Column: Phil Mickelson gives golf reason to celebrate after round for ages at British Open

  • Article by: TIM DAHLBERG , AP Sports Columnist
  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 6:46 AM

GULLANE, Scotland — The celebration started when Phil Mickelson rolled in his final birdie putt, with hands raised high in the air and a tearful caddie just waiting to be hugged. It quickly turned into a victory lap, even as the players he'd already beaten struggled to finish what was left of their disappointing day.

There were, of course, hugs for his picture perfect wife and his equally charming children — and lots of them. Congratulations to accept from most anyone near the 18th green, and plenty of smiles for the thousands gathered in the grandstands.

Then, with even more time to kill before he was officially declared champion of the one tournament he feared he would never win, Mickelson did what only Mickelson would do — he began signing autographs.

Hold onto them because they might be worth something someday. The guy with the goofy grin who once seemed destined never to win a major now seems intent on playing his way into golfing lore.

No, he's not Tiger Woods. Never will be, though that's not really such a bad thing.

But he did play one of the greatest rounds you'll ever see Sunday under treacherous conditions in the final round of the British Open. And it may be time to stop thinking about him as a player who sometimes can't think straight on the course and start the discussion about where he ranks among the greats of the game.

With five major championships now, he's in the mix. Toss in one of those six U.S. Opens he came so agonizingly close to winning and he might even be there now.

Only five players have the career Grand Slam, and they have last names like Nicklaus, Woods and Hogan. If one day Mickelson joins them there, his legacy will be set.

"I think that if I'm able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that's the sign of the complete great player," Mickelson said. "I'm a leg away. And it's been a tough leg for me."

If it's any consolation, this one was always tough, too.

Mickelson took a long time to acclimate to golf across the pond, a long time to figure out that the grass that grows over here is different from the stuff that grows on the finely manicured country clubs back home. For years he tried to hit shots he had no business trying to hit, and for years he struggled to even get in contention in the oldest major of them all.

This wasn't shaping up as the year he was going to figure it all out, either. Not after yet another heartbreaking loss at the U.S. Open at Merion, where he had a one-shot lead going into the final round only to kick it away with two bad wedges on the back nine.

"It could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back," Mickelson acknowledged. "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 I didn't want it to stop me from potential victories this year and some potential great play. And in a matter of a month I'm able to change entirely the way I feel."

He may have also changed entirely the way some in golf feel about him. While fans love Mickelson for his smile, his easy way with autographs and his daredevil style, there's always been a feeling he's given away as many tournaments as he's won. His career-defining moments all pretty much revolved around the Masters and before Sunday he didn't have an Open to his name.

A round for the ages took care of that. On a breezy afternoon off the coast of Scotland, Lefty did what seemed impossible, making four birdies in the last six holes to run the table at Muirfield. He closed it out with two of the best 3-woods of his life back-to-back on the par-5 17th hole and an iron to No. 18 to set up his final birdie.

He went so low so fast that Adam Scott — who had held the lead — thought the scoreboard was playing tricks on him when he glanced up at it a few times on the back nine.

"Best round I've ever seen him play," said caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay, who was so caught up in the win he was crying on the 18th green.

That he played it at the age of 43 is a testament to Mickelson's work ethic as well as his talent. He wants to win badly, and he's willing to put the effort into it, even if some of his ideas about competing — like playing the first round of the U.S. Open after flying overnight to get there so he could be at his daughter's eighth-grade graduation — are, in the world of golf, a bit unorthodox.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 9
Toronto - LP: J. Happ 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 6
Washington - LP: R. Detwiler 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 3
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 4 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 3
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 2
Cincinnati - LP: D. Corcino 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 3
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Sale 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 0
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 8
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 0 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 2
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: C. Wilson 5
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Doolittle 1
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 5 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 2
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close