Phil Mickelson of the USA came through a playoff against South Africa’s Branden Grace to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links near Inverness.
Mickelson, who began the final round two shots behind Henrik Stenson, quickly found himself further adrift after a scrappy double bogey on the opening hole.
But, staying patient and displaying some wonderful creativity around the greens, the American played himself back into the tournament. As Stenson faltered on the run for home, Mickelson was left needing a par on the 72nd hole to finish one clear of Branden Grace, who had closed with an excellent 69.
Mickelson hit a reasonable drive down the left side of the par five but his ball ended just behind a small mound in the fairway, meaning he had to play a more lofted club for his second than he would have liked.
He advanced his second down the fairway but was left with a difficult third, from an upslope. When he produced a fantastic, punchy shot that ended on the edge of the green, just 20 feet from the cup, the tournament looked over. But, the four-time Major champion rushed his birdie putt and it ended five feet past the cup. He missed the return effort and suddenly, much to his surprise, Grace was in a playoff.
Mickelson looked disbelieving as the pair returned to the 18th tee to settle the tournament over extra holes. Both men fired off good tee shots to end within a couple of yards of each other on the right side of the fairway. Then, Grace laid up with an iron before Phil, aggressive as always, went with a fairway wood. He struck it well and his ball came to rest on an area of hardpan just short of the putting surface.
Grace played a good third, leaving a 20-foot birdie putt. Mickelson then played a trademark, spinning wedge shot, nipping the ball off the firm surface, bouncing it once and then checking it up just inches from the cup.
Grace couldn’t make his birdie effort and the title went to Mickelson. It was his first Scottish Open triumph and his first European Tour event victory in Europe.
“This is really cool,” he said. “I have been coming here for some time and had some opportunities and I almost let it slip away today. To come out on top was terrific. I was so mad at myself for mentally losing my focus that I came out on that 18th (in the playoff) pretty focused to make a four.”
Henrik Stenson looked like he might storm away from the field in the early stages on Sunday, but he was undone by a series of mistakes on the run for home. The Swede ended the week tied for third with Denmark’s JB Hansen.
It was an incredible final round from Hansen. He opened with a par but then suffered a disastrous, quadruple bogey nine on the second. Lesser players may have wilted from there, but the Dane rallied with five straight birdies, and seven within the space of just eight holes.
Another birdie at the 14th saw Hansen take the lead but, like Stenson, he faded at the end with three bogeys in his last four. Still, for a player outside the top-150 on the Race to Dubai coming into this event, it was a fabulous week.
Mickelson will now go into next week’s Open Championship at Muirfield full of confidence and well practised on the links.
Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
Castle Stuart Golf Links, Inverness, Scotland
Jul 11-14, purse £3,000,000 par 72
1 Phil Mickelson (USA) 66 70 66 69 271 €579,080
2 Branden Grace (RSA) 71 65 66 69 271 €386,049
T3 JB Hansen (Den) 68 65 69 71 273 €195,613
T3 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 64 66 73 273 €195,613
T5 Martin Laird (Sco) 68 69 69 68 274 €124,386
T5 Gareth Maybin (NIR) 69 70 64 71 274 €124,386
T5 John Parry (Eng) 64 72 66 72 274 €124,386
T8 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 70 68 68 69 275 €82,345
T8 Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 68 70 65 72 275 €82,345
T10 Marcel Siem (Ger) 67 69 72 69 277 €66,710
T10 Peter Uihlein (USA) 67 66 70 74 277 €66,710
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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