Shooting 65 in the last group, in the last round of a major and not winning is unheard of. Phil Mickelson 2016 Open Championship runner-up will be devastated today but here are 6 reasons for the American to be cheerful.
1 Long game
Over the years Phil Mickelson’s only detectable weakness has been his relatively unreliable long game. The work he and new coach Andrew Getson have done since November 2015 is clearly paying off. The proof lay more his ball flight than the stats themselves (which were also very good). Despite the pressure of the final round shoot-out, Mickelson was able to hit draws, fades and punches on demand. You can only do this if your swing is working on a neutral plane.
2 The schedule
While others will wilt as the rigorous late summer golf schedule takes its toll, Phil Mickelson could be smiling all the way to the bank. The reason? He doesn’t have to worry about the Olympics (Bubba Watson, Rickie Folwer, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar will represent team USA). This means he can head to New York for next week’s USPGA Championship at Baltusrol knowing he has a healthy break before the Fed Ex Cup starts on August 25th. Having cashed his £675,000 Open Championship cheque, he should make it all the way to Atlanta’s Tour Championship. Get the wheelbarrow ready!
3 Age is no barrier
Phil Mickelson is 46. Fact. There are two reasons why players begin to fade in their 40s. Firstly, they lose the work ethic that helped them hit the heights in the 20s and 30s. Two decades of travel, gym workouts and pounding balls on the range can get a little tedious. Secondly, the putter begins to misbehave. Take Ernie Els. Poor Ernie. One high pressure tournament after the next can wear a man down, self-doubt creeps in and that’s when the putter develops a mind of its own. The great news for Phil Mickelson is that he looks immune to both of these issues. His performance at Troon and the work he’s successfully put in on his swing have invigorated Leftie. That he took just 110 putts in four rounds at Troon would suggest his flat stick is working just fine thank you.
4 Ryder cup
This year’s US Ryder Cup team will be under huge pressure to avenge the spate of European wins in recent history. Nobody will be more eager to play his part in that than Phil Mickelson. His second place finish at Troon almost guarantees him automatic qualification. Can we all agree to put Mickelson and Stenson together in the final day singles?
One thing all great sportsmen want to leave behind is a legacy, to be known as one of the greats. Leftie, with his five majors, had already reached that status, especially in the US. But yesterday’s shootout at Royal Troon will leave an indelible mark on the game. People will talk about how Mickelson and Stenson lapped the field at the 2016 Open for many years to come. It was inspiring to watch and the golfing public, particularly in the UK, will never forget it. Phil played a huge role in one of the greatest days in golfing history. He may not have won, but his position in the game grew drastically.
How that putt missed for a 62 on Thursday, we will never know. How he lost the Open after shooting a bogey-free 65 on Sunday beggars belief. If there’s any justice in this world, something VERY good must be on the horizon!