As the defending champion, American star Phil Mickelson returned the Claret Jug before the opening round and looked to take it back by winning the 2014 British Open.
Unfortunately, it was not to be for Lefty, as a first-round score of two-over 74 put him eight strokes off the pace and virtually took him out of contention immediately.
Mickelson did show signs of life over the final three rounds of the tournament, shooting sub-par scores on each day and finishing with a four-under 68 to finish the British Open at five-under par.
Here's a look back at all four of the defending champion's rounds from Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.
Day 4 Recap
It took four rounds, but Phil Mickelson finally found his groove on Sunday, posting five birdies and just one bogey en route to a four-under 68 for his final round at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Weather conditions proved friendlier on Sunday, as the rain completely subsided and winds weren't near as blustery as they had been previously. The course also featured softer greens which certainly helped Mickelson hold his approaches.
After three straight pars to start his round, Lefty recorded birdies on the par-four fourth and par-five fifth to move to three under for the tournament. Needless to say, his sponsor was pleased with his early performance:
His lone blemish came at the par-four seventh, as a bogey brought him back to one under on the day, and he made the turn with a 34.
Undeterred, Mickelson began his back nine in stellar fashion, recording a birdie on the par-five 10th. KPMG kept up with his round:
After a series of pars, Lefty ended his tournament in fashion, birdieing two of the final three holes to finish with his first sub-70 round of the British Open.
His birdie putt on the 18th hole nearly resembled his final stroke from his Open victory last year. Take a look, courtesy of No Laying Up:
Slightly different scenarios, but Mickelson's 18th hole birdies from 2013 and 2014 are almost identical: https://t.co/XzUary6u7U— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) July 20, 2014
Golfing World noted the great way for the defending champion to end this year's tournament:
Following his round, Mickelson spoke of his performance and had some kind words for the local crowd at Hoylake, via tweets from PGATour.com's Amanda Balionis and Just Treats Golf:
"I played as well as I could. I didn't score as well as I could buy I played as well as I could." -defending champ Phil Mickelson on Sun. 68— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) July 20, 2014
"The people here treat us so well" Phil Mickelson on the atmosphere at @The_Open On failing to win..."It motivates me to work harder"— Just Treats Golf (@justtreatsgolf) July 20, 2014
The world's No. 13-ranked golfer still has plenty of chances to claim his first victory of 2014, with the RBC Canadian Open, Reno-Tahoe Open, WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship upcoming.
If he can continue the momentum established during Sunday's round, it shouldn't be long until we see Mickelson hoisting a trophy once more.
Day 3 Recap
The rhythm that Phil Mickelson so desperately sought for over the first two days of the British Open deserted him once again on Day 3, as a poor front-nine effectively ended his chances of victory in Hoylake.
Mickelson once again found himself having to deal with some blustery conditions early on, as wind and rain engulfed the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Nonetheless, the reigning champion started his round superbly with a birdie at the first.
With the conditions far from desirable, that opening birdie would have given the American hope of getting in amongst some of the leaders, as noted here by Equipment for Golf World editor, Mike Johnson:
How bad can the rain be at Hoylake -- Phil Mickelson birdied the first. For those way behind this weather is a blessing. #greatequalizer— Mike Johnson (@EMichaelGW) July 19, 2014
The official account of The British Open offered an indication as to how bad the conditions were at the start of play, with spectators ducking for cover as Mickelson teed off at the first hole:
But unfortunately for Mickelson, that flourish at the first was about as good as it was going to get for him during the opening holes. He followed up that birdie with a bogey at the second, and another two shots were dropped at holes six and seven, leaving Mickelson one-over par for both his round and the championship halfway through Round 3.
As Mickelson rounded the turn and the leaders began to tee off, the conditions began to improve, as noted here by Royal Liverpool Golf Club’s official Twitter account:
On the tenth, Mickelson secured his second birdie of the day, and the 44-year-old would have been hopeful of building some momentum along the back nine. All of a sudden, the five-time major champion looked as though he was capable of making a charge.
A par at 11 was followed up by another birdie at the 12th, taking Mickelson to level par and 11 shots back from the leader. KPMG’s Twitter feed was following the Californian around the course, and sensed that Mickelson might be about to embark on a low-scoring run:
Birdies on 10-12 get Lefty back to E for the day and E overall. Let's keep em coming! #TheOpen— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) July 19, 2014
Another did follow at the 13th, but he was unable to keep that momentum going. Mickelson rattled in pars on the next three holes to keep him at one-under as he approached the 17th tee. With two remaining Mickelson would have been well aware that he needed something special if he was to thrust himself into contention on the final day.
But he just couldn't find that spark. Pars at 17 and 18 left Mickelson on one-under par for the day and the championship, as noted here by KPMG:
Mickelson was left frustrated after another stuttering round and insisted that a low score was there for the taking, per Bernie D'Amato of WeiUnderPar.com:
We had beautiful scoring conditions. First group off and, you know, if we could have shot 7, 8, 9-under par, it probably was out there. It was as easy as I’ve seen the course play. We could have made some noise.
I’m frustrated because I’ve thrown so many shots away each round. I feel like I’m playing a lot better than what I’m scoring, and that’s frustrating me.
While he did well to recover from a poor start, his play this week just hasn't been befitting of a potential opening champion.
At this juncture, Mickelson can only hope the wind picks up throughout the afternoon and makes the course devilishly difficult for the other players. But in reality, he’ll be well aware that his chances of triumphing at Hoylake are all but over.
Day 2 Recap
Phil Mickelson battled through blustery conditions to charge up the 2014 British Open leaderboard during Round 2 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
Fresh from sinking a two-under Round 1 of 74—a low score considering how well he stroked the ball across the opening 18—Mickelson thrust himself into contention with a couple of magical recovery shots.
The American's day began with a less than stellar opening, as Mickelson sank par on the first two holes, before losing a shot on the third. He found himself in a spot of bother on the fourth after a wayward tee shot, but Mickelson soon regained ground with a terrifc lofted shot right in front of the crowd.
In fact, he was an inch away from landing an eagle, spinning the ball to the brink of success. You can see the "ridiculous" shot through BBC Sport's link:
Mickelson went one better on the fifth after sending his initial shot out to the right. He once again faced a difficult task to get back on track, but landed a well-placed low shot out of the rough and onto the green. He converted from 12 feet and moved to the sixth two-under on the day, even overall.
The Californian concluded his front nine by hitting par on the sixth and seventh, before stumbling into trouble with a bogey on the eigth. Mickelson appeared frustrated at this point after a duff chip rolled back his way and away from the green. He recovered to par the ninth and heading into the turn at one-under for the day.
Mickelson's day continued in similar fashion on the 10th, where his drive ended in the trees. Betway described the action:
Phil Mickelson gives himself a chance of making an unlikely par on 10, despite finding trouble off the tee. 10 foot putt to stay at 1 over.— betway (@betway) July 18, 2014
Brian Wacker, writer for PGATour.com, highlighted the predictability of Mickelson's recovery:
Phil OB at 10. Oops. #TheOpen— Brian Wacker (@pgatour_brianw) July 18, 2014
And naturally Phil makes par on 10. #TheOpen— Brian Wacker (@pgatour_brianw) July 18, 2014
Mickelson talked about the round after it was over, according to Bob Harig of ESPN:
"I played really well today, but there were a couple of loose shots," said Mickelson. "The drive on 10, the missed putt on 7 ended up costing me another one on 8. And I ended up giving four or five shots away, but I played really well. Shot 2-under. There was like a mental barrier to get it back to even par, so that putt on 18 was big."
"Tomorrow when the [expected poor weather] conditions come in, there's going to be a lot of scores that go 5, 6, 7-over par," he said. "If I can shoot something under par, I'll be right in it for Sunday."
Mickelson dealt with the testing winds in solid fashion, posting eight consecutive par finishes before sinking a birdie on the final hole. He will be pleased to continue progressing after noting his form was improving ahead of the second day at Hoylake, reported by Carl Markham of the Belfast Telegraph:
"I've felt like it's just been a fraction off. I've been saying it's a fraction off for a while now and I feel now I found that last fraction – it's started to click," said Mickelson.
While he hit a number of inconsistent shots throughout the second day, Mickelson's ability to bring his score back under control should be applauded, as should his solid showing down the back nine in increasingly difficult conditions.
KPMG's Twitter feed following Mickelson showed how Lefty's two rounds compared:
As the leaderboard shows, scores across the spectrum are lower than they perhaps should be. The important thing from Mickelson's point of view is that he remains in the hunt after some serious errors. Eradicate these and he is set to continue progressing on the Liverpool course.
Day 1 Recap
Mickelson was in one of the later groups that teed-off around 9 a.m. ET when the wind became more of a factor. While the players who went out early dealt with ideal conditions, the afternoon players were forced to keep the ball low with the increased wind speed.
For a tour veteran like Mickelson, he understood the changing conditions and knew the early holes would be just about survival. He started his round with six straight pars and never looked too confident in his stroke.
Managing to avoid the difficult rough around the course was a good start, but he likely realized that his lack of aggressiveness would not help him win another title. He attacked the seventh hole, which he bogeyed after he missed what should have been an easy putt.
After bouncing back with a par on the eight hole, Mickelson dominated No. 9 with a beautiful tee shot and a perfect putt for the two-shot birdie. He was even at the turn.
Before the first round, Mickelson spoke to Paul Mahoney of the Belfast Telegraph about the emotion attached to winning the British Open and the lessons he learned along the way:
What made The Open so emotional for me were the challenges I had to overcome to accomplish that victory. Challenges of learning links golf over the course of my career, coming over here only a couple of weeks a year. Not having grown up here, I had to learn it during my professional years…It was an obstacle to overcome and that's why it brought out so much emotion in me. The memories and emotions that took place last year I will have for a lifetime. I'd like to do it again. Now I know I can.
The back nine started ideally for Mickelson. With a tough par five at the 10th hole, he came out and struck the ball perfectly. The strong tee shot followed by an effective use of his irons led to a birdie putt that he buried.
Mickelson came back at the 11th and 12th holes to hit a par, but unfortunately he struggled at the 13th and 14th holes, bogeying each to sit at one-over par.
#TheOpen Mickelson fluffs an easy putt and bogeys the par 4 7th. Moves to 1 over.— EWN Sport (@EWNsport) July 17, 2014
Phil Mickelson drops to +1 after bogeys on 13 and 14 #TheOpen— The Open (@LiveBulletins) July 17, 2014
While he managed to avoid the rough through most of the front nine, Mickelson struggled to stay out of the thicker grass as the day progressed.
Instead of completely faltering over the final four holes, Mickelson scored a par on three straight holes, but hit a shot out-of-bounds on the 18th to finish the round at two-over par following the par-five bogey.
Following the round, Mickelson spoke about his performance (via KPMG Mickelson):
"I hit the ball really well today. The way I'm playing, there's a good round out there." -PM— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) July 17, 2014
"I'm not overly concerned or disappointed. I don't like the score but I hit the ball really well today." -PM #TheOpen— KPMG Mickelson (@MickelsonHat) July 17, 2014
Justin Ray of the Golf Channel also put Mickelson's outing in perspective:
Phil Mickelson: 8 shots back of McIlroy. In his 5 major wins, was never more than 5 back after 1st round.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 17, 2014
The performance on Thursday was not his best, but Mickelson is still very much in contention if he can string together several consistent rounds. The run at another victory starts by making the cut with a strong round on Friday.
*Stats via PGATour.com.