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By Andrew Both

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (Reuters) – Phil Mickelson overcame the inevitable march of time to stamp himself firmly in the pantheon of golf greats with his victory at the PGA Championship on Sunday.

In becoming the oldest major champion at the age of 50, Mickelson’s sixth major title emphatically elevates his status, if ever there was any doubt, as the second-best player of his generation, and one of the best dozen or so of all time.

He certainly has had the longest shelf life, a frequent contender in majors for the best part of three decades, though it took him a while to break through and finally win the 2004 Masters at the age of 33.

Tiger Woods remains the yardstick by which everyone in the modern era is measured, and it is both a blessing, financially, and a curse, competitively, for Mickelson that they happened to be born just over five years apart.

Mickelson played proverbial bridesmaid for so much of their career, but with Woods recovering from serious leg injuries sustained in a February vehicle rollover, Mickelson has the stage to himself.

He joins Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino on six victories in the four events that comprise the modern grand slam — Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and British Open.

Only 11 men have won more, headed by Jack Nicklaus (18) and Woods (15).

Mickelson will have little time to celebrate before getting back to work to prepare for the June 18-21 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in his hometown of San Diego.

With victory there he would be the sixth player to complete the modern career grand slam, joining Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan.

It was only a week ago that the U.S. Golf Association granted Mickelson an exemption to the U.S. Open, for which he had not qualified. It seems a prescient decision now.

Mickelson six times has finished runner-up in his national championship.

Who would dare think now that the final chapter in the Mickelson story has already been etched?

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ken Ferris)