6 Things Learned from the 2013 Open Championship

Richard SmithContributor IIIJuly 22, 2013

6 Things Learned from the 2013 Open Championship

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    After four days of dazzling drama, Phil Mickelson surged to victory at the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield following a phenomenal final round of 66.

    The popular American claimed his first Claret Jug on an eventful day which saw Lee Westwood once again miss out on his elusive first major—despite holding a three-shot lead at one point on Sunday—while Tiger Woods once again came up short despite being in contention headed into the final round as he bids to end his five-year wait for his fifteenth major.

    Here's six things we learned from the 2013 Open Championship.

Majestic Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson became the third successive player over the age of 40 to win the Open, proving that the old guard are still on top of their game in the big events.

    In the end, Lefty won by three shots, picking up £945,000 (about $1.45 million) in prize money. The 43-year-old described his final 18 holes as “the round of his life,” as he stormed ahead of his rivals, scoring five under par for the day.

    Mickelson now has five majors to his name and has subsequently set his sights on becoming the sixth man in history to claim the career Grand Slam. Only the U.S. Open eludes the San Diego native, a tournament that he has finished runner-up in a staggering six times. He will head to Pinehurst in 2014 determined to join an elite group of players who lay claim to the remarkable achievement.

Woods Falters

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    Tiger Woods continues his frustrating search for his first major since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. The 38-year-old found himself in a great position at the start of the final day's play—two shots off third round leader Westwood—but was unable to find a spark as he faltered with a disappointing 74.

    The No. 1 golfer in the world has now gone 17 major appearances without a win.

    Woods is still four titles short of Jack Nicklaus’ record tally of 18 and Tiger will want to end that wait sooner rather than later if he is to eclipse "The Golden Bear."

Heartbreak for Westwood

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    You’ve got to feel for Lee Westwood. Going into the final round, the Englishman led the way at his home major as he looked to be en route to finally getting his hands on one of golf’s top prizes.

    The 40-year-old will no doubt be devastated at his final round of 75, which saw him relinquish a lead of five shots to Mickelson. Westwood now remarkably has 16 top-10 finishes at majors to his name, but lacks that all important win, begging the question: Will Westwood ever win a major?

Poulter Replicates Ryder Cup Form

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    Like Westwood, Ian Poulter is still searching for his first major title, but Europe’s 2012 Ryder Cup hero produced a stunning final round score of 67, second only to Mickelson's 66, to throw himself into surprise contention. In the space of eight holes, he moved from six over par to even between holes 9 and 12, carding an eagle followed by three birdies. Poulter now has two top-three finishes in his last four majors, and he will be looking to go one better at Oakhill Country Club next month for the PGA Championship.

Miserable McIlroy

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    In truth, Rory McIlroy had an absolute shocker in Muirfield. The Ulsterman’s woeful form continued as he failed to make the cut following rounds of 79 and 75.

    It is no coincidence that his poor performances have coincided with his new Nike clubs, which he has failed to adjust to since signing a staggering deal with the company in January.

    Furthermore the 23-year-old seems to have lost some of his mental edge, admitting that he felt "unconscious" and "brain dead" at Muirfield. However, such is McIlroy’s immense talent that he cannot be written off and it is more likely a question of "when" rather than "if" he will bounce back.

Muirfield Is a True Test

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    The brutal course at Muirfield garnered some negative criticism from players, but it can’t be denied that the challenging holes made for a thrilling finale.

    Muirfield is widely regarded as the fairest of all the Open courses in Britain, with players rewarded for accuracy, patience and most importantly nerve.

    Mickelson excelled in all three on the final day, while Poulter , Henrik Stenson and the up-and-coming Hideki Matsuyama also deservedly gained plaudits for their performances, but few players will be complaining that the tournament won't be returning to the venue for a few years.