Muirfield's brutal course typically befuddles all Open Championship competitors who dare to combat it, which is why praise is due for those who can hold their own.
In a tournament where breaking even puts golfers in the leaderboard's top five, the 2013 British Open proved to be a headache for most. Rick Reilly's observation from Saturday's action shows how rough things can get.
This is Muirfield: Hunter Mahan hit a shot 2day that stopped on the green. 3 minutes went by. Then it rolled back 30 yrds down the fairway.— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) July 20, 2013
It ate up Tiger Woods' run for his 15th major and snatched away Lee Westwood's chance at a long-eluded title, but not everyone left with a sour taste in his mouth.
Of course, there can only be one true winner who leaves fully satisfied, but this trio can leave Scotland with their heads held high.
First, here's a look at the final leaderboard:
Phil Mickelson (-3)
This morning, it was anyone's guess who would take home the major. As Westwood's lead evaporated, there were momentarily eight golfers with a chance to win.
Then, Phil Mickelson took over.
Mickelson needed a masterful performance on Sunday to have any chance at winning, and he delivered. The veteran shot five under on the day, including a birdie on No. 17, to take a commanding three-stroke lead.
SportsCenter's Twitter page captured Mickelson, the only golfer below par, celebrating one of his many birdies from Day 4.
The 43-year-old has had an illustrious career, but today will be one of its prime highlights.
Ian Poulter (+1)
After looking down and out, Englishman Ian Poulter managed to finish near the top of the pack with a strong closing.
The 37-year-old stole the spotlight on Sunday before Mickelson later seized it for himself. Poulter shot four under par on the final day to bring his total score to one over.
As Yahoo! Sports observed, Poulter briefly held the clubhouse lead, but it did not last very long.
Ian Poulter is your clubhouse leader thanks to a final round 67. Will his +1 final be enough to win the British Open? http://t.co/LLXKivMs7h— Yahoo! Sports (@YahooSports) July 21, 2013
Poulter, who came in second at the British Open in 2008, started Sunday in 19th before making the rousing comeback attempt. Although it was not enough, he showed the world what he is capable of, and he could seize a major crown soon enough.
Henrik Stenson (E)
Finishing this tournament at par is worth acknowledging—especially when such an achievement lands you in second place, as it did for 37-year-old Henrik Stenson.
Justin Ray foreshadowed a rough weekend for Stenson by stating his past inefficiencies when entering the waning rounds of a major in a positive position.
5 previous times, Henrik Stenson was top-12 through 36 at a major. He's a combined +21 on the weekend in those tournaments.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) July 20, 2013
But Stenson held his own throughout all four rounds, scoring a 70 in three of them. While Stenson could not pull off an upset, he avoided the weekend collapse with steady play throughout the tournament.
If Mickelson had not caught fire, we could be talking about Stenson's unexpected victory.