Phil Mickelson beats Branden Grace in playoff, wins Scottish Open at Castle Stuart

  • Article by: STEVE DOUGLAS , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 15, 2013 - 6:58 AM
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US golfer Phil Mickelson reacts to holing a birdie putt on the 4th hole during day four of the Scottish Open golf championship at Castle Stuart Golf Course, Inverness Scotland Sunday July 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Kenny Smith/PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

Photo: Kenny Smith, Associated Press - Ap

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INVERNESS, Scotland — Phil Mickelson doffed his cap to an adoring and applauding crowd in the grandstands overlooking the 18th green at the Scottish Open, and walked to the side of the putting surface to hug his wife and three children.

It was a similar scene 20 minutes later — this time with Mickelson having seized his second chance to secure a first victory in Europe in 20 years.

Mickelson beat Branden Grace in a playoff Sunday after putting himself, his family and his growing legion of Scottish fans through a tense finale on a wild final day on the Castle Stuart links.

"Nobody likes a movie that is predictable," said Mickelson, who appears to be as popular in the Highlands as he is back in California. "You always want to have a little bit of suspense."

After overcoming a terrible start to his last round and wiping out a five-shot deficit to overnight leader Henrik Stenson, Mickelson only needed two putts for par on the 72nd hole to complete the perfect preparation for next week's British Open at Muirfield.

From the fringe, 15 feet out, his putt raced past the hole and his return effort from 5 feet clipped the edge of the cup and stayed out. That meant a new duel with Grace, who shot a 69 like Mickelson in the final round to finish at 17-under 271.

Before heading back up the par-5 18th, Lefty embraced his family, who had been waiting nearby hoping to celebrate with him.

"I was just getting a little luck from them. And refocusing after making a mistake like that," Mickelson said.

It was skill rather than luck that eventually decided things in his favor.

With Grace landing his third shot in the playoff 25 feet away, Mickelson seized his chance by producing a pitch from 45 yards with a 64-degree wedge that spanned back to within a foot of the pin.

After days of links-style bump and runs, it was the kind of chip shot he produces regularly on the PGA Tour that sealed the win.

After Mickelson tapped in, his South African opponent's putt slid by and the celebrations could really begin for the Mickelson clan.

"I almost let it slip away, but to come out on top feels terrific," said Mickelson, who will tee off at Muirfield next week as No. 5 in the world and $740,000 richer.

"I don't think there's a better way to get ready for a major championship or an Open championship than playing the week before, playing well the week before and getting into contention. And coming out on top just gives me more confidence."

This was his 48th professional victory worldwide, four of which have come in the majors. However, he has never raised the claret jug.

Mickelson and Grace finished on 17-under 271 after overhauling Stenson, who bogeyed three of his last six holes for a tie for third with unheralded Dane J.B. Hansen on 15 under.

Rebounding well from his near miss at last month's U.S. Open and then his missed cut at the Greenbrier Classic last week, Mickelson had to dig deep to earn his first win on European soil since capturing the Tournoi Perrier Paris on the European Challenge Tour in 1993.

When he drove into the rough on the first hole, topped his second shot and then three-putted, he dropped four strokes behind Stenson, who started in a manner befitting his nickname "The Iceman" in the toughest conditions of the week.

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