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'Is it time to look beyond Tiger and Phil?'

By John Strege

SAN ANTONIO -- Google "Phil Mickelson" and "tinkering" and more than 69,000 results turn up. Mickelson tinkers with his swing, his putting stroke, his equipment, attempting to find the square peg that fits a round hole.

This time, at the Valero Texas Open, he was tinkering with a driver swing to take to the Masters, working on a custom fit for Augusta National's generous fairway widths. He was swinging hard and hitting it high and hurt himself doing so.

Mickelson pulled an oblique muscle hitting driver on the first tee (his 10th hole) on Saturday and withdrew from the tournament. His status for the Shell Houston Open this week and even the Masters the following week is not yet known.

Couple Mickelson's injury with Tiger Woods' bulging disc and his own uncertainty about Augusta, and a question posed by Dottie Pepper recently gives one pause.

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"We've been pretty spoiled with easy story lines and high expectations for a very long time. Is it time to look beyond @TigerWoods and Phil?" she wrote on Twitter.

It's not time yet -- Woods won five tournaments last year, Mickelson three, including the British Open. But sooner clearly is gaining on later, and when the day comes, the hangover golf might experience could be colossal.

Woods and Mickelson have anchored golf's marquee for nearly two decades. A television promo for the Valero Texas Open began this way: "Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy. Every week champions will rise. Every week history will be made."

The first two names have 19 major championships and 121 PGA Tour victories between them. The second duo have three majors and 16 PGA Tour wins between them. McIlroy is equipped to help fill the eventual void, but it remains an open question as to whether he will.

Related: More from John Strege 

Woods' dominion over the game has resulted in tournaments being categorized: Tiger tournaments, those in which he played, and the others, those in which he did not play. The buzz in the former is palpable, but its falloff in the latter is usually dramatic.

Mickelson in the Tiger era, meanwhile, has always been an entertaining second fiddle, one capable of playing lead violin from time to time, and he might have been on the cusp of doing so again at Augusta.

The Texas Open was the first of what was to be a three-week run of tournament golf, culminating with the Masters. Each of the three times Mickelson won at Augusta, it was his third straight tournament. Ditto the British Open he won last year and the Players Championship he won in 2007. On the 10 occasions that he played the two weeks prior to the Masters, he finished out of the top 10 only once.

Friday, Mickelson was borderline euphoric about the state of his game and health. "I actually really like the way I'm driving the ball," he said. "My speed is back, my back feels great, my body feels great and I'm able to hit the ball hard again."

A day later, he joined Woods on the disabled list. They'll still dominate story lines in the run-up to the Masters, but by Thursday's start, we might already be looking beyond Tiger and Phil, for one week, at least.

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News & Tours

Do golf, baseball mix? A story from 1916 says...maybe

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Tom Glavine and John Smoltz (Getty Images photo)

By John Strege

Another baseball season is here, and it might surprise some to learn that the favorite sport of many Major League Baseball players is...not baseball.

Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton once said that former Braves pitcher John Smoltz, an inveterate golfer, "is the only guy I know who tried not to let his job get in the way of his passion."

So it is again time to revisit that age-old question, whether golf is an impediment to baseball performance.

An age-old question indeed. "What kind of golfer is the big league baseball player, and how does the royal and ancient game affect his baseball?" the New York Times asked.

It is from a story that appeared in the July 9, 1916, edition of the Times.

Many managers over the years, concerned that golf was a distraction and possibly an energy drain, would not permit players to bring golf clubs on the road. Among them was the late Gene Mauch, an accomplished golfer in his own right, who when asked his impression of Nick Faldo having parred all 18 holes in winning the British Open in 1987, replied, "I did that once."

Mauch was as astute a baseball man as the game has ever seen. Yet his teams never got to a World Series, suggesting that he did not have all the answers.

Related: My Shot: Vin Scully

The Times story from 1916, meanwhile, went on to attempt to provide an answer. It noted a baseball swing differs from a golf swing and that "'pop-ups' and long flies are said to be the results of too much golfing by a baseball star."

It further noted that Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won 373 games in his career, played golf frequently during the baseball season. "After playing thirty-six holes of golf on July 3 last year," the Times wrote, "one of the hottest days of the summer, he shut out the Giants next day with a single hit, a lucky one by Merkle, another golfer, late in the game."

It might have been the first word on the issue, but clearly it wasn't the last.


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News & Tours

Mickelson's Open win 'worst single...result we've ever had'

By John Strege

Virtually no one other than its shareholders will sympathize with Irish bookmaking concern Paddy Power that it took a beating on Phil Mickelson's unexpected victory in the British Open last year, "the worst single event result we've ever had," its chief executive said.

Mickelson Claret Jug.jpg

Paddy Power is a publicly-traded company on both the London and Irish stock exchanges, requiring that it file annual reports. On Tuesday, it released its Preliminary Results Announcement for 2013, in which company chief executive Patrick Kennedy said this:

"Beware the British Open! We've had bad results here before (Harrington x2) but Mickelson winning, with other favourites featuring throughout our generous seven place each-way pay-out, was the worst single event result we've ever had (even more painful than the Yanks shouting 'get in the hole' after every shot!)."

The odds on Mickelson were 28/1 prior to his winning the Scottish Open the week before the British Open at Muirfield, after which they dropped to 18/1.

Related: Phil Mickelson: The Sixth-Best Player Ever?

Paddy Power did not reveal the extent of its liability on Mickelson, but it wasn't the only bookmaker that suffered. Ladbrokes lost about eight million pounds (more than $13 million) on Mickelson bets, according to online-betting.me.uk. A William Hill spokesman, Rupert Adams, hinted an impending disaster. "With Mickelson in form and with us playing seven places punters have been lumping on him to both win and to place, we could see yet another million pound Mickelson liability," he told golfbettingpro.com.

Paddy Power, incidentally, still recorded record pre-tax profits of 141 million euros (more than $190 million).

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News & Tours

Kudos to Calcavecchia: 53, portly, still grinding on PGA Tour

By John Strege

It will otherwise merit almost no notice, unless he makes a weekend move on the leaders at the Honda Classic, but Mark Calcavecchia's performance warrants mention because, well, because he's Mark Calcavecchia. Oh, and he's 53 and somewhat portly these days.

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Calcavecchia is self-deprecating, honest to a fault, and always entertaining, as this anecdote illustrates:

"June 12, 1995, my birthday," he said several years ago, recalling that he lost $1,000 to Phil Mickelson in a practice round prior to the start of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. He missed six four-foot putts, he said. "That was the day my putter left me. And I've putted like crap since."

If his putter hadn't left him, he might be in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Calcavecchia has 13 PGA Tour victories, including a British Open. The unofficial standard, based on Fred Couples' induction, is 15 wins, one major. Calcavecchia has finished second 27 times.

Related: 10 Rules From Mark Calcavecchia

At any rate, when he won the Bell Canadian Open in 2005, he was lamenting his inability to compete with the younger set. "I was just trying to figure out how I was going to make it to 50," he said then. "I'm hoping they lower the age for the Senior Tour down a couple of years. I really don't enjoy playing against Ryan Moore and Chuckie Howell and all of those 23-year-old young guys that hit it 30 yards by me."

So, that as the background, consider this: Calcavecchia, who first played the Honda Classic in 1982 -- or more than seven years before leader Rory McIlroy was born -- has invoked his career money list exemption to play PGA Tour events this year.

Now he has a reasonable chance to make the cut in his third straight tournament by following an opening-round of one-under-par 69 with an even-par 70. He is tied for 48th at the moment. Not bad for a Champions Tour player who couldn't wait to leave the PGA Tour behind.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

Woods' Torrey Pines bid inexplicably ends with a 79

By John Strege

SAN DIEGO -- The round that Tiger Woods played Saturday on the South Course at Torrey Pines was inexplicable, which might be why he chose not to explain it.

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Woods declined comment in the wake of a 79 that ended his quest to win the Farmers Insurance Open for a ninth time on a course on which he has won 10 tournaments (including the 2008 U.S. Open and a Junior World Championship). Woods, in fact, won't even play the final round, a victim of an MDF (Made cut, Didn't Finish) designation. When too many players make the 36-hole cut, a 54-hole cut is enforced to keep the size of the field for the final round manageable for pace-of-play reasons. Woods finished tied for 80th among those who made the cut and bettered only Michael Block, a club professional.

It equalled the second highest score Woods has recorded in his his PGA Tour career. He shot 81 at Muirfield in the third round of the British Open in 2002. He also shot 79s in the 2013 Memorial and the 2010 Quail Hollow Championship.

His round began unraveling on his ninth hole, the par-5 18th at Torrey Pines, when from the middle of the fairway he hit his second into the middle of the pond fronting the green, leading to the first of consecutive double-bogeys. It also was the start of a seven-hole stretch he played in nine-over par. He shot 42 on his back nine.

(Getty Images photo)

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News & Tours

Golf's majors by the numbers: Learn from our interactive stats tool

By Alex Myers

We all know who won golf's major championships in 2013, but there's still a lot to be learned from sifting through the stats from the game's four marquee events. How much did distance matter? Did anyone gain an edge from accuracy off the tee? Was greens hit in regulation or how players fared when they missed greens a better indicator of success?

Related: Try GolfDigest.com's majors interactive tool

Thanks to our new interactive tool, you can sort through the data yourself to get a better understanding of why the leader boards turned out the way they did. For instance, everyone focused on Jason Dufner's performance from tee to green at the PGA Championship, but did you know a big part of why he took home the Wanamaker Trophy was because he led the field at Oak Hill in scrambling?

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A cold putter was a big reason why Woods didn't win a major in 2013.

Did you know that only 13 players made the cut in all four majors? Did you know that Martin Kaymer was one of those players? How did Jason Day tie for the lowest score in relation to par and not collect a first major trophy?

And what about Tiger Woods? The World No. 1 has five tour wins in 2013, yet his drought in majors grew to five years. The 14-time major champion didn't excel in any of the statistical categories we tracked. And while a wayward driver got most of the attention from his critics, it was the shortest club in his bag that really let him down.

Related: Our review of 2013's major championships

Visit our special section to do your own investigating of those who made the weekend at the majors. Who knows, the research you do now might just come in handy when you enter next year's office pool.

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News & Tours

The Grind: The man, the myth, the Mickelson, royal babies & Canadian Open picks

By Alex Myers

Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we had a dream that Phil Mickelson shot one of the greatest final rounds ever to win the Open Championship. Wait, that actually happened? Seriously, as unpredictable as pro golf has become, there have been three certainties the past two decades: Death, (high) taxes -- something Phil addressed earlier this year -- and Phil Mickelson being a non-entity at the British Open. Whoops. Better make that two certainties.

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Phil kept his emotions in check after his win. Bones? Eh, not so much.

WE'RE BUYING

Phil Mickelson: How good was that? A final-round 66 while others hacked their way out of Muirfield's hay and bunkers? After Thursday's round, Mickelson tricked everyone into thinking he might not be 100 percent engaged by complaining about the R&A's setup of the course. But then he hung around until finally making his move late on Sunday, providing a knockout punch  with birdies on four of his final six holes. Even Muhammad Ali would be proud of that rope-a-dope performance.

Related: 9 reasons why we love Phil Mickelson

Muirfield: Outside of a few questionable pins, most notably on Thursday, the course played fair and tough. Mickelson pleaded with the R&A to set the course up so the best players could win. Whatever they did worked. Muirfield's leader board down the stretch was chock full of A-list names and it produced yet another Hall of Fame winner. In the nine-course rota, only St. Andrews is slated to host an Open Championship every five years. Perhaps this links deserves the same treatment.

Phil Mickelson: He gets two spots this week because, well, that was a legendary effort. It's amazing, but at 43, he's playing the best golf of his life. In a little over a month, he's won the British and Scottish Opens, and come agonizingly close to capturing the U.S. Open. What will Phil do next? Win the PGA Championship? Win the "Mickelslam"? Miss his next five cuts? Become an astronaut? The possibilities are endless with this guy.

WE'RE SELLING

Lee Westwood: The stars seemed aligned for Westy to finally get his first major, but the Brit came up short once again. Despite an eighth top-3 finish in a major in the past five years, he remains 0-for-62. To his credit, he handled his latest close call well. Then again, he's had a lot of practice.

Tiger Woods: As predictably good as he used to be in the biggest moments, he's now as predictably bad. The lost weekends at major championships are piling up and despite putting himself in position through 36 holes to end his five-year drought, Woods still hasn't been a serious factor on the back nine Sunday since returning from his 2009 scandal. Despite his four wins on the PGA Tour in 2013, something is still missing mentally in majors. There's just too much evidence to ignore at this point.

Related: The defining shots from the British Open

Hunter Mahan: For a second straight major, Mahan found himself in Sunday's final group. And for a second straight major, he shot a final-round 75 and wasn't a factor down the stretch. A T-9 followed by a T-4 at the U.S. Open is pretty solid, but those finishes also could have been a lot better. Oh, and his bogey on the final hole of regulation dropped him out of the top six and cost me a few pounds. Thanks a lot, Hunter. With that money I could have actually afforded to buy something at the Open Championship merchandise tent.

ON TAP

The PGA Tour heads to Ontario for the RBC Canadian Open. Sadly for our neighbors to the north, a Canadian has won the country's national championship only once in the past 99 years.

Related: The PGA Tour's surprising winners of 2013

(Another) Random tournament fact: This year's event returns to Glen Abbey GC, aka that place where Tiger hit his famous fairway bunker shot in 2000.

WEEKLY YAHOO! FANTASY LINEUP

Starters -- (A-List): Brandt Snedeker: Where's that guy who was the hottest player in golf to start the season? He returns this week with a win.

(B-List): Luke Donald: At least he should be well rested after a short week at Muirfield.

Related: Who is the best current player without a major?

(B-List): David Hearn: The Canuck opened this event with a pair of 68s last year before faltering over the weekend. He's also coming off a playoff loss at the John Deere Classic.

(C-List): Charl Schwartzel: It's been too long since the South African has won on tour.

Bench: Graeme McDowell, Daniel Summerhays, Bud Cauley and Hideki Matsuyama.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

blog-dufnering-0723.jpgLindsey Vonn and Fred Couples' girlfriend, Nadine Moze, get a lesson in #Dufnering from the master of the move himself, Jason Dufner. Good form, ladies!


VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK

We should have expected some Phil Mickelson magic after he pulled off this shot in a Monday practice round at Muirfield:

If you don't think he took a few bucks off playing partner Scott Piercy by pulling off this shot, you don't know Phil Mickelson. Speaking of gambling. . .

RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK

-- Prince William and Kate Middleton will name the royal baby Phil: 5-to-1 odds

-- Phil Mickelson is feeling so good about his golf game that he'll wager his claret jug in his next practice round: 2-to-1 odds

-- This week's tournament won't be as exciting: LOCK

THIS AND THAT

blog-muffin-open-0723.jpgWoody Austin picked up his first PGA Tour title in six years at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Wait a minute, there was another PGA Tour event going on last week? . . . Harris English was sitting behind me in coach on our flight back from Edinburgh. This, even after a T-15 at Muirfield and a recent win in Memphis. My man! . . . I wasn't a big fan of Scottish food, but these mouth-watering muffins from the media center helped sustain me through a long week. I had at least one six days in a row, a streak my colleagues suggested could rival my eating at Chili's each of the last 15 days I've spent at the Players Championship the past three years.

RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER

How many majors will Phil end up with?

How many majors could Phil have ended up with?

What was Phil's drink of choice from the claret jug? Man, that must have tasted good.

-- Alex Myers is an Associate Editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him and please follow him on Twitter since he has self-esteem issues.

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News & Tours

Rosaforte: Resilient Phil shines again

blog-rosaforte-phil-290.jpgBy Tim Rosaforte

In the R&A tent, after raising his glass for the champagne toast, Phil Mickelson called Sunday's performance in the 142nd British Open the greatest round, greatest accomplishment and most meaningful major of his career. He said this hours after walking out of his room at the Marine Hotel in North Berwick, and in typical Phil fashion, telling his wife and kids, "I'm gonna go get me a claret jug today."

Five shots off the lead after 54 holes at Muirfield, Mickelson, 43, had a feeling. He had come to grasp the nuances of links golf during a T-2 finish at the 2011 Open won by Darren Clarke, but last year at Royal Lytham he looked lost again.

I talked to him after he missed the cut with a Friday 78, and he said he had no explanation. It wasn't the medication he was taking for his psoriatic arthritis or the health of his wife, Amy, who had overcome cancer. Head down, shoe bag in hand, he exited the locker room and walked across the putting green to the players' car park. 
 
Now it seems that Phil Mickelson has been resurrected. Just weeks after his loss in the U.S. Open at Merion, his trademark resiliency has produced back-to-back wins in Scotland, including his fifth career major. In his list of highs and lows experienced over his career, his sixth runner-up finish in the most recent National Open was his most painful. Amy said he couldn't get out of bed for two days after that one, but a family trip to Montana started to get him out of the funk, and a playoff win in the Scottish Open showed he had broken a mental barrier.

 
It was just a matter of execution. "Phil has all the shots. He's got the ability. He's got the touch" said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson after explaining that he didn't think Mickelson would ever win an Open Championship. "He's got it in his hands and in links golf, you've got to have it in your hands."
 
Sunday was Mickelson's 72nd round in the Open, where he debuted in 1991. "It's been a project of mine to get him to buy into links golf," said swing instructor Butch Harmon. "It happened when Clarkie won. He finally bought into it. I said, 'Look, you're the most creative guy I've ever seen.' I call him the left-handed Seve. I told him, 'there's no reason in the world you can't play links golf.' He has learned how to embrace it."

 
There were plenty of embraces and tears among the Mickelson camp, from Phil on his way to the trophy ceremony, to caddie Bones Mackay in the locker room, to longtime coach and manager Steve Loy on the 18th green, to Harmon, 69, behind his sunglasses.
 
"I think this is a different kind of meaningful because it was the most unexpected," Amy said. "Every time Phil plays Augusta, he thinks he's going to win. I think he's always seen himself with a green jacket or two or three, or four or five."
 
Mickelson has also seen himself as the U.S. Open champion, and a win next year at Pinehurst would complete the career Grand Slam.
 
"Hopefully that will happen," Amy said. "I think it will."

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News & Tours

Westwood takes another close call in stride

By Alex Myers

GULLANE, Scotland -- Lee Westwood wrapped up one final interview, signed a few autographs and walked off Muirfield's grounds smiling with his arm around his 12-year-old son, Sam. If he wasn't in as good a mood as he portrayed, this was his best performance of the week.
 
It's not that his T-3 at the Open Championship was bad, but for a man with eight finishes at least as good in golf's four biggest events over the past five years, it's the kind of redundant result likely to evoke a different set of emotions: Disappointment. Frustration. Sadness. 

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(photo by Getty Images)

But not for Westwood, who answered all the inevitable questions about coming up short once again with ease, blamed no one but himself and seemed relieved that the day's main story was more about someone else beating him than him beating himself. Then again, maybe he's just used to playing the part.
 
"I said in the press center last night, sometimes you play well and somebody plays a bit better, and sometimes you play poorly," said Westwood, who shot a final-round 75. "I didn't really do either today and Phil (Mickelson) obviously played well. 
 
"He shot the round of the day...and birdied four out of six. That's a pretty special finish in a major championship."

 
Westwood's finish, on the other hand, was not very special. Just a day after playing beautifully and beating playing partner Tiger Woods head-to-head to earn a two-shot lead, he spent much of the final round scrambling from Muirfield's high hay and deep pot bunkers. 
 
Whereas putting under pressure has been his Achilles heel throughout the years, it was shaky ball-striking that hurt the former No. 1 player in the world the most, in particular on holes 7-9. Westwood went bogey-bogey-par during that stretch which he pinpoints as the point he let the tournament get away. He was still tied for the lead after 12 holes, but played the final six holes in six shots worse than Mickelson.
 
To Westwood's credit, he doesn't have a Jean Van de Velde collapse in his past haunting him. Or even a Phil Mickelson moment like the one Lefty experienced at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But someone has always played a bit better than him in major championships and the two times he's held 54-hole leads, that someone has been Mickelson, who also shot five under on Sunday at the 2010 Masters to vault ahead of Westwood.

 
Still, the 40-year-old Westwood, who recently turned to Sean Foley for help, seemed pleased with his week in Scotland.
 
"I don't really get disappointed with golf anymore," Westwood said, before adding: "You can't not take positives from finishing top three in a major."
 
Perhaps, but T-3s don't take your name out of the "Who's the best player without a major?" conversation. Adam Scott and Justin Rose took themselves out of that conversation in the year's first two majors, but while Westwood seemed poised to join them, he'll have to wait for another opportunity. 
 
Based on his track record of close calls, though, that chance should come. When it does, Westwood hopes to take on a different role.
 
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News & Tours

With Open win, Mickelson cements legacy as one of the all-time greats

By Ron Sirak

GULLANE, Scotland -- For several years, it seemed as if time and life had worn down Phil Mickelson's enthusiasm for tournament golf. Even he admitted occasionally struggling with maintaining concentration over 72 holes.
 
In those moments of indifference, it seemed as if the only two things that motivated Mickelson were winning major championships and beating Tiger Woods.
 
He got to do both on Sunday at Muirfield in the 142nd British Open and now, as they say here, he's the champion golfer of the year.

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(photo by Getty Images) 

And just like that, a legacy that at one time seemed as if it would be lost in the enormous shadow cast by Woods now looms so much larger across the history of golf.
 
With a flurry of golf as brilliant as any seen in the closing stretches of a major championship, Mickelson finished with an unfathomable 66 at Muirfield to end 72 holes at three-under-par 281, three strokes better than Henrik Stenson.
 
Woods, meanwhile, started the day three strokes ahead of Mickelson and only two behind 54-hole leader Lee Westwood, but sputtered again on the weekend in a major, closing 72-74 to finish five strokes behind his left-handed rival.
 
"This was probably the best round of my life," Mickelson said as he sat in the interview room, his hand never leaving the claret jug. "I hit some of the best shots I have ever hit, I putted better than I have ever putted. I told myself I needed my A-game today, and I did."

 
What this means for Mickelson is several more pages in the record books.
 
He joins Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Sam Snead Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino and Ray Floyd -- an impressive group -- as guys who have won three different majors.
 
And he is now only the U.S. Open -- where he has finished second a record six times -- short of writing his name next to Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as having completed the career Grand Slam.
 
Winged Foot regrets anyone? Merion memories? Pinehurst pain perhaps?
 
"If I am able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career Grand Slam, that's the sign of a complete player," Mickelson said. "I'm one leg away, but that's been a tough leg for me," he said to laughter, including his own.
 
And with five major championships, Mickelson is tied with Nelson, Seve Ballesteros, James Braid, J.H. Taylor and Peter Thomson on the all-time list.
 
One more and he moves onto the line with Trevino and Nick Faldo.
 
Two more and Lefty makes that elite list of all-timers with seven that includes Palmer, Snead, Sarazen, Harry Vardon and Bobby Jones.
 
What Mickelson did Sunday was nothing short of remarkable. He started the day at two-over par, five strokes behind Westwood. After 12 holes, he was still only one over and a couple strokes off the pace.
 
Then Phil threw The Thrill Machine into overdrive.
 
Birdie. Birdie. Par. Par. Birdie. Birdie.
 
"I was still only one over when I got to 13 and I hit it in there," Mickelson said. "It was a putt that was going to mean the championship one way or the other. It was a critical put."
 
And he made it to trigger his closing run.
 
Stepping to the 17th tee knowing if he finished 4-4 he'd likely be taking home the claret jug, Phil did one better, burning the fairway with both drives, something he has not always done under pressure.

 
The two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th hole meant he was mostly likely the winner with a par on the last. But this is Phil we are talking about.
 
He attacked the pin, got a huge break when fate guided his ball around a bunker, then applied the exclamation point to the best round of the week by making the birdie putt.
 
The roar of the crowd both after he holed out and later during the trophy ceremony demonstrated that Lefty was an extremely popular champion in a tournament that has not been kind to him.
 
"To birdie four of the last six is awesome," Mickelson said.
 
The consensus was that his game did not transfer well to links golf, they all said -- including me.
 
He hits it too high off the tee and relies too much on the flop shot around the green, they all said -- including me.
 
Those shots don't work well in the wind and off the tight lies of links courses, they all said -- including me.
 
Phil doesn't have the patience to play the kind of conservative golf needed to win the British Open, they all said -- including me.
 
But Lefty solved part of that patience problem by leaving the driver in the boot of his car this week. He also thought his ball around the golf course in much the same way he did when he won his first Masters in 2004.
 
He hung close and then closed with a vengeance.
 
Four times, Mickelson has missed the cut in the British Open, including last year at Lytham.
 
Eleven other times he had finished outside the top 20.
 
And only a T-2 at Royal St. Georges in 2011 and a third-place finish at Troon in 2004 were there real opportunities to win.
 
But coming into Muirfield off a victory last week in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart a few hours north of here, he made the mental adjustment for what was needed to win on a links course.
 
"The penalty for missing shots on a links course is much more severe," Mickelson said. "I guess it just took me a while to figure it out."

 
Now, at the age of 43, it will be interesting to see how much fuel this victory deposits into Mickelson's emotional gas tank. With so much more history so close, will this kick-start a late-career major surge?
 
Let's put it this way: Phil Mickelson won this tournament every way possible: Patiently, boldly and, at times luckily. All are needed to capture majors.
 
Quite likely, they will now all say Mickelson has more majors in him -- including me.
 
And, oh, how about this: His first chance to complete the career Grand Slam? Next June. Pinehurst No. 2 -- the scene of the first of his six second-place finishes in the U.S. Open. Why do I get the feeling Phil is toying with us now? Why do I feel he has a lot more great golf left in him?
 
Because he's Phil, that's why.

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