Mickelson Wins at Muirfield, a Grand Slam Now Firmly in Sight

golfonline.co.uk, July 22nd, 2013

Yesterday, Phil Mickelson said he played the round of his life. Just one week after winning the Scottish Open, the 43-year-old was lifting the Claret Jug. A back-to-back accomplishment no other player has been able to achieve. Now with three of the four major titles under his belt, Mickelson officially joins the race to achieve a Grand Slam.

“I'm playing some of the best golf of my career,” Mickelson said. “This is the best I have ever putted. Today will be one of the most memorable rounds I have ever played. It's probably the greatest and most difficult win of my career. It is great to be part of any Open Championship and to win at Muirfield feels amazing.”

There have been many theories in recent years about Mickelson and his particular game of golf. He’s been called “streaky,” his age has been questioned, his ability to tackle a links course has been discussed and most recently his inability to clench a U.S. Open title has been widely reported on. He finished second to Justin Rose at Merion last month. Marking the sixth time he has been runner-up at the tournament.

One trip across the pond seems to have changed something in Mickelson. While many golfers chose to take the week off before hitting the course at Muirfield, the Callaway player decided his best option was to enter the Scottish Open.

Stating at the time, “Most of the guys are trying to work out how to peak and play their best golf next week, and for me, it's to play the week before.”

A few “practice” rounds at Castle Stuart massively paid off for Mickelson as he won the tournament on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Branden Grace. Delivering the golfer his first-ever win on British soil.

But the questions immediately started to swirl around. Would Mickelson be able to translate his success at the Scottish Open to the course at Muirfield? Was his links game up to the challenge? Would his age get in the way of another major victory?

First round action at Muirfield ended with Mickelson on a sour note, as he, among other players, questioned the set-up of the course. “Joy would not be the word I'd use to describe it,” he had said at the time.

Fast-forwarded to three days later and joy was the exact emotion you’d find on the face of Mickelson, his caddy and his family. As Mickelson approached the back nine of the course on Sunday with a calm focus and attention that led to four birdies on the last six holes. Taking his final score to three-under-par and giving him a comfortable lead as the final golfers finished their round.

In the end, Mickelson secured his victory at Muirfield with a three-stroke lead and was the only player to finish under par. Elevating the American’s rank to number two in the world for the first time since September 2010. A high ranking combined with his phenomenal performance in the last two weeks has surely been able to take some of the sting out of yet another U.S. Open miss for the golfer.

“The range of emotions I feel are as far apart as possible after such a difficult loss at the US Open,” remarked Mickelson after his win.

“You have to be resilient in this game, you have to accept losses and use it as motivation to work harder and come back strong rather than letting it defeat you.”

Mickelson will be hoping this wave of success continues in his career as he pursues the elusive Grand Slam opportunity.