By Tony Jimenez
After huffing and puffing at the Open Championship so often in the past, Phil Mickelson finally blew the house down by romping to a three-shot victory over Swede Henrik Stenson in golf’s oldest major on Sunday.
The American left-hander took advantage of a jittery last round from overnight leader Lee Westwood by firing a five-under-par 66 for a three-under tally of 281 on a cool and breezy day on the east coast of Scotland.
Mickelson was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce with his approach shot at the last and after rolling in a 10-foot birdie putt he raised both arms in the air before hugging Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay as his long-serving caddie wiped away some tears.
Muirfield once again lived up to its reputation for providing great champions as the popular Californian picked up the fifth major title of his career.
It was Mickelson’s 20th appearance at the British Open and only the third time he had finished in the top 10.
“This is such an accomplishment for me,” the 43-year-old told the BBC. “I just never knew I could develop the game that I needed to play links golf effectively.
“To play arguably the best round of my career and putt better than I’ve ever putted before feels amazing.”
Stenson closed with a 70, ending up one stroke ahead of Westwood (75), Australian Adam Scott (72) and a fired-up Ian Poulter (67) who launched a spectacular last-day assault with a dynamic eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie burst from the ninth.
World number one Tiger Woods, like Westwood, was strangely out of sorts and never threatened to challenge for the coveted Claret Jug.
Fourteen-times major winner Woods, bidding to end a five-year wait for a win in one of golf’s big four events, could be heard muttering darkly to himself throughout the round as he slid to a 74 to take a share of sixth place on 286.
Mickelson, who also won the Scottish Open last week, said Sunday’s win made up for the disappointment of losing out on the U.S. Open crown in June.
“The range of emotions are as far apart as possible following the loss at Merion,” he added.
“To win here feels amazing but you have to be resilient in this game, you have to accept the losses as well as you accept the victories.”
Defending champion Ernie Els finished way down the field despite producing the shot of the day when his approach at the par-five 17th bounced straight into the cup for an eagle.