Phil Mickelson put aside his “heartbreaking” second-place finish at the U.S. Open to play the best round of his career yesterday and win the British Open.
The 43-year-old American birdied four of the final six holes to pull away to a three-shot win over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland. A month ago, he lost a final-round lead at Merion outside Philadelphia and finished second for a record sixth time in the U.S. major.
“It’s a huge difference in emotions,” Mickelson said at a news conference after claiming the Claret Jug for the first time. “Being so down after the U.S. Open, to come back and use it as motivation, to use it as a springboard, knowing that I’m playing well and to push me a little bit extra to work harder, to come out on top, in a matter of a month to turn it around it really feels amazing.”
Mickelson shot 5-under par 66 yesterday, matching the low round of the tournament, to finish at 3-under 281. The victory, his fifth major title, pays Mickelson 945,000 pounds ($1.44 million).
Lee Westwood and fellow Englishman Ian Poulter tied for third with Masters Tournament champion Adam Scott of Australia at 1 over. Tiger Woods was among three players in sixth at 2 over.
Mickelson has now won three of the four golf majors. He’s captured the Masters three times, along with the 2005 PGA Championship.
He’s the third straight British Open winner over the age of 40, following Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke and South Africa’s Ernie Els, who were both 42. The left-hander’s best previous Open was as a tie for second place two years ago at Royal St. George’s in England.
“This is just an amazing feeling winning this great championship,” he said. “And to play probably the best round of my career and hit some of the best shots I’ve ever hit. I just thought I needed to bring my “A” game today. And I did.”
Mickelson warmed up for the tournament with his first win in Europe in 20 years, beating Branden Grace in a playoff last week at the Scottish Open. Mickelson’s previous victory in a golf tournament on European soil came in 1993.
Westwood, seeking his first major title, brought a two-shot lead into the last day’s play. The 40-year-old made five bogeys and one birdie in shooting a 75.
“I didn’t really play well enough,” Westwood told reporters. “I didn’t play badly, but I didn’t play great. It’s a tough golf course. I missed a few shots out there.”
Playing four groups ahead of Westwood, Mickelson made birdies on the fifth and ninth holes to get to even par. After a bogey at the 10th, he started his late birdie run at Nos. 13 and 14 to move into a tie for the lead with Westwood and Scott.
“My goal was to get to even par in the championship at the turn,” he said. “Because now it’s a nine-hole competition and I’m right in the thick of it.”
Scott then fell apart with four straight bogeys, starting at the par-3 13th hole when he pulled his tee shot onto a hill next to the green then missed a five-foot par putt. Westwood also dropped off the top spot with a bogey at 13.
Mickelson moved two shots clear with a birdie on the par-5 17th hole and capped his round by draining a 10-foot birdie putt, raising his arms in celebration after the ball dropped into the hole.
“After losing the U.S. Open, it could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back,” he said. “But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career. And in a matter of a month I’m able to change entirely the way I feel.”