Golf: Golf-Mickelson legacy could be shaped by PGA Championship


KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (Reuters) – Benign conditions greeted the early starters at the PGA Championship, but a stiffening breeze forecast for the afternoon should set the stage for a compelling final round on Sunday as Phil Mickelson attempts to become golf’s oldest major champion.

Mickelson, 50, tees off at 2.30 p.m. local time (1830) accompanied by fellow American Brooks Koepka in the final heavyweight pairing at Kiawah Island.

Mickelson, at seven-under-par 209, leads Koepka by one shot, with South African Louis Oosthuizen two back.

The outcome on Sunday will help determine each player’s legacy.

A Mickelson win would not only make him the oldest major champion, but would be a sixth major title, and would elevate his status given that he has been played most of his career in the shadow of Tiger Woods.

On the other hand, a 12th major runner-up finish would underline what might have been if not for a shot here or there.

A Koepka victory would be his fifth major, drawing level with Mickelson on the all-time list at the young age of 31, and setting the stage for him to become one of the game’s undisputed greats.

Oosthuizen, meanwhile, lurks as a potential gatecrasher to the American party.

He could double his major tally, following the 2010 British Open, and put behind him the disappointment of near-misses that have included runner-up finishes in all four majors, two of them in playoffs.

The first player to finish on Sunday, Brian Gay, shot 78, but several of the early starters were going low in ideal conditions.

However, the wind is forecast to spring up before the leaders tee off, and blow strongly for the rest of the afternoon out of the south-west, a direction the players have not experienced all week.

This will make holes six-through-13 play into the wind, but will offer some respite over the final five holes, which played into the teeth of an easterly breeze in the first two rounds.

The course has been set up at 7,557 yards, nearly 150 yards shorter than on Saturday, though much of this reduction in distance comes at the par-four third, which has been shortened by more than 80 yards to encourage players to try to drive the green.

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis)

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