Phil Mickelson of the USA produced a superb final round of 66 to win the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield by three shots from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
Mickelson began the final round five shots behind overnight leader Lee Westwood and was flying somewhat under the radar as a host of other star names were being touted as the likely victors.
Going into Sunday, Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott were chasing Westwood down. But the Englishman started the final round solidly, his putter coming to the rescue on a number of occasions over the opening holes. Things began to unravel for Westwood though. On the 7th he found a plugged lie in the greenside bunker and was unable to extricate his ball from the trap. In the end, he did well to escape with a bogey.
He found more bunkers at the 8th and 9th holes and, by the time he reached the turn, his lead had gone. Adam Scott hit the front but, just as he did at Lytham last year, he slumped to four straight bogeys on the back nine to take himself out of the equation.
Ian Poulter posted an excellent clubhouse total of one-over-par with a final round of 67. The English Ryder cup hero had a great run around the turn, with an eagle and three birdies from the ninth. For a time it looked as though his final score might be a winning one, but Phil Mickelson turned on the afterburners as he made the run for home.
Over the extremely difficult closing stretch, Mickelson emerged from the pack and then surged ahead. He birdied the par-3 13th then the testing 14th before two excellent pars at the 15th and 16th holes. On the par-5 17th, he struck two imperious shots to reach the green. At 577 yards, into a strong breeze, that was an impressive feat. Two putts got him to 2-under-par.
Having won the Scottish Open last week at Castle Stuart, Mickelson came into this week full of confidence and well practised on the links. On the home hole, he struck a good drive into the fairway and then a precise approach that hit the knuckle of the left hand, greenside bunker and kicked in towards the cup. He was left with a swinging 15 foot-putt for a birdie three. He sized it up, set his ball in motion and watched as it rolled into the hole. He raised his arms, punched the air three times before embracing his caddy Jim Mackay.
He knew at that point the title was his. Although those behind had a theoretical chance of matching his three-under total, the closing stretch was so difficult that the chances were slim. That turned out to be the case and Mickelson won, in the end, by three strokes.
“Playing this Championship was the biggest challenge of my career and I didn’t know if I had the skills to win on links golf but I played some of the best links golf I have ever played,” he said. “It is amazing to be part of any Open Championship and to win at Muirfield feels amazing.”
Lee Westwood, much like the Masters in 2010, was beaten by a phenomenal effort from Phil Mickelson. The Englishman tried to be philosophical in defeat.
“My round came unstuck a bit at seven, eight and nine,” he said.
“Phil must’ve played really well, five under par was a good round of golf this afternoon. If you birdie four of the last six anywhere that is good going.”
In the end it was Henrik Stenson who finished as runner-up. The Swede played a good final round of 70 to pick up the silver salver awarded to the man ending the tournament in second place.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 18-year-old from Sheffield, finished five clear of Royal North Devon’s Jimmy Mullen to win the silver medal for lowest amateur score.
The Open Championship
Muirfield, Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
Jul 18-21, purse £5,250,000 par 71
1 Phil Mickelson (USA) 69 74 72 66 281 £945,000
2 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 70 74 70 284 £545,000
T3 Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 71 75 67 285 £280,833
T3 Adam Scott (Aus) 71 72 70 72 285 £280,833
T3 Lee Westwood (Eng) 72 68 70 75 285 £280,833
T6 Hideki Matsuyama (Jap) 71 73 72 70 286 £163,333
T6 Zach Johnson (USA) 66 75 73 72 286 £163,333
T6 Tiger Woods (USA) 69 71 72 74 286 £163,333
T9 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 69 74 72 72 287 £115,000
T9 Hunter Mahan (USA) 72 72 68 75 287 £115,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage