American Phil Mickelson finished with a flourish and ran away with his first British Open Championship at Muirfield Golf Links, posting a startling round of 66 and finishing at 3-under par for the tournament. He was the only golfer to finish in the red, with Swede Henrik Stenson shooting a steady round of 70 to finish even-par.
Mickelson had a flurry of birdies on the back nine, including ones at the 13th, 14th, 17th, and 18th holes to finish 3 strokes better than his closest competitor. While his most important putt for birdie may have been at the 13th hole to set the table for his late-round surge, the clinching shot was his 300-yard 3-wood on the 17th hole, setting up an eagle putt which he later converted for a birdie. His birdie on the 18th hole was merely icing on the cake, as his competitors methodically played themselves out of contention under difficult course conditions.
It was long overdue for the 43-year-old, who has now won five major championships, including three at the Masters, one PGA, and now one British. The U.S. Open championship remains elusive for the golfer from San Diego, a tournament in which he has finished second six times. But today, Mickelson not only closed out the victory, he did it in convincing fashion.
Third-round leader Lee Westwood, still without a major championship, ballooned to a round of 75 to finish four strokes off the lead at 1-over par. Ian Poulter also closed with a stellar final round of 67, including an eagle at the ninth hole and three consecutive birdies at holes 10, 11 and 12. Poulter would finish 1-over for the tournament, joining Westwood and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott, who briefly held the lead in the back nine, only to falter with consecutive bogeys at holes 13 through 16.
Top-ranked PGA Tour player Tiger Woods again struggled on the greens over the weekend, shooting a 74 to finish 2-over par, tied with former Masters champion Zach Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama.
Hunter Mahan, playing in the final pairing with Westwood, also shot a disappointing 75 to finish 3-over par, tied with Francesco Molinari.
But this day belonged to Phil Mickelson, who confessed he had doubts on whether his skills would ever allow him to win a links-style British Open. Today at Muirfield, those doubts were permanently erased.