GULLANE, Scotland – Phil Mickelson sat in the media center early in the week and told anyone who would listen that he was in love with links golf. He had just won the Scottish Open a couple days prior and described his emotions for this type of golf as “hate-love” meaning he used to hate it, but now loves it.
To boot, Lefty insisted that, “from an opportunity-to-win standpoint I would say that Muirfield or Troon would offer the two best chances.'
A month after a U.S. Open loss, one Mickelson called heartbreaking, he produced one of the best final rounds in major championship history by shooting 5-under 66 to win the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield. It's his fifth career major win.
During the trophy presentation, with the claret jug in hand, Mickelson confessed, 'it's not anything I was sure I would be able to do.” He then told the delighted gallery, “I'm very proud to be your champion.'
Mickelson, 43, didn’t just win, he dominated. A front-nine 34 moved him into contention, then birdies on the par-3 13th hole and the par-4 14th started to make people take notice as he moved into red figures. Birdies on the last two holes cemented Mickelson’s fate and gave him the third leg of the career Grand Slam. Mickelson now is only missing the U.S. Open to complete the career achievement.
Beginning the day five shots behind overnight leader Lee Westwood, Mickelson remained the only man under par after 72 holes, triumphing by three shots over Henrik Stenson. It marks the fifth major of his career and first since the 2010 Masters. He won the event in his 20th career start, tying the record set by Darren Clarke in 2011 for the most starts before claiming the claret jug for the first time.
'This is probably the most fulfilling moment of my career,' he said while accepting the trophy on the 18th green.
Though Westwood began the day with a two-shot lead, the leaderboard quickly tightened as the Englishman faltered, failing to hit a single fairway during the front nine. Several players held at least a share of the lead during the final round, including Adam Scott, who held a brief one-shot advantage in an effort to avenge last year's near-miss at Royal Lytham, but ultimately finished in a tie for third alongside Westwood and Ian Poulter at 1-over 285, four shots behind Mickelson.
Beginning the day tied for second and two shots off the lead, Tiger Woods never got closer than that two-shot margin all afternoon, carding six bogeys en route to a 3-over 74. He finished the week at 2 over, tied for sixth along with Zach Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama.