FORT WORTH, Texas — PGA Tour veteran J.J. Henry is the active leader in consecutive starts at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The TCU product and Fort Worth resident has played in every Colonial since 2002 and received a sponsor’s exemption into this year’s event.
Henry is excited about another opportunity and will have his 16-year-old son Connor caddying for him. But Henry is not viewing it as some sort of honorary invite. Why?
“I’m still hungry,” Henry said. “Especially when you watch someone like Phil Mickelson do what he did last week at 50. I played on a Ryder Cup team with Phil in 2006 and what he did at the PGA Championship last week inspires me. It really should inspire everyone for how much work he’s put in on and off the golf course to basically make it all worth it.
“It’s a chance for me to reset my goals.”
Henry isn’t alone in that department.
Mickelson’s victory has inspired every golfer in his 40s or even early 50s to dream big again. Now it’s a reality for older golfers to compete and win on the biggest stage.
“It was unbelievable watching that,” said Colleyville resident and Texas A&M product Ryan Palmer, who is 44. “I was glued to the TV. It was a very special, very emotional win. It just shows you that anyone can win out here. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can win out here again. It’s just a matter of time.”
Along with players in their 40s, Mickelson’s victory has also resonated with the younger players on tour. Jordan Spieth, a 27-year-old who has already won three majors, used the terms “wild” and “incredible” to describe Mickelson’s victory.
Spieth also acknowledged how Mickelson has made himself available to the younger players.
“He’s always been really helpful to the younger guys on getting us pumped up, inspired, somebody you could bounce ideas off of,” Spieth said. “To have that person be so welcoming and be so good to the younger generation out here too and then set the example he has, I think we’re really lucky with that.”
The respect goes both ways. Mickelson raved about seeing 48-year-old Richard Bland win for the first time on the European Tour earlier this month. It was Bland’s 478th career start on the European Tour.
He’s also enjoyed seeing players in their late 40s such as Stewart Cink and Brian Gay win on tour of late as well as players such as Spieth find their way back to the winner’s circle.
“There’s places to find motivation and inspiration all over,” Mickelson said. “I really get a lot more out of playing with the young players than they get out of playing with me because I get to see what I need to be able to do to compete.”
Nobody is playing the game better than Mickelson these days. He crushed a 366-yard drive, the longest of the day, on 16 during Sunday’s final round at the PGA Championship, and he made the clutch shots down the stretch.
Everybody noticed, including the 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa. Morikawa was 23-years-old when he won the PGA compared to Mickelson being 50.
“Golf’s in a great spot. Anyone can win. Anyone can play well,” said Morikawa, who is in Colonial’s field following a runner-up finish in 2020. “I thought about Phil’s win, and it’s not like I’ve seen Phil’s entire career. He won his first event 30 years ago. I’m 24 now. I still consider him as a competitor. It’s not like he stopped and he’s trying to get better. He’s trying every day to get better.
“It’s cool to see someone at 50 like that come out and win because it just gives me hope. It gives me just that passion because I love this game and want to play as long as I can.”