Golf: Phil Mickelson wins Open Championship at last

Phil Mickelson of the US holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf championship at Muirfield in Scotland, July 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Phil Mickelson of the US holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf championship at Muirfield in Scotland, July 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Best thing to do at a Major championship is forget the romantic story. Just bring your best golf. Englishman Lee Westwood brought the possibility of a home champion and a first Major. Tiger Woods brought the possibility of restarting his chase of Jack Nicklaus' 18 Majors. Adam Scott brought the possibility of two Majors in three months.

Phil Mickelson just brought a 66 and won the Open. That's the real story.

Best thing to do on Sunday at the Open Championship, when the tension rises, is to bring a round that Mickelson repeatedly called "one of the best rounds of golf I've ever played". Also bring a display with the putter which he described "as good as I have ever putted in my career".

No one gave Mickelson the Open. He grabbed it. Snatched it. Ok, fine, Woods was flat with a 74, Scott had a 72, Westwood a 75 and Hunter Mahan a 75. But Mickelson sparkled with his 66. He was five under on the most difficult day; he produced a score no one else managed except Zach Johnson. And that was on Thursday.

Best thing to do on Sunday is to time your charge perfectly. Ian Poulter, who finished tied third, eagled the 9th, then birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th. Nice. Scott birdied 7, 8, 9 and 11. Impressive. But Mickelson birdies 13 and 14 and then, when everyone's tired and tense, he birdies 17 and 18 and buries them with a grin and a putt. Just plain cruel.

Timing is everything in sport. Timing is what he produces when he hits "two of the best 3-woods I've ever hit" on the par-five 17th. After the second shot, this long-haired, well-mannered Phil looks at the ball and lets loose:

"Go baby, go" he shouts. It did.

Best thing to do on Sunday is find an emotional balance. Westwood looked tight. Woods looked like a man whose engine had stalled in the cold. The only highlight was a conversation between Woods and his old caddy Steve Williams. They weren't fighting, they were evidently healing.

But Mickelson seemed to have balance. On one hand, his long-time caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay said: "Phil was very, very calm." On the other hand, Mickelson was also emotional and said: "As I was walking up to the (17th) green, that was when I realised that this is very much my championship in my control. And I was getting a little emotional. I had to kind of take a second to slow down my walk and try to regain composure."

Best thing to do on Sunday, in a golfing church, is to mend a dented heart. Just weeks ago, at the US Open, Mickelson comes second for the sixth time. "Every time I think of the US Open, I just think of heartbreak," he said. Of the four Majors, he had only two - the Masters and PGA Championship - and he wants all four because he insisted that "that's the sign of the complete great player". Now he has three. Not the Open on his home shore, but on this foreign shore. It's a start.

Best thing to do on Sunday is to finish a great day with your family. Mickelson, in case you didn't know, is a world-record hugger of his wife, Amy, and his three kids. Good thing he's 191cm with long arms. Amy, at the 18th green, wearing a grin that wouldn't fade even as the light did, said she was in "complete and utter shock".

Later, as the seagulls invaded one of the stands, and official speeches were made, Mickelson just hung around and talked to reporters. Then an official called out his name, and held out a jug on which his name was inscribed, and Mickelson ambled off to the trophy presentation.

And all you wanted to say on Sunday to this gifted, goofy 43-year-old man who never lost his nerve was just this:

"Go, baby, go".