So, a tournament that looked like it would go right down to the wire came to a slightly anti-climatic end, thanks to the genius of one man.
Granted, we all wanted Lee Westwood to come out on top, but sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say the better man won. In the closing two hours at Muirfield, it was abundantly clear why Mickelson has won five majors and Westwood has failed to get over the line once.
At one stage the Englishman boasted a three-shot lead, but instead of pushing on, the same issues that have plagued him in similar situations reared their ugly head once more.
Yesterday, Westwood putted as well as he ever has done and struck the ball superbly, and for a time in round four, it seemed as if nothing had changed. Sadly, though, Westwood has demonstrated a crippling inability to step up to the mantle when those career-defining moments present themselves.
Towards the middle of the round he started missing fairways with alarming frequency, and those putts that disappeared yesterday were just slipping by the cup today.
Mickelson, meanwhile, was executing a perfect gameplan. He kept a low profile during the early stages and meandered along patiently, waiting for his moment to strike. And strike he did.
From nowhere, he birdied 12 and 13 to force his way under par. In the ensuing moments, the championship went from a nailed-on play-off to a tournament where only one outcome seemed possible.
Adam Scott made four bogies on the spin from the 13th to play himself out contention, Woods three-putted 15 after a mini resurgence to fall back over par and Westwood made a poor four at 13 to slip back to level par.
All of a sudden, Mickelson found himself two clear with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. Of course, he knocked it in, while his peers were left to contemplate how they’d fallen from genuine contenders to completely out of contention in an hour of self-implosion.
Still, you can’t help but feel pleased for Mickelson. He’s a thoroughly deserving champion who conducts himself in the right way and acts as a great ambassador for this great sport.
His attitude towards links golf has also been most impressive. He worked tirelessly to decipher this form of the game and put himself in a position to win. Many players, and some Americans, simply write-off the Open as a tournament they will never be able to win. Not Mickelson. He dedicated himself to becoming better and developed a game to contend, something he deserves enormous credit for.
The British press will undoubtedly focus on the negatives, and you have to wonder if Westwood has what it takes to win a major. But I’d prefer to focus on Mickelson.
He played the best round of his life to win a tournament he never thought he was capable of. He’s a brilliant role-model for youngsters and living proof that if you want something badly enough, you can go out there and get it. Compiling a joint best-of-tournament 66 on major championship Sunday to win a tournament you’ve previously thought to be out of your grasp is nothing short of sensational.
Yes, you have to feel sorry for Westwood. He’ll be dejected this evening, and rightfully so, but sometimes you need to hold your hands up and admit the better man won.