American Phil Mickelson produced a brilliant final round of five under par 66 at Muirfield on Sunday to win his first Open Championship, finishing three shots clear of the field.
The 43 year-old birdied four of the last six holes to charge through the field and finish on 3 under par, the only man to break par.
His 66 equalled the best round of the week and his victory gave him his first Open title and his fifth Major in all, to add to his three Masters green jackets and one US PGA title.
“Today was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played,” an emotional Mickelson said. “I putted so well.
“I didn’t know if I would ever be able to win this tournament and I played one of the best rounds of my career.” Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was second on level par while overnight leader Lee Westwood, another Englishman Ian Poulter, who shot a superb 67, and Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia all finished tied for third on 1 over par.
The final day of the 142nd Open promised to be a cracker and it delivered with a number of twists and turns, with cooler conditions than the first three days also a factor.
Westwood began the day on 3—under—par and with a two-shot lead, but chasing his first Major, his challenge was undone by bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes.
“I didn’t play that badly today,” Westwood said, “It came unstuck a bit at seven, eight and nine (but) Phil must have played really well 5—under—par is a good round of golf this afternoon.
“You birdie four of the last six any day round here is good going but today, in the last round of a major championship, is an even better finish.” Scott, Westwood, Stenson and Westwood all either led or tied for the lead at some stage and Ian Poulter stormed up the leaderboard with a 67 to set the clubhouse target at 1-over.
Having bogeyed the last four holes 12 months ago to hand the victory to Ernie Els, Scott looked like he would make amends when he picked up a fourth birdie in five holes at the 12th to hit the front.
But the Australian then lost his way with four straight bogeys from the 13th and his challenge was gone, eventually finishing on 1—over—par thanks to a birdie at the last.
World number one Tiger Woods, who began the day tied for second but who fell away to a 74, joining Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama on 2—over—par.
Last month, Mickelson was agonisingly beaten into second place in the US Open, the sixth time he’s finished runner—up there.
But having won the Scottish Open last weekend, Mickelson came into the week high on confidence and produced a magical final round to win the Claret Jug.
Four straight pars to open were followed by birdies at the two par fives on the front nine, the fifth and ninth, but a bogey on the 10th stopped him in his tracks.
The left—hander was not to be denied, however, and his putter was red—hot as he rolled in birdies at the 13th, 14th and 17th before draining a right—to—left putt at the last for another and raising his arms in jubilation.
Mickelson embraced his long—term caddie, Jim (Bones) Mackay, who later said: “When you work for a guy for 21 years and you watch him play the best round of golf he’s ever played, it’s pretty cool”.
“The range of emotions I feel are as far apart as possible after losing the US Open,” Mickelson said.
“To win this feels amazing. The range of emotions have been incredible but you have to be resilient in this game. These last couple of weeks, these last couple of months, I’ve played some of the best golf of my career.” England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, won the silver medal for the low amateur, finishing on 10—over—par.