Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson returned to Minnesota on Monday to promote next month’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club and in doing so recalled an afternoon there in Chaska three years ago he deems “one of the greatest emotional moments of my life.”
Roars resounded across Hazeltine on a perfect October afternoon at the 2016 Ryder Cup, golf’s biennial team event. American Patrick Reed defeated Europe’s Rory McIlroy in a Sunday singles duel for the ages, Mickelson shot a 63 that day and only halved his match with Sergio Garcia and the U.S. team claimed the trophy for the first time since 2008.
In the years since then, one of Mickelson’s daughters told him a country divided by a contentious presidential election that autumn needed such a sporting moment.
“At a time when there was a lot of dissension amongst everyone, that Sunday here at Hazeltine had 76,000 people all together on one side,” Mickelson said. “They were hugging each other, high-fiving each other, bringing everybody together. For the game of golf to do that, it was incredible. To be at the forefront of that, I’m getting chills just talking about it.”
He visited Target Field on Monday to challenge LPGA star Stacy Lewis in a trick-shot contest from home plate. He also spoke about a PGA of America women’s major championship arriving at a Hazeltine course where Mickelson has played a U.S. Open, two men’s PGA Championships and that Ryder Cup.
“When golf comes here, they’ve given me some of the greatest memories of my career, specifically the 2016 Ryder Cup,” Mickelson said. “It’s something I’ll always cherish and they’ve done that in every event I’ve ever competed in at Hazeltine. The people here are tremendous the way they’ve supported major championships. To bring a women’s major championship — a PGA championship — is pretty special.”
His Hazeltine history brought him to Minnesota on Monday for KPMG, an international auditing firm that is one of his biggest sponsors. It’s also why he has committed to play in July’s 3M Open, the first regular PGA Tour event in Minnesota since 1969.
“I want to see this tournament be successful,” Mickelson said. “The way the community supported major championships over the years, this place deserves to have an event here every year.”
A winner 44 times on the PGA Tour, Mickelson first played in Minnesota as a collegiate amateur at the 1991 U.S. Open. On Monday, he stopped in Minnesota on his way to Bethpage Black on Long Island to prepare for next week’s PGA Championship.
He said he believes he has at least one more major championship victory in him on an afternoon that Tiger Woods received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.. Last month, Woods won his 15th major championship — his first in 11 years — at the Masters.
“It’s really cool and one of the greatest events in all of sports seeing him win the Masters,” Mickelson said. “It’s a remarkable comeback. You knew it was going to happen at some point, though, watching the way he played the PGA Championship and the British Open last year. You knew his game was back and for him to come through at the Masters was special. What a great honor for him.”