British Open Winner 2013: Phil Mickelson Becomes an All-Time Great with Win
With one of the most riveting fourth-round performances in recent memory, Phil Mickelson won the 2013 British Open. This marks Lefty's first win at the Open Championship and his fifth career major title.
In turn, Mickelson officially carves his name into the record books as one of the greatest golfers of all time.
Mickelson's approach has never been conventional, and more times than not, the phrase used to describe his game is "all over the place." Never one to shy away from severe weather conditions or a large deficit on the leaderboard, his aggressive approach and adored personality have won Mickelson millions of fans worldwide.
With that being said, popularity doesn't always correspond to greatness.
With three Masters Tournament championships and a PGA Championship crown to his name, Lefty did have the resume to back up the hype. With that being said, Mickelson is playing in the same era as Tiger Woods, and at the end of the day, no one of this time compares to the active legend.
By winning the British Open, Lefty has proven that you don't need to be on Woods' level to become an all-time great.
Instead, Mickelson has matched a favorable reputation with on-course success that any golfer would dream of achieving. While there may be things for Mickelson to achieve, there's no way around one simple fact that defines Lefty's career.
Mickelson always seems to do the unthinkable.
Coming Up in the Clutch
For the first time since 2002, the British Open was held at Muirfield in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland. With the field wide open entering the final round of play and a front-runner yet to be established, Mickelson took it upon himself to put it all on the line and do anything possible to win his first career title at the Open Championship.
While some played it too safe, Mickelson shot a five-under 66, striking birdie in four of his final six holes. With Adam Scott faltering down that same stretch, Mickelson sunk a clutch birdie on 18 and capped off one of the greatest rounds in recent history.
According to Steve DiMeglio of USA Today Sports, Mickelson's caddie, Jim Mackay, called it Lefty's best round ever.
"When you work 21 years for a guy it's pretty cool to see him play the greatest round of golf he's ever played in the last round of the British Open," Mackay said. "He hit it great, he putted great. … The guy has done a lot of really cool things on a big stage. He wants to be on the big stage, wants to hit big shots when it matters. Today he did that.
We wouldn't expect anything less.
Mickelson lives on the big stage and, when we least expect him to, he always pulls a trick out of his sleeve. The 2013 British Open was no different, as Mickelson broke through for an emotional victory.
A win that was more historic than you may know.
Any time a golfer wins a major championship, there's likely to be some form of historical significance. After all, there are only four majors per calendar year and each has it's own history that ranges for decades upon decades.
In this case, Lefty entered the record books in more than one way.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Mickelson won the Open Championship on his 20th start at the event. That ties a record for the most appearances at the British Open before breaking through, which seems to be the way Mickelson's career flows—progressively.
Not only has it taken Mickelson historically long to break through, but he's the oldest major championship winner since 1995.
Phil Mickelson (age 43) is the oldest player to win a major since Ben Crenshaw at the 1995 Masters (also 43).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 21, 2013
Chances are, Mickelson still has another one up his sleeve.
The history doesn't end there, as Lefty's British Open title gives him victories at three separate major championships. As a multi-time Masters Tournament winner and a one-time PGA Championship victor, there are few who compare to the accomplished Mickelson.
And by few, we mean to say that his achievements have been very rare.
With the win today, Phil Mickelson becomes the 4th player since 1980 to win 3 different majors (Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 21, 2013
Mickelson never dominated an era like Tiger Woods, but when it comes to winning major championships, only Tiger is more accomplished from this era. While some of the world's best have earned their reputation with one or two titles, Mickelson is on another level.
A level that sparks the comparisons to Woods.
Most majors won since 2004-- Tiger Woods 6, Phil Mickelson 5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 21, 2013
We can get into the drastic differences between the two, but no one can deny Mickelson's greatness.
There is still much for Mickelson to accomplish, but if his career were to end today, he'd go down as the one of the best of our generation. From his infectious smile to his family man attitude, Mickelson is everything that's right about sports.
Even still, we can't help but focus on what's left.
As previously alluded to, Mickelson now owns five major championships, winning three at the Masters and one each at the British Open and PGA Championship. What Mickelson lacks, however, is a victory at the U.S. Open.
It's painful to touch on how close he's come.
Phil Mickelson now only needs the US Open to complete the career grand slam. He has 6 US Open runner-up finishes, most of anyone in history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 21, 2013
Is there anything more frustrating in professional sports than coming up just short of winning a championship?
Is Phil Mickelson an all-time great?
If Mickelson was able to break through at the British Open after 20 starts, we're inclined to believe that he'll do so at the U.S. Open. Whether or not he does so in 2014 will be seen, but even as Lefty ages, he remains effective.
If we've learned anything, it's that we should only write Mickelson off once he decides to retire.
If Mickelson is able to win the U.S. Open and complete the rare and elusive grand slam, he will significantly improve his resume. Should he fail to do so, however, we must not confuse failure at one event with the identity of his career.
Mickelson has solidified his status as a legend by winning the 2013 British Open—everything else is just motivation to keep going.
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