Phil Mickelson is spoilt for choice as the Brits like to say. He’s one of a small number of golfers who can pick playing the PGA Tour or the PGA Tour Champions. And most who could do this have retired.
The only other golfer who could play both tours with some success is most likely Davis Love III, although he has been plagued by injuries in recent years and has played little on either tour. There are less than a dozen more who, technically, could play both, but many of them are retired from professional play, except for the recent PNC Championship. They are Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Jack Nicklaus, and, interestingly, Greg Norman. All qualify to play either tour. To do that, a player has to have 20 PGA Tour wins and have played for 15 years on the PGA Tour. Then, when he ages up, he can play one or both.
Irwin, who has 20 PGA Tour titles, currently has the record for the most PGA Tour Champions victories with 45, followed by Bernhard Langer with 42, Lee Trevino, with 29 and Bob Charles and Gil Morgan with 25.
Singh turned 50 in the winter of 2013, but continued to play a full PGA Tour schedule until the 2017-2018 season when he entered 10 PGA Tour events and, amazingly, added 18 PGA Tour Champions tournaments to that. He’s now 58 and will turn 59 this February. He played the Sony Open and Honda Classic in 2021 as well as the Masters.
Except Singh, the rest of the Champions players who could play both tours have given up the traveling circus that is professional golf.
Both Singh and Langer still play the Masters every year.
Of all the potential double dippers, those who could or could have played both tours well, Norman probably blew his opportunity to rule the PGA Tour Champions Tour. His disagreement with the PGA Tour over the so called “world tour” concept in the 1990s caused a long-term rift between him and the PGA Tour organization, and he cut back drastically on events in the U.S. beginning in 1998, his 15th season.
It’s unclear why Norman didn’t expect resistance to his plan since he was trying to snag top players from the US Tour and create something new with them. What did he think? That the PGA Tour would automatically agree because he was Greg Norman?
Regardless of Norman’s decisions, he would still be entitled to play on both tours because he has won more than 20 tournaments. However, he didn’t turn 50 until 2005. His realistic window for tournament success has closed because of his age. He is 66.
To show how hard it is to win at an “advanced age,” Bernhard Langer became the oldest player to win on PGA Tour Champions last fall when he won the Dominion Energy Classic at age 64.
Mickelson became the oldest winner on the PGA Tour in 2021 with his victory at the PGA Championship in May of last year. He was 50.
Now, that brings us back to Mickelson’s choices and where he will play in the upcoming months. Complicating matters for him is the five-year exemption he received for winning the PGA Championship. That means he has at least four more shots at the U.S. Open and three more at The Players, which he won in 2007. He has already won the Masters, the PGA and British Open, and they invite past champions to participate up to a certain point.
Mickelson has committed to the Sentry Tournament of Champions next week and to the American Express in mid-January. That’s six weeks of golf on the PGA Tour or PGA Tour sanctioned calendar.
He loves playing in Phoenix, and so, he may pick the Waste Management Open. He loves playing on poa annua greens, and that puts Farmers Insurance and Genesis Invitational as possibles. You can’t play everything. The body, even Mickelson’s finely tuned body, won’t allow it.
Then there’s the Saudi International in February. Along with a number of other PGA Tour players, Mickelson got a release to play that tournament which is early February. That means the AT&T Pebble Beach is out.
Beyond that, it’s too hard to guess about an unpredictable legend. That’s why there was the campaign called “What will Phil do next?” Nobody knows because he likes to keep us all guessing.