Golf, apparently, keeps the heart young and the eyes clear. I can’t testify to that, however. By the time I’ve huffed, puffed, wheezed and gasped my way on to the first tee after a thoroughly dispiriting session on the driving range, the heart is not really in it anymore and my eyes are tormented by the kind of ghoulish vision of foreboding that’s akin to a hallucinating Macbeth glimpsing the ghost of Banquo.

Despite all this ritual anguish that we put ourselves through, golf remains the greatest of generation games. Phil Mickelson proved that on Sunday night. At a nifty fifty, Phil had thrilled us again with his sixth major victory and his most improbable. In the circumstances, it was his greatest too as he made a mockery of the notion – one backed up by results – that he was slithering into competitive irrelevance on the main tour.

The chaotic, raucous scenes as he fought his way up a jam-packed 18th fairway towards the final green just about made a DeMille epic look like a modest gathering of two households under strict coronavirus measures. It was a remarkable sight in these very strange times.

In a game where age has never been a barrier to success, Mickelson went further than anyone else to become golf’s oldest major champion. When Julius Boros won the US PGA title in 1968 at the age of 48 – a record that would stand until Sunday night – the celebrated American golf writer Dan Jenkins wrote that, “a middle-aged man struck a blow for tired, portly, beer-drinking, slow-moving fathers of seven.”

Fast forward to 2021 and Mickelson certainly didn’t look tired – well, until he tried to heave the colossal Wanamaker Trophy aloft – he’s trimmer than he used to be, he drinks more of his own-brand Coffee for Wellness than beer. Oh, and he’s a father of a mere three children.

A couple of years ago, Mickelson embarked on what he called a “hard reset”, which sounds a bit like thumping the Ctrl Alt Del buttons simultaneously on your laptop when the screen freezes. This process of bodily renewal, during which he lost more pounds than the public purse under Boris Johnson, gave him a new lease of life. “When I look back on some of the highlights of tournaments that I’ve won or played well in 15 years ago in my mid-30s, I mean, it’s embarrassing the way I looked,” he said at the time.

He’ll can look back on this success with unbridled pride after a performance in which the attributes of experience and guile came to the fore. Mickelson had talked earlier in the week about “trying to use my mind as a muscle.” In the emotional tumult of a major Sunday, he flexed that muscle with a measured display of decisive execution and unwavering mental fortitude that brought the ultimate reward. It was such a wonderful win, we can just about forgive him for his excruciating public filleting of US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson in the grisly aftermath of the 2014 clash at Gleneagles. Well, almost.

We have always enjoyed Mickelson’s sense of adventure, artistry and cavalier recklessness down the seasons as he courted risk and reward with a fearless disregard that used to be adopted by Evel Knievel as he accelerated towards an eye-popping leap over a row of buses.

Sunday’s showstopper was slightly different to the norm, though. Yes there were some trademark thrills and spills, and a rousing bunker shot that dropped into the hole for a telling birdie, but this was also an exercise in patience and considered plotting which he did at his own, unflustered pace behind his sun specs.

At a time when the talk in the golfing steamie is of an obscene, Saudi-bankrolled Super Golf League, Mickelson’s latest major conquest was a real tonic for the status quo. As well as 50-year-old Mickelson, the 49-year-old Padraig Harrington rolled back the years to finish in a thrilling share of fourth. It was a leaderboard of rich variety. And variety has always been the spice of life.

The world’s leading movers and shakers, Mickelson among them, are being tempted by a $50m up-front carrot to head off into some money-soaked Super League exile where they would compete in a closed-shop carnival of absurd riches as complying puppets of the Saudi regime. It is an unpalatable prospect and one which, despite all the hefty counter-thrusts from the established tours, will probably not disappear quietly into the night.

The Beatles sang that money can’t buy you love and it can’t buy you the history, prestige and the greatness that comes with major glory either. These are the magical, momentous moments that define careers and drive the ambitions. For those watching on, meanwhile, there is that emotional connection you simply wouldn’t get with some gaudy, contrived cash grab.

The US Open, an event Mickelson has been runner-up in six times but never won, takes place in his home city of San Diego next month and tees-off the day after he turns 51. The levels of excited clamour and syrupy schmaltz will be extraordinary. He couldn’t, could he? In this grand game for all ages, Mickelson’s win for the ages on Sunday reminded us, once again, to expect the unexpected.