Phil Mickelson does not follow convention, as we know, and so it was that his road to Augusta began in an unfamiliar place on an unlikely stage, though not with an unexpected result.
What Mickelson took away from his second PGA Tour Champions start was a second victory and whatever confidence one can glean form a test less stringent than those ahead of him.
Mickelson won the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Virginia, the first time he has played there in more than 27 years. He beat Mike Weir by three shots at the Country Club of Virginia and joined Bruce Fleisher and Jim Furyk as the only players to win their first two senior starts.
“I have a lot of fun playing out here [on the senior tour], because I can play aggressive,” he said. “I can get away with a couple of misses and play the way I like to play, to play a little more attacking style. I really like that.”
He began the final round trailing Weir by three, then shot a seven-under par 65 for a 54-hole total of 17-under 199. He made only a single costly swing, hitting his drive out-of-bounds on the par-5 ninth hole that led to a bogey.
“That kind of fried me a little bit,” said Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion. “I was able to play a good back nine. That’s something I’ve been working on and it’ll give me something to work on in the coming weeks as we head into Augusta.
“This is a good momentum start for me. I put a driver in I haven’t used before to try to get a little more pop for Augusta, a little bit more carry. It might have been a little bit off line at times, but I’m working with it and it was a good successful week.”
Mickelson, who won the Charles Schwab Series in August in his senior debut, will return to PGA Tour play in the run-up to the Masters next month. He will play the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club outside Los Angeles this week and then the Houston Open the week before Augusta.
Weir, also a past Masters champion, is also a senior tour rookie who was seeking to win for the first time since the 2007 Fry’s Electronics Open. This was his eighth senior start, his third top 10 and his best finish.
He shot a 63 in the second round on Saturday, was unable to carry over momentum into Sunday. He shot a one-under par 71.