If you were orbiting Jupiter, trapped on a tiny island in the Pacific or roaming the backwoods of Oregon in COVID-free bliss last weekend, you might have missed big news in the world of professional golf.

Phil Mickelson, he of AARP eligibility, won one of the world’s top tournaments – the PGA Championship. At 50 (almost 51), he became the oldest player to win one of the four majors on the men’s tour, establishing a record that might live for more than a little while.

The win – and the way it was accomplished — is likely to push Mickelson’s fan numbers to even higher reaches. In an era dominated by Tiger Woods, Mickelson already was a major fan favorite. Now, welcome more to the Phil Phold.

Even though his winning has declined with his age (Sunday at Kiawah Island being a very big exception), Mickelson has held on to the embrace of fans. There are many reasons. Ten follow:

  1. Mickelson communicates with fans. From giving balls to kids outside the ropes to responding to gallery cheers with repeated thumbs-up gestures, he creates a balance between concentration on shots and acknowledging those who are along for the ride. This isn’t to say he’s graceful to every autograph request and to everybody who wants a piece of his time, but it’s evident that he makes an effort.
  2. He seems to like the media, at least most of the time (and most of them). Leaving the media area after his Friday round at the Ocean Course, he turned to long-time golf writer Scott Michaux and expressed condolences for the death of Scott’s father, who had died the day before. In a time in which media and athlete interaction can be strained, it was a class moment.
  3. He avoided swatting people in the crowd on the 18th fairway Sunday. The gallery swarming behind (and into) the players and their caddies on the final hole was out of control, an ugly black mark on those in charge of security. Mickelson didn’t get outwardly upset, although Brooks Koepka, understandably, did voice some criticism. Koepka and his caddie were overrun by the crowd, seemingly forgotten in the rush to follow Phil to glory.
  4. He hits some crazily good, inventive short shots. Holing out from a bunker for birdie on the fifth hole Sunday would be a career highlight for many players; for Mickelson it was of course welcome but more or less identical to many other successes in his short game over the years.
  5. He isn’t afraid to sport sunglasses in front of millions at age 50. In fact, he rocked them.
  6. He seems very devoted to his wife, Amy, a tour favorite who is nothing short of a bucket of sunshine.
  7. By all accounts, Mickelson is a gambler, a guy who might place a bet on which of two buzzing flies will land first. Folks who like to gamble but don’t have the money Mickelson has to “invest” enjoy such things.
  8. For some pro players, golf is more or less a job. For Mickelson, the joy remains. “He just loves golf,” said Tim Mickelson, his brother and caddie. “He loves golf. I mean, when he’s at home, he’s still playing almost every single day – sometimes 36 (holes). He’s grinding. It never stops for him.”
  9. He is resilient. Mickelson’s recent career has been marked by tournaments in which he’ll have a great round, followed by one that doesn’t meet the measure of  average. Yet he bounces back, maybe not that weekend but maybe the next. That approach has kept him in position to ultimately put together a full tournament and win. It happened at the perfect time along the Carolina shore.
  10. He needs a win in one more major – the upcoming U.S. Open – to complete a sweep of the top tournaments. Phans will be watching.