Henrik Stenson was closest at level par for the Open. With top stars such as Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and 54-hole leader Lee Westwood among others giving chase and ultimately falling well short, it was easy to be mesmerized by Mickelson's tour-de-force performance.
The end of action at Gullane, Scotland's Muirfield Golf Links, though, sets the stage for the year's final major: the PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y., at Oak Hill Country Club.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the Open, has struggled for most of the season and was passed by Mickelson in the world rankings, slipping to No. 3. Barring a significant stride forward, McIlroy will have a hard time capturing back-to-back Wanamaker Trophies.
Even though the PGA Championship doesn't begin until Aug. 8, let's take a look ahead at the tournament and break down the top finishers from the Open who will fare well.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com and EuropeanTour.com. British Open information was obtained from the official website. Tournament history can be located at the Official World Golf Ranking.
It's hard to deny Mickelson is playing some of the best golf of his career at age 43, and there isn't much indication he'll slow down anytime soon.
Two consecutive wins in Scotland fortify the notion that Mickelson has tailored his game to adjust to any style of golf—even the links that have befuddled him for so long.
The site of the PGA Championship plays to Mickelson's strengths, too. When it was last contested at Oak Hill, Shaun Micheel won with a spectacular approach shot to the par-four 18th hole that nearly went in for eagle.
Micheel's winning score was minus-four overall, which proves how difficult the venue can be. Ten years later, Oak Hill should be just as challenging.
It was actually Mickelson who led after the first round in 2003 with a wonderful round of 66 on the par-70 layout. He simply wasn't on his game for the rest of the event, shooting 75-72-75 to wind up tied for 23rd (h/t Yahoo! Sports).
With a track record of success and an 18-hole lead on his Oak Hill resume, though, Mickelson should be among the top finishers again.
The stout Swede has been completely overshadowed by Mickelson in both the Scottish Open and the British Open.
Stenson held the lead entering the final day in the former event, then bogeyed three of his last six holes to miss a playoff with Mickelson and Branden Grace by two strokes.
On Sunday at the Open Championship, Stenson was essentially rendered an afterthought when Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes at Muirfield.
However, there is at least some reason to believe that Stenson's time is coming at a major. No one hit more fairways or greens in regulation at Muirfield than Stenson.
In 2013, he ranks third on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and second in greens in regulation while sporting exceptional power. Stenson has also played reasonably well in the year's biggest events: T-18 at The Masters, T-5 at The Players Championship, T-21 at the U.S. Open and runner-up this past week.
Plus, he had an accomplishment worth being proud of amidst very difficult conditions in the first two rounds in Gullane, per The Open's official Twitter:
Strokes gained putting isn't Stenson's best stat (ranked 115th), but that number goes down with the number of greens he hits.
If he can be as stellar tee-to-green as he was at the Open—and has been for much of the year, really—Oak Hill could be the site of his own major championship breakthrough.
Sunday at the Open was the second time in less than two years that Poulter has shown a propensity for making a final-day charge. From holes 9 through 12, the Englishman made eagle and three consecutive birdies to get to level par for the tournament.
Unfortunately, he ran out of gas a bit, bogeying the 16th and settling for a still-wonderful round of 67.
At last year's PGA Championship, Poulter birdied the first five holes and six of the first seven, but he did fall back slightly for a three-under 69 on a very difficult Pete Dye layout at Kiawah Island. That day, he was victim of McIlroy's brilliance as he ran away with a record eight-shot victory.
During the other close call Poulter had at the Open, he made a clutch putt on the 72nd hole in 2008 at Royal Birkdale. Padraig Harrington defended the Claret Jug by playing brilliantly on the back nine, birdieing No. 15 and making an eagle on the 17th hole to eventually win by four.
Poulter is as gritty of a player as they come, and when par is the optimum score, few are better at achieving that. It was evident at Royal Birkdale, when his second-place effort required a total of seven-over par.
For whatever reason, it's translated extremely well in clutch situations at the Ryder Cup and other match play showcases, but never quite enough for a major triumph.
Other than the two closing par-fours at Oak Hill, the length of the course shouldn't be as much of a disadvantage as it normally might be for a player of Poulter's modest distance.
Thus, watch out for Poulter to finally break through at a venue that should be similar to Kiawah Island in terms of difficulty. While Poulter will be totally confident and focused on his own game, his fans can hope against another historic performance to thwart his bid for a maiden major win.
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