Phil Mickelson arrived at Royal St. George’s with little hope of winning his first Open Championship and fourth major title. The lefthander leaves with all the confidence in the world that not only his game turning around, but major championship, including next year’s Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes is squarely in his sights.
In one of the most memorable charges in recent memory, Mickelson brought Royal St. George’s to its knees with a stunning 5-under performance on the front nine and briefly tying for the lead of Darren Clarke.
What was remarkable was that Mickelson started 30 minutes before leader Clarke and more importantly five shots behind the Ulsterman, who would feel the heat after Mickelson, drained a 50 footer to tie Clarke at 5-under.
“It was one of those times where you’re not thinking birdie and things were just happening.,” Mickelson said after his seventh runner-up finish. “I’m not planning on making a 50‑footer for eagle, but it just happens. I hit some of the best shots I’ve hit in the wind, not just today but really all week. I made some great putts today.”
After shooting 30 on the front nine, his best opening nine in Open Championship history, Mickelson would briefly get to 6-under with a birdie at the 10th hole, but a pulled putt for par and Mickelson started to press finishing three shots behind Clarke at 2-under and tied with Dustin Johnson.
“When I saw Darren wasn’t going to make a mistake and he played some great golf, when he didn’t make any mistakes there throughout the round,” Mickelson said of 38 on the back nine. “I felt like I had played the back side better throughout the week and I really felt like there was going to be some easier pars for me on the back, and when I had to try and make some birdies is when I ended up making a few mistakes.”
No matter what happened on the back nine, Mickelson revival of his game seems in full bloom. A bloom that came from the wind and rain of Royal St. George’s, not exactly where Mickelson was looking.
“I was having a lot of fun, some of the most fun I’ve had,” Mickelson said. “I was just hitting the shot I was seeing every time, and the ball was rolling where I was wanting it to. It was really fun.”
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.