Even though I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning I was not going to allow myself to miss the possible glory of my guy, Phil Mickelson. So despite lifting my weary head after five hours of sleep on A weekend, I had to see how Lefty was doing on an early Sunday morning.
As I rubbed my eyes and fumbled with the remote I finally found the British Open coverage on the mothership. To my surprise I found that Phil was not only in contention but he was on the leaderboard at the turn. Sitting at +1…two strokes behind Lee Westwood and Adam Scott. He was five back entering the final round. Well, this is surprising, I thought. Phil, in contention at the British Open on a Sunday. Really ?
What transpired over the next two plus hours was some of the most glorious golf action for a member of Phil’s Army that I can remember. Not only did Mickelson play great golf, he was nearly perfect at a venue where not many of his fans thought he could compete. Hell, Phil had his doubts on whether he could compete on a links course.
As Phil teed it up at 13 the one thought that ran through my mind, “You can not afford a bad shot, straight off the tee, put it on the dance floor, and go to work.” Phil immediately stuck it within 10 feet on the par 3 13th. He drained the putt and moved to even par for the tournament one shot back. 14 was thrilling as well. Phil put it perfectly on the green but still had a lengthy 18-footer for bird……DRAINO ! -1 under for the tournament and tied for the Open lead. As Phil was making shots we saw the likes of Westwood, Scott, Tiger and Mahan all scuffle down the stretch. The door had opened for Phil.
Phil went par on 15 as his ball tasted every part of the cup on a tricky 7-footer. He would then hit a great tee shot at 16, only to see his shot on the par 3 roll off the green. It was the type of disappointment that could bury the old Mickelson, but not today. Phil would get up and down for a great par save. The tournament would be won on 17 with true Phil drama. As Mickelson teed it up on the par 5 17th, Westwood and Scott were collapsing behind him. Shanks, duffs and mis-hits were the norm as these two great players were having troubles navigating Muirfield.
Phil would drill it right down the gut on 17 leaving him 303 yards from the cup. There was a stiff wind blowing in his face. Not knowing the troubles behind him with Westwood and Scott, Mickelson would hit a monster 3-wood. It will be his signature shot of this tournament. The ball took two huge bounces and rolled onto the green. A gutsy second shot where he was determined to get there in two. He now had eagle in sight, with a birdie a virtual certainty. But, with Phil, is anything ever a certainty ? That, is why we love him.
Phil would lag it wonderfully to the cup and then tap in for his birdie. All the while Westwood and Scott were giving away a shot on cue. It was as if they were fulfilling their own destinies, so Phil could LIVE his.
Phil would birdie 18 wrapping up an amazing 32 on the back nine and a blistering 66 in the final round of the British Open. His legion of fans rejoiced. Mickelson has now won three of the four majors with the most elusive, that pesky US Open, where he has finished second six-times, most recently last month. Sunday’s win shows how far mentally Lefty has come. In years past, it would have taken Mickelson weeks, even months to “deal” with the disappointment of having a US Open slip through his fingers. Now, a month later not only did Mickelson win the Scotland Open, but he takes down the British, the tournament that even his most loyal supporters never thought he would conquer.
I wrote more than a month ago that Phil has a legion of fans because we can relate. Phil’s failures are our failures. We get it when he screws up, because we do it everyday. His “aw shucks” smile and his love of family is something we can admire. In short, he is easy to cheer for. There aren’t many athletes in the world who have made more than 72 million dollars playing a sport and tens of millions in endorsements that we, the fan, can relate to. But, Phil Mickelson is that guy. We cheer when he wins, we shutter and mourn when he lets a US Open slip through his hands.
Mickelson, in a strange sense is how we wish life would be, thrilling in victory, colorful in defeat, yet never boring.