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Golf Tidbits: Script-changing win for Mickelson

10:48 AM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For many years, we grew accustomed to Phil Mickelson hitting the ball all over the map at the most inopportune times.

We've seen trash cans, grand stands and hospitality tents gobble up Mickelson's wayward shots down the stretch in majors.

Never have we seen this Mickelson. The one that rips 3-wood, because there was no driver in his bag, down the middle of the 18th fairway. The one that stuffs his approach inside 10 feet with the tournament on the line.

The Mickelson we've grown to know might have hit the aforementioned shots, but then would have 3-putted for bogey to fall into a playoff.

On this Sunday, Mickelson played the role of spoiler. He hit those two perfect shots on 18, then poured in the birdie putt to seal the win at the British Open, giving him three legs of the career grand slam.

"Honestly, I don't care how I got this trophy. I got it. And it just so happened to be with one of the best rounds of my career, which is really the way I've played my entire career," Mickelson said. "I've always tried to go out and get it. I don't want anybody to hand it to me, I want to go out and get it. And today I did."

Mickelson earned his first claret jug, a week after claiming his first official European Tour title at the Scottish Open.

This could not have been the same guy that finished second at the U.S. Open for a record sixth time last month, could it be? Of course, it was. He played the U.S. Open the same way, with no drivers in his bag.

"It's a huge difference in emotions, as you can imagine. Being so down after the U.S. Open, to come back and use it as motivation, to use it as a springboard, knowing that I'm playing well and to push me a little bit extra to work harder, to come out on top, in a matter of a month to turn it around it really feels amazing. You have to be resilient in this game because losing is such a big part of it," said Mickelson.

"And after losing the U.S. Open, it could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back. But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career. And I didn't want it to stop me from potential victories this year, and some potential great play. And I'm glad I didn't, because I worked a little bit harder."

Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott played the role of Mickelson this time around.

Westwood, like Stenson, was looking for his first major championship and led entering the final round. There may not have been one signature missed shot that cost him the title, but bogeys on three of the four par-3s, and hitting zero fairways on the front nine combined to be his downfall.

Stenson, the steely Swede, moved into the lead with three birdies on the front nine, but dropped shots at 12 and 13 doomed him.

Scott has plenty of his own demons. Last year at the Open Championship, Scott bogeyed the final four holes to hand the title to Ernie Els. After four birdies in a 5-hole span on Sunday, Scott was in the lead again. The Australian once again faltered to four straight bogeys, this time from the 13th, to fall into a share of third.

That meant that the last man standing was Mickelson. Birdies at 13 and 14 moved him to 1-under par and a share of the lead. He stayed there with pars on the next two holes. Right about the time you expect Mickelson to hit a wild tee shot, he comes up with seven of the most clutch shots of his career.

On the 17th tee, he ripped 3-wood into the fairway. From some 300 yards out, another 3-wood got Mickelson onto the putting surface. Two putts later, he was walking to the 18th tee with a 3-stroke cushion.

Stenson, in the group after Mickelson, trimmed the margin to two with a birdie of his own at 17.

After hearing the cheers from 17, Mickelson hit what will become one of the top shots of his legendary career from the 18th fairway. That shot stopped about 10 feet from the hole. Then, drain-o! He buried the putt to seal the win.

We were so used to Phil blowing it down the stretch. The new Phil has five majors and analyzes things more clearly then he ever has.

NEAR-MISS FOR CABRERA

There is a long list of two-time major champions. The list shrinks a significant number when you get to those that have three major titles.

Angel Cabrera is on the list of two-time major champions, but this past weekend at Muirfield, he gave himself a chance to win No. 3.

The Argentine had eight birdies and seven bogeys through two rounds, which left him tied for sixth place, two strokes off the lead. Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open champion, started the third round like he was playing the U.S. Open.

Cabrera parred the first 12 holes to remain near the lead. He had two birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey over the last six holes to fall to plus-1, but was still tied for fifth place.

With a chance at winning his third major, Cabrera's final round included one birdie against four bogeys. He fell into a share of 11th.

Cabrera, who has 44 international victories, continues to excel in the four majors. He has made the cut in 35 of the 55 majors he has competed in, and has posted 10 top-10 finishes, nearly half of his career total.

In his PGA Tour career, he has a total of 22 top-10s in 180 starts.

Cabrera's record at the PGA Championship may not be the best, but with a tie for 11th at the British Open and a playoff loss at the Masters, he wouldn't be the worst player to lay a wager on.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Mickelson's win Sunday at Muirfield raised the total to 14 of the 16 British Open champions at that course are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

* From a self-proclaimed Tiger Woods fan, his refrain of not being able to get the speed of the greens is getting old. Everyone else played the same course and had the battle the same green speeds as you. Maybe he should be more concerned with his occasional crooked drive or poor approach shot.

* Back in the states, Woods Austin claimed his first PGA Tour win since 2007, while Billy Andrade earned his first top-10 finish since 2006. Talk about drought busters.

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