x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Phil Mickelson claims British Open title at Muirfield in dramatic round

American finally breaks through at British Open and wins his fifth major championship with a 5-under 66, matching the best round of the tournament.

Phil Mickelson, the new British Open champion.
Phil Mickelson, the new British Open champion.

GULLANE, Scotland // Instead of another excruciating loss in a major championship, Phil Mickelson got a chance to celebrate early.

A brilliant closing round at challenging Muirfield made it possible.

Mickelson won the claret jug for the first time and claimed his fifth major championship with a 5-under 66 on Sunday, matching the best round of the tournament on a day when the other contenders – including Tiger Woods – faded away.

Lefty birdied four of the last six holes, winning by three strokes and emphatically erasing the memory of all those close calls that didn’t go his way – the latest one just last month when he was runner-up at the U.S. Open for a staggering sixth time.

“This is such an accomplishment for me,” Mickelson said. “I never knew if I’d be able to develop the game and the shots to play links golf effectively.

“To play what is arguably the best round of my career, to putt the way I putted, to shoot the round of my life, it just feels amazing to win the claret jug.”

Overall, Mickelson has eight runner-up finishes in the majors, including one at golf’s oldest major championship, just two years ago.

Now, at age 43, he’s finally gotten his name on the claret jug, three-fourths of the way along to a career grand slam and assuring he’ll go down as one of the greats of the game.

After starting the day five back, he began his amazing finish with a 8-footer for birdie at the 13th, getting his score back to even par and giving him a score that he thought would be in the mix at the end if he simply parred out.

Mickelson did much better than that, rolling in a 20-footer at the 14th for another birdie, reaching the green in two at the par-5 17th to set up yet another birdie, and closing it with a 10-footer on the final hole for a 3-under 281 total.

Even though there were still four groups still on the course, Mickelson knew he had done more than enough to win. He pumped his fists and let out a yell. His caddie burst into tears. His wife and kids celebrated just off the green with his coach, Butch Harmon.

Mickelson is projected to leap into second in the world ranking, just behind Woods, who was never in contention after a sloppy start in the final round.

Mickelson became only the third player in the past 30 years to win five majors, joining Nick Faldo and Woods.

Lee Westwood began the day with a two-stroke lead but was again denied his first major title. He struggled to a 75 that left him four shots back, and Mickelson’s victory was assured when Westwood didn’t come close to making the eagle he needed on the 17th. Woods was two shots out at the start but a 74 left him five shots behind the winner.

Woods had six bogeys in his round but admitted the frustration was eased by the fact Mickelson put himself into such a formidable position. The left-hander won by three strokes and was the only player to finish under par for the week after making four birdies on the last six holes.

Woods said: “Well, I think if it does feel any better, it is that Phil got to 3 [under]. “I think a lot of us would be a little more ticked than we are now, but he posted 3.

“That’s a [heck] of a number.”

The course slowly bled contenders dry. Everyone but Mickelson, that is. Henrik Stenson was the runner-up at 284. England’s Ian Poulter and Masters winner Adam Scott finished another shot back.

“Phil must’ve played really well,” Westwood said. “Five-under par is a good round of golf this afternoon.”

Mickelson’s caddie, Jim Mackay, the only sideman Lefty has ever had, broke into tears afterward, noting how hard it has been for Mickelson at the world’s oldest tournament.

“When you work for a guy for 21 years, and you watch him play the best round of golf he’s ever played, it’s pretty cool,” Mackay said.

British Open final standings

Player Score To par
P Mickelson, USA 281 -3
H Stenson, SWE 284 par
I Poulter, ENG 285 +1
A Scott, AUS 285 +1
L Westwood, ENG 285 +1
Z Johnson, USA 286 +2
H Matsuyama, JPN 286 +2
T Woods, USA 286 +2
H Mahan, USA 287 +3
F Molinari, ITA 287 +3
A Cabrera, ARG 288 +4
B Snedeker, USA 288 +4
MA Jimenez, ESP 289 +5
J Leonard, USA 289 +5
K Bradley, USA 290 +6
E De La Riva, ESP 290 +6
H English, USA 290 +6
M Kuchar, USA 290 +6
C Schwartzel, RSA 290 +6
D Willett, ENG 290 +6
R Cabrera-Bello, ESP 291 +7
D Clarke, NIR 291 +7
S Gallacher, SCO 291 +7

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