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Mickelson Sweeps Scotland
After winning last week's Scottish Open, Phil Mickelson made it a Caledonian sweep on Sunday, closing with a spectacular 5-under 66 at Muirfield to take his first Claret Jug and fifth career major title in the 142nd Open Championship.
After carding two birdies on the front nine to make the turn in 2-under 34, Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 10th. But from that point forward, the 43-year-old left-hander was spotless, posting four birdies in the final six holes - including the last two in dramatic fashion - for a 3-under 32 on the home half.
His 66 not only matched the championship's low score and broke a personal mark for his low final round in a major, it gave him a 3-under 281 total and a three-stroke victory over Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who shot a 70.
"This is such an accomplishment for me," Mickelson told reporters. "I never knew if I'd be able to develop the game and the shots to play links golf effectively. To play what is arguably the best round of my career, to putt the way I putted, to shoot the round of my life, it just feels amazing to win the Claret Jug."
The triumph puts Mickelson in rarified territory. He has now won three legs of the Grand Slam (the only title missing is the U.S. Open, where he's finished as the runner-up a record six times, including last month at Merion), and he joined Byron Nelson, Seve Ballesteros, James Braid, J.H. Taylor and Peter Thomson with five career majors.
In overcoming a five-shot deficit entering Sunday, Mickelson also put his name alongside the previous winners at Muirfield, a veritable "Who's Who" of golf luminaries: Harry Vardon, James Braid, Ted Ray, Walter Hagen, Harry Cotton, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (twice) and Ernie Els.
The victory in the Open, where he's logged just two top-10 finishes in 20 career starts, was worth an estimated $1.41 million and 600 FedEx Cup points. "This is a day I'll remember my entire life," added Mickelson, the only player to break par over 72 holes. "It was one of the best rounds of golf I've ever played."
His long-time caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, broke into tears when Mickelson's final birdie putt was holed. "When you work 21 years for a guy it's pretty cool to see him play the greatest round of golf he's ever played in the last round of the British Open," Mackay told reporters.
"He hit it great, he putted great. The guy has done a lot of really cool things on a big stage. He wants to be on the big stage, wants to hit big shots when it matters. Today he did that."
Sharing third at 1-over 285 were two Brits - Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood - and Australian Adam Scott, who shot 72. Poulter had a 67, while Westwood - who began the final round with a two-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods - closed with a 75.
Westwood, seeking to rid himself of the label of "one of the best players to never have won a major," had a difficult outing. The 40-year-old carded five bogeys and only one birdie.
All Westwood could do later was tip his cap to the Champion Golfer of the Year. "Phil must've played really well," he said. "Five-under par is a good round of golf this afternoon."
Westwood then added a reflective note. "I keep putting myself in contention. I didn't do a lot wrong today. I just didn't do enough right. I know what I've got to work on."
Woods, seeking his first major - and 15th overall - since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, closed with a 74 to end up in a tie for sixth at 286 with fellow American Zach Johnson (72) and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (70).
"It was frustrating. I played well," said Woods, still ranked No. 1 in the world. "I could just never get the speed (of the greens) right. We started on the first day and it progressively got slower. And that's usually the opposite at most tournaments. It usually gets faster as the week goes on, but this week it was different.
"I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing, there's no doubt. I'm right there and I hit a ton of good shots this week, and the only thing that I would look back on this week is I just never got the speed after the first day, because it progressively got slower.
"I've won 14 and in that spell where I haven't won since Torrey, I've been in there," added Woods. "It's not like I've lost my (Tour) card and not playing out here. So I've won some tournaments in that stretch and I've been in probably about half the majors on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win during that stretch. I just haven't done it yet. And hopefully it will be in a few weeks."
Mahan, also seeking his first major, closed with a 74 to tie for ninth at 287 with Italy's Francesco Molinari (72). Another stroke back were Brandt Snedeker (72) and Argentina's Angel Cabrera (74).
Sharing 13th at 289 were 1997 British Open winner Justin Leonard (71) and 49-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez (73).
Matthew Fitzpatrick maintained his 54-hole position as the low amateur. The 18-year-old Brit, the youngest player in the field, posted a respectable 72 for a 10-under 294, the same total as another teenager, Jordan Spieth (75), who won for the first time last week in the John Deere Classic.
Other scores included a 77 by Dustin Johnson, which dropped the South Carolinian into a tie for 32nd at 293, a four-round total matched by - among others - 53-year-old Fred Couples, who shot a 71. Ryan Moore began the day only four off Westwood's pace but closed with a 79 to also end up at 293.
Defending champion Els posted a 74 to finish at 8-over 292.
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/open-championship/leaderboard.html.