For a while there, it appeared as though Phil Mickelson would always be the lovable loser. Sure, he eventually broke his majors (or should we say major?) dry spell by winning the Masters in 2004 and three more majors after that.
But this summer's agonizing second-place finish at the U.S. Open at Lower Merion highlighted his six second-place finishes at the U.S. Open alone and several more close calls at other major tournaments.
Lefty's latest win, however, which came today at the British Open, does a great deal to cement his legacy as a great winner rather than as one of the best bridesmaids.
This gives him the all-important "pinky" win: a fifth major title. There is now no doubt whatsoever that Mickelson is the second-most important golfer of the last decade, and perhaps the best and most significant golfer of the past five years.
It's also easy to forget that this was a tournament which even Mickelson himself did not really believe he could win. "I have a hate-love relationship with this course," Mickelson told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi in an interview which aired on ESPN during the final moments of the tournament on Sunday afternoon.
He even cited a shot yesterday which he hit about as well as he could have, per Cameron Morfit of Golf Magazine, before one bad bounce on the fairway put him in the bunker. "I didn't know if I'd ever have the all-around game to win this tournament," he told Rinaldi.
Most importantly, however, is the manner in which Mickelson won the tournament.
Known for his last-round collapses at times as much as his triumphs, Mickelson birdied four out of the last six holes on the back nine for a final-round 66. In one of the most important tournaments of his career, Lefty shot the best final-round score that he's ever had in two decades of professional golfing.
Mickelson and Australian Darren Clarke are tied for winning the British Open after the longest wait (20 years for each of them), according to the Daily Record. Mickelson overtook second-place finisher Henrik Stenson, who finished at even par, Masters champion Adam Scott and Lee Westwood, who both finished at one over.
For Westwood, who now has eight top-three finishes in majors without ever winning one—the most all time in that unfortunate category—the wait continues. Surely, Mickelson can empathize with that emotion. When it comes to Mickelson's legacy, however, that will no longer be what fans remember the most.
It will be that crowning putt today on the 18th hole. Or, you know, this one.