Sunday, July 21, 2013

The King of Scotland

The champion golfer of the year.
Last weekend, when Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open in typical Mickelson fashion (three-putting the final hole of regulation to drop into a playoff, and then winning said playoff) I tweeted, "Thanks so much, Phil Mickelson, for getting our hopes up again right before a major."  But even with that, I never really gave Phil much of a chance.  His extreme risk/reward style of play has never meshed well with links golf, and let's face it, one of the reasons Phil is beloved by so many is that (like so many) he occasionally plays as if his brain was sliding right out of his ears.

But today, Phil cemented a place in history that was already pretty damn secure.  On the final day of the Open Championship, on a day when the rest of the field flailed away as if they were a bunch of 12-handicappers, he fired a brilliant 66 to capture the Claret Jug, including an incredible stretch of 4 birdies on the final six holes.

The birdie putt at 18.
And while any Open Championship is historic and special, this wasn't just any Open - it was a Muirfield Open.  Aside from the Old Course, there is likely no course in the rota that a player would rather win on - because this, as noted a few days back, is a course that crowns true champions - Mickelson joins a list of Muirfield champions that includes names like Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo, and Els.

As for Tiger Woods, it was yet another major championship where he appeared to be in the perfect position to resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus' all-time majors record, but instead was just enough off on every facet of his game to add this Open to his list of disappointments.  Lee Westwood looked to be in command for much of the front nine, but it all began to slip away with frightening rapidity when it frankly looked as if the pressure got to him.  Not that it would have mattered with Mickelson's miracle, but at this stage in his career one has to think that Westwood will join Colin Montgomerie in the club of greatest players to never win a major.

The way Mickelson is playing right now, you can't count him out to finally capture the one win that would truly lift him to legendary status - the U.S. Open. 

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