Phil Mickelson – Despite being one of the most creative players the game has seen, ten years ago you would have scoffed at thoughts of Phil Mickelson winning the Open Championship. With a game and mindset seemingly so tuned to the demands of the PGA Tour and the three US-based Majors, Mickelson was merely a side story in Open weeks despite threatening at Royal St George’s in 2011.
But Lefty’ won this Open more than Lee Westwood or Tiger Woods lost it. His win at Muirfield vindicated his decision to head to the UK a week early to prepare at the Scottish Open, which he duly won. An impressive figure on and off the course, the five-time Major winner’s legacy is now affirmed and he will rightly go down as one of the game’s true greats.
Lee Westwood – There must now be serious concerns whether Westwood, at 40, will ever win the Major title that both his talent and perseverance deserve. While nobody can take anything away from Mickelson’s Herculean effort – making four birdies in the last six holes in his closing round of 66 – Westwood never really looked in control of his game.
Many will point to his wayward approach play, or his unusual sloppy placement from the tee. But the greater concern will be his mind. Does he really have the belief to come through as a frontrunner in one of the game’s big four? The debate gathers momentum – and venom – with every Major failure.
Adam Scott – He opened with a bogey and there was no momentum early in his round. But the Australian came to life with three birdies on the spin towards the end of his front nine, only to fall foul of another four-hole bogey run on the inward stretch as Mickelson was making his move.
Despite the loss, Scott looks primed for more Majors. He’s a different player from the one who crumbled so meekly at Royal Lytham and at a time when Australia is crying out for some glory, he remains his country’s greatest sporting asset.
The Course – With many players feeling a Sunday chill as the winds picked up and the sun went into hiding, Muirfield continued to test both distance control as well as the nerves of even the very best short gamers.
The East Lothian links and its set-up have come in for criticism from some this week – most notably the greens and The R&A’s choice of pin positions. But when is that not the case? This was a fitting venue for one of the finest Opens in recent times.
See you at Hoylake – Thoughts now turn to the 143rd Open at Royal Liverpool, another revered stretch of links land that has always delivered great excitement. The last time the Open was played there – in 2006 – Tiger Woods was in the form of his life, winning by two shots with an 18-under-par aggregate score.
Who knows what will happen in 2014, but one thing is for sure, the Open Championship continues to deliver as the game’s premier contest…