top-20 finish in the following months, and it has been a gradual fall down the rankings ever since.
Jordan Spieth, who had not even celebrated his first birthday when Mickelson first entered the top 50 back in 1993, said: “It’s pretty amazing given he was there into his 40s like that, with how much time is taken from golf with your family. You’re not as sharp because you’re not doing it as often. I give him more credit in the last seven to 10 years.”
The Pebble Beach success back in February was Mickelson’s 44th PGA Tour victory and his 51st career win, the first of which came in the Northern Telecom Open back in January 1991 when the then amateur showcased his talent by beating the pros.
He won the first of five majors in 2004 when getting his hands on the first of three green jackets as he won the Masters. Mickelson repeated that feat in 2006 and 2010 too as he was crowned champion at Augusta.
His standing in the game had already been cemented through victory in USPGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in 2005, and his longevity as a major contender in the game continued to 2013 when he lifted the Claret Jug courtesy of winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland.
A career grand slam of the majors evaded Mickelson with the American enduring frustrating runner-up finishes in the US Open on six separate occasions.
Mickelson also missed out on the world number one ranking throughout his career, most notably due to the presence of his old foe Tiger Woods.