Mickelson’s previous victory in a golf tournament on European soil came in 1993 -- two months before the birth of Jordan Spieth, who yesterday became the first teenager in 82 years to win a U.S. PGA Tour event. Spieth, 19, outlasted Zach Johnson and David Hearn to win the John Deere Classic on the fifth hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Spieth received $828,000 and the final spot in the British Open field alongside Mickelson and the other top-rated golfers in the world. The third of the sport’s four major championships is scheduled for July 18-21 at Muirfield in Scotland.
“I just think of playing and competing with these guys as my peers,” Spieth said at a news conference. “The guys in this event, week to week, I don’t think of myself as younger than them. But I didn’t think it would happen this early.”
Spieth is the first teenager to win a PGA Tour event since 19-year-old Ralph Guldahl at the 1931 Santa Monica Open. Since 1900, Harry Cooper (1923) and Johnny McDermott (1911) were the only other teenagers to win a PGA Tour title.
Mickelson won his first title on the world’s richest golf tour when he was 20, as did Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the current top two players in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Woods is the 7-1 favorite to win the British Open, according to oddsmakers at the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, with Mickelson and McIlroy listed at 20-1 along with Masters champion Adam Scott and U.S. Open winner Justin Rose.
Mickelson, a four-time major champion, clinched his first individual win in Britain yesterday by spinning a pitch shot back within inches of the cup to set up the winning birdie.
Mickelson pulled out the victory at the par-5 18th after three-putting for bogey from about 15 feet on the final hole of regulation play at Castle Stuart, Inverness.
“Probably the biggest challenge of my career is hitting the shots that are required here,” Mickelson told reporters. “Getting good touch on or around the greens; putting these fescue greens well, as well as controlling the ball flight in severe cross-winds. To play well here, finally win on a links golf course, it really means a lot to me and also builds my confidence heading into future Scottish and British Opens.”
Both Mickelson and South Africa’s Grace shot 3-under-par 69 during the final round to finish tied at 17-under par.
Bunker to Playoff
Spieth, who turns 20 on July 27, holed out for birdie from a bunker on the final hole of yesterday’s fourth round to get into the John Deere Classic playoff at 19-under.
On the fifth extra hole, he made a two-foot putt for a par and the victory after both Hearn and Johnson, the defending champion, made bogeys. Hearn had missed a five-foot birdie putt for the win on the fourth playoff hole.
Spieth, the 2009 and 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, had five previous top-10 finishes this season.
“I wanted to just earn my Tour card for next year,” said Spieth, who as a freshman helped the University of Texas’s golf team win a national championship. “I had a plan. I guess the plan got exceeded.”
Will Wilcox yesterday became the fourth golfer in the history of the second-tier Web.com Tour to shoot 59, recording 10 birdies and an eagle during the final round of the Utah Championship. He finished one shot out of a playoff.
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