If the cutoff for golfers to qualify for the Rio Olympics were today, instead of a week ago, Phil Mickelson would be in. And he would actually go.
He and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson – who has committed to Rio, and as of now will be the highest-ranked male there – engaged in a classic duel Sunday at the British Open. Stenson collected his first career major with a three-shot victory over Mickelson, who was an incredible 11 shots better than the third-place finisher.
Yet what a storyline it would have been if Olympic qualification was also hanging in the balance for Mickelson. The 46-year-old entered the week at 19th in the world rankings, and eighth among Americans.
But with his runner-up finish (the 11th of his career in a major), he jumped six spots to 13th in the world rankings, and fifth among Americans. A nation could send four golfers to the Olympics provided they all ranked within the world’s top 15, and though Mickelson is fifth in his country, he would have actually been third considering the withdrawals of the top two Americans, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
And we know Mickelson wouldn’t have added his name to the long list of withdrawals because he’s been one of the biggest proponents of Olympic golf ever since the concept was formed.
Two months ago he said this: “If I can play well in the next two months and somehow get on the team, what a great opportunity to compete in the Olympics,” adding later, “The family would come down with me to Rio if I were able to make it.”
Two years ago he said this: “I don’t know why it’s so important to me but it is. I want to be a 46-year-old Olympian.”
Well, his first Olympic bid may have come up short, but he’ll try again. He has said he wants to compete in the 2020 Olympics, when he’ll be a half-century old.
Mickelson boasted to ESPN’s Rick Reilly when asked about a comment he made regarding getting better with age.
“Let me get this straight,” Reilly said. “From age 43 to age 48, you’re going to play the best golf of your life?”
“I think so,” Mickelson said. “I’m going to win a bunch of tournaments. I’m going to win at least one U.S. Open (the only major he has yet to claim), maybe two. And I’m going to make the 2016 Olympic team. And really, I’d love to make the 2020 Olympic team. I’d be 50. How cool would that be?”
He missed the 2016 team by a week, but a 50-year-old on the 2020 squad would be very cool.