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Phil Mickelson won the British Open for the first time at Muirfield on Sunday just one month after his heartbreak at the US Open where he was runner-up for a record sixth time. The 43-year-old left hander saved his best for the final round and after a steady opening nine came down the tough back nine at the Muirfield links course east of Edinburgh in a majestic 32 for a five-under 66. That gave him a three under total of 281, three strokes clear of Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who had a closing 70. Third place was shared by English pair Lee Westwood (75) and Ian Poulter (67) and Australian Adam Scott (72).
Mickelson won in what was his 20th Open campaign and it was his fifth major title after the Masters of 2004, 2006 and 2010 and the PGA Championship of 2005. It came just one month after he had endured the agony of a record sixth runner-up finish at the US Open behind Justin Rose.
“This is such an accomplishment for me because I just never knew if I had the game and shots I needed to win the Open championship,” said Mickelson, who then called the win “probably the most fulfilling of my career”.
It was the third straight Open won by a golfer in their 40s with Ernie Els and Darren Clarke both 42 when they won at Royal Lytham and Royal St George’s, respectivelyMickelson started the final round five strokes adrift of overnight leader Westwood, but held steady going out and then stormed down the back nine in a superb 32 at a time when all of his rivals were stumbling in the tough conditions. Mickelson also became the first player in history to win the Scottish Open and then go on to win the British Open the following week.
Tiger Woods started the day tied for second, just two off the lead, but he failed to find and inspiration and his record of never having won a major when trailing after 54 holes held firm as he came in at two over 286 after a 74. Throughout the day it was a bruising battle for the world’s best golfers and the Muirfield links showed no mercy to the faint-hearted. The lead changed hands at regular intervals, but in the end it was the experience and the expertise of the popular Mickelson that carried the day to secure the Claret Jug that goes to the winner of the British Open. With the sea breeze stiffening as the leaders worked their way around the turn and a cold mist drifting in from the Firth of Forth, he looked to be in good shape. England’s Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter set the early clubhouse target of one over 285 thanks to a magical putting display that saw him follow an eagle at nine with three straight birdies en route to a 67.
Adam Scott with four birdies in five holes and had a two stroke lead over Westwood and Stenson after his birdie at the 11th. The Swede faltered at 12 and 13 and it was Mickelson who bounded up to near the top of the leaderboard. Westwood then drifted away with a bogey at 13 and then Scott had four straight bogeys to slip back to leave Mickelson with the lead on his own. He birdied the 17th to move two ahead and then had the 18th hole grandstand crowd on their feet as he sunk a 10-footer for birdie at the last.
Mickelson had won The Open and the major tournament that had always been the hardest for him to compete in throughout his career.
|Phil Mickelson of the shows off the Claret Jug with wife Amy and children Evan, Amanda and Sophia, manager Steve Voy, coach Butch Harmon and caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay.
|Phil Mickelson and his caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay after the final round of the 142nd Open Championship. Mackay has carried Mickelson’s bag for 21 years and he was overcome with Phil’s Open win.