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.

Mickelson didn't win a major until he was 34, going 0-for-42 in them before breaking through at the Masters. While he probably won't catch Woods and his 14 majors, Woods only leads him 6-5 in major titles over the last decade.

And while Woods is stuck on his number, Mickelson seems intent on adding to his haul.

"I joke around all the time," Mackay said, "when he's 60 on the putting green at Augusta, he's going to say, 'I got a chance.'"

Hard to imagine, but there was a time this win would have been, too. Now, anything seems possible for Mickelson.

That should be reason to celebrate, too.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles 6 Bottom 5th Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Detroit 1 Top 6th Inning
Kansas City 1
Philadelphia - J. Williams 3:05 PM
Oakland - D. Pomeranz
Toronto - M. Stroman 3:05 PM
NY Yankees - C. Capuano
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
Colorado - E. Butler
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Washington - J. Zimmermann 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Cosart
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Cleveland - T. House 6:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Seattle - C. Young 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Wacha
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
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
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 42 4th Qtr 12:20
Rice 28
Troy 0 4th Qtr 3:08
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 17 4th Qtr 8:20
Virginia Tech 16
Eastern Mich 14 4th Qtr 9:45
(11) Michigan State 59
Iowa 24 4th Qtr 4:00
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 10 4th Qtr
(19) Wisconsin 62
Maryland 31 3rd Qtr 8:34
Syracuse 13
Tulane 7 3rd Qtr 7:38
Duke 26
Hawaii 6 2nd Qtr 11:19
Colorado 7
Marshall 17 2nd Qtr
Akron 0
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 4:00 PM
Portland
Houston 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
New England 6:30 PM
Columbus
San Jose 6:30 PM
Montreal
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
D.C. 7:30 PM
Chicago
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 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