Phil Mickelson has always been great, but now he is one of the greats of all time. By virtue of his dramatic, come-from-behind victory in the 142nd Open Championship, Mickelson proved his mettle and joined an elite group.
There have been three men that have won three or more different majors since 1980: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. In addition, Mickelson is now just a US Open win away from becoming only the sixth human being to complete a career grand-slam since the Masters era began in 1934.
But more than what he has accomplished, how he secured the Claret Jug will become the stuff of legend. Mickelson refused to quit, hung in, scrambled to make par, survived the tribulation of a parched links course and emerged from Muirfield’s inferno unbroken.
Mickelson was five shots back when the final round began. He shot a 5-under 66 on a course that begrudgingly allowed an average round of 73. Mickelson won this tournament by attacking Muirfield’s finishing holes with a dark heart and birdied four of the last six holes, picking the jug from his competitors like a quail from a covey.
The greats have played their best, made great shots, when it mattered most and Mickelson’s round will forever be punctuated by back-to-back 3-woods on 17. The par five was not giving much up and getting to 2-under appeared to be the winning number or a number that would get him into a playoff. Mickelson striped his 3-wood and reached in two, making birdie to get to 2-under.
“That’s the moment I kind of had to compose myself, because I hit two of the best 3-woods I ever hit,” Mickelson said. “That is exactly why I don’t have driver in the bag. Those two 3-woods were the best shots of the week, and walking up on that green is when I realized that this championship is very much in my control. And I was getting a little emotional.”
Why wouldn’t he? The Open Championship has been anything but kind to Mickelson. This is a tournament Phil has had a love-hate relationship with. Phil had only had two top-10 finishes in 19 appearances before this year’s redemption.
And that’s what made Phil’s performance even more impressive. He overcame his nemesis. He excised his Claret Demons and this jug…is clean.