There are certain things in golf that are simply tough for golf fans to wrap their heads around. That moment in 2009 when Tiger Woods finally lost a major after leading after 54 holes comes to mind, as does that moment when Tom Watson's ball was in the air on the 72nd hole at Turnberry and we all thought we'd be crowning a near-60-year-old major champion.
Another moment that most thought would never happen? Phil Mickelson dominating links golf and winning the Claret Jug.
Before 2013, Mickelson and the British Open went together about as comfortably as Dustin Johnson and 260-yard drives. Sure, Phil had played well a couple of times at this major championship in the past, finishing T-3 in 2004 and T-2 in '11, but the 43-year-old had no other top-10s at this event, missing the cut as many times over the last six years at the British Open as he had top-10s.
A lot of factors added up to Mickelson's struggles when he flew across the pond. The wind seemed to cause havoc on his driving, the tight lies seemed to nullify his ability to master the 60-degree wedge, and the greens were so slow that his touch wasn't an advantage.
But Phil continued to try to find a way to play this type of golf, and no matter how much he struggled, he still went over a couple of weeks early and played the Scottish Open in preparation for the most coveted trophy in golf.
Before making his annual trip across the pond, Mickelson had already faced a tremendous amount of adversity with his golf. A near-59 at the Phoenix Open was only stopped by a putt that somehow curled all the way around the hole without going in. Mickelson struggled mightily at the Masters, an event that always brings the best out in the three-time champion, and just when it looked like he would win his first U.S. Open, a final round 74 handed that trophy to Justin Rose.
So it was off to Scotland for new hope and a fresh slate, and he got it going right with an incredible playoff win at the Scottish Open. That win got people chattering, but even experts weren't exactly standing in line at the local betting parlors to lay a few quid on Lefty.
Mickelson opened with a tidy round of 2-under 69 at Muirfield, and followed it up with a momentum-stopping 74, and after a third round 72, sat five shots back of leader Lee Westwood with a ton of big names between him and a third leg of the career Grand Slam.
But historic rounds are made that way. We will always respect a guy that gives himself a big lead at a major and holds on to win, but legends are made by comebacks, and it was Phil's turn to put together a final round for the ages.
It was the par-3 13th hole that started the run for Phil.
The idea behind this list of moments in 2013 wasn't about the best golf tournament or the greatest shot, but the thing in golf we will remember in 10 or 20 years. The Adam Scott win at Augusta National was incredible, but Scott's name is not that of Phil Mickelson, and his win, while unlikely, wasn't Mickelson at the British Open. Phil needed a final round run to give himself a chance, and he did it over his final six holes.
A birdie on 13 was followed by another at 14, and the buzz began. Two pars on Nos. 15 and 16 set up Phil for a hopeful birdie on the lengthy par-5 17th, and that was where he hit one of the greatest fairway woods in the history of golf, setting up a two-putt birdie to give him the lead, but Mickelson still had one hole remaining and it just so happened to be one of the toughest on the golf course.
Mickelson ripped his tee shot down the middle of the fairway, hit his second shot dangerously close to the greenside bunker but it skirted the edge and ended up 20 feet past the pin for a championship-closing birdie and a final round 66.
He knocked that putt dead center, raised his arms in the air and even with a lot of names still on the golf course, knew he had done the unthinkable.
Mickelson called it one of the greatest rounds of his career, and considering the moment, and the golf tournament, it has to be one of the best final rounds in Open history.
Maybe the coolest part about all this in a historical sense is what the win does for Phil moving forward. You know how things happen in life, and in sports, and they are so unthinkable that if they made a movie out of it we probably wouldn't believe it? Mickelson winning a Claret Jug the year before the U.S. Open, a golf tournament that has long eluded Lefty, is set to be hosted at the site of one of Phil's first epic major losses just seems perfect.
Phil now has a chance to win the career Grand Slam at Pinehurst #2, an added bonus that comes along with this final round and this historic moment.
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