Phil Mickelson Wins The British Open at Muirfield, Boat-Races The Rest of the Field off the Big Yellow Leaderboard

Sometimes it’s actually enjoyable to be wrong, as such was the case on Sunday at The Open Championship.  

Earlier in the week (as many people have subsequently reminded me of), I predicted that Phil would be a non-factor this week at Muirfield.  Phil’s high ball flight, inaccuracy off the tee and obsession with using high-lofted wedge shots on everything around the greens just didn’t seem to fit links golf.  Other than a brief flash two years ago, Phil had never even sniffed contention at a British Open, but as with every all-time great, talent supersedes courses and conditions, and this was Phil’s time, plain and simple.  Yep, in this case I’m very happy to have been wrong.

If Phil was ever going to win a British Open, it was going to be in this manner.  Not with a big lead going into Sunday, not with all the fanfare pouring onto his shaggy mop, but surging mightily during the final round and boat-racing the rest of the field straight off the big yellow leaderboard.   Such was the case on Sunday, as Phil began the final round five shots behind leader Lee Westwood, with world #1 Tiger Woods, Masters champ Adam Scott and a host of other rich talent in between him and the lead.

Following a solid start, Phil turned a hey-look, Lefty-is-hanging-around-here-in-the-final-round smattering of comments into a holy-sh*t-Phil-is-suddenly-running-away-with-this-thing on the back nine on Sunday.  A cozy 1-under for the day thru 12, then 4 birdies in his final 6 holes to close, including a nuke-dizzle 3 wood from 301 into the wind on 17 that perfectly hit the downslope and raced onto the green, then a glorious 6-iron that skirted the edge of the bunker on 18 for two closing birdies and boom, victory by three.  In fact ESPN was so enthused that they pretty much started the Claret Jug presentation ceremony with half a dozen groups still on the course (there was still golf to be played you dwads!)  In the end though, Phil’s final round 66 was the round of the year on the PGA Tour and in Phil’s own words, may have been the best of his career.  Legendary stuff, to be sure.

Phil joins the Oceans Eleven-like cast of HOFers that have also won an Open at Muirfield (kind of like that feeling you get when you see a preview for a big movie coming out and you think, wait, he’s in this movie too?!- but in this case it’s, wait, him and him and him and him and him and him and him have all won here too?!)- Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo (twice), Els and now Lefty.  Um, so yeah, that’s some my-mantle-isn’t-even-big-enough-for-all-these-damn-major-championship-trophies type company that Phil just joined and dang right, he belongs.

So, as with anything that Phil does, just one question remains (cue that voice from those old Ford commercials)- just what will Phil do next?

Note- next year’s U.S. Open is at Pinehurst, where Phil infamously finished second to Payne Stewart the day before becoming a father for the first time.  Even though I think Phil is destined never to win a U.S. Open (called it after he was leading at Merion after day one), just imagine the hype heading to the Donald Ross gem next June.

Is there anything better than major championship golf?  No, no there’s not.  Thankfully, the PGA Championship is just three weeks away…

Joel Harrington

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