Phil Mickelson ends links jinx with mesmerising display
Four birdies in the final six holes helps the American win the British Open title by three shots
Phil Mickelson holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open at Muirfield yesterday. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters.
The Mickelson family group hug is worth hallmarking. It is a precious thing, all happy smiling faces. Something to behold.
And no one had as broad a smile as the daddy. Phil Mickelson yesterday confirmed his status as one of golf’s greatest players – finally claiming a Claret Jug to add to his US Masters and US PGA titles in getting three-quarters of the way towards a career Grand Slam.
He did it with a mesmerising display of shot-making to capture the 142nd edition of the British Open championship.
And, yet, in the triumph over Muirfield’s parched and venerated links, all he wanted to do was to share. With his wife, Amy, who has battled breast cancer. With his daughters, Amanda and Sophia. With his son Evan. With his faithful caddie Jim Mackay, aka “Bones”. With his coach, Butch Harmon.
Cue group hugs and smiles (lots of them) and tears.
In this latest edition of golf’s oldest and most revered championship, Mickelson proved to be the daddy of them all. On a grey day that brought gloom to overnight leader Lee Westwood in his ongoing and so-far futile quest to claim a major, Mickelson – spurning a driver throughout – used an array of shots that once upon a time were alien to him as he mastered the links terrain.
Although introduced to links golf as long ago as 1991 when he was a member of the USA team that won the Walker Cup at Portmarnock, and an avowed disciple of the Lahinch links in Co Clare where he is an honoured lifetime member, Mickelson’s annual forays on to linksland in pursuit of the Open championship had proven to be a frustrating endeavour.
Why had it taken so long?
“It took me a while to figure it out, I would say. It’s been [only] the last eight or nine years that I’ve started playing it more effectively. But, even so, it was different than what I grew up playing. I always wondered if I would develop the skills needed to win this championship,” said Mickelson, who shot a final round 66 – and numbered just 32 strokes on his homeward run as he birdied four of the last six holes – for a 72-holes total of 281, three-under-par, which left him three strokes clear of runner-up Henrik Stenson.
A week ago Mickelson had captured the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and arrived in Muirfield guarding what he called “a secret” to his putting.
On Friday last, though, he felt the need for a practice session with Harmon. “I did not strike it very well,” he said, having shot 74 in that second round. On Saturday he shot a 72. Yesterday it “all clicked” as he contrived to sign for a 66.