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2013 Open, Round 4: What The Phil Just Happened??!!
By Torleif Sorenson on 7/22/13
The 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield was, shockingly, over before it ended. And honestly, how many of you saw this coming? Your humble correspondent certainly didn't.

The champion

The way Phil Mickelson played today, he deserved this one. His final-round 66 (the low round of the day) was stained only by one bogey at the 10th, but when other golfers in contention either couldn't make birdies on the closing nine, or otherwise came apart, Mickelson held true. Coming after a crushing loss at the U.S. Open at Merion, this comes as a violent swing of both emotion and fortune.

Mickelson made birdies at 5 and 9, then beginning at 11, lit it up like a Christmas tree. He made birdies at 13 and 14, made a magnificent par-save at 16, then birdied the final two holes — including a birdie at 18, the picture of which will stick in the memory of millions of golf fans.
"Today was one of the best rounds I've ever played — and it's the best I've ever putted. I was seeing the line, the ball was rolling, it was going in the hole."
Mickelson's game and his general approach to championships are such that most of us never expected him to do especially well on a hard, fast links course like Muirfield. But his win one week ago at the Scottish Open shows that Mickelson changed his game and his tactical approach, in advance of the Open Championship.

Lefty is already in the Hall of Fame. None of his three Masters victories were a fluke. His heartbreaking losses at the U.S. Open are a spectacle, but they do not mitigate Mickelson's rightful place among the greats in Saint Augustine, Florida. But having won the Open Championship on a punishing layout like Muirfield erases at least one lingering doubt about his overall accomplishments.

Congratulations, Phil — you played more than well enough to deserve this one.

Amateur hour

You probably haven't heard of Matthew Fitzpatrick before now, but there's a strong possibility you will hear and read more about him in future years. He won the R&A's 2012 Boys Amateur Championship, but Fitzpatrick still had to qualify to get into the Open. He shot 73-76-73-72 to finish at +10, good enough for a silver medal as Low Amateur of the championship. For an 18-year-old to play as well as he did on a brutal layout like Muirfield is plenty impressive.

Fitzpatrick will play in the English Men's Amateur Championship later this month at Frilford Heath, and then the 18-year-old will head to Chicago to attend college and play NCAA golf for Northwestern University:
"Going to university is a big thing. Mum and Dad made sure education came first, so I have something to fall back on if the golf doesn't work out. Northwestern is a great academic school. It's 19th in the world or something, so that should hold me in good stead."
Shades of Luke Donald!

Swedish Strongman

The best male golfer to emerge from Sweden, Henrik Stenson got very hot between 2008 and 2010, but tailed off the last two years. His solo-second at Muirfield (70-70-74-70 = 284, level par) doesn't just represent a return to major championship form — it is also his best finish ever in a major, just ahead of a pair of T-3s at the Open Championship in 2008 and 2010, and three other top-tens. Stenson has 12 professional victories, including the 2007 WGC Match Play and the 2010 Players, along with Ryder Cup appearances in 2006 and 2008.

Annika Sorenstam is, far and away, Sweden's most famous and most successful professional golfer, with ten major championships, 80 other professional tour victories, and eight Solheim Cup appearances. And while Stenson has yet to become equally famous, if he can break through and win a major, all of Sweden will make double-$%#@ sure you know all about this fine player afterward.

Three for Third

Yesterday, this writer predicted that Lee Westwood would hang on and win his first major. And after one bogey and one birdie through six holes, it was looking pretty good. Then came consecutive bogeys at 7 and 8... and now, it's eight top-3 finishes in the major championships since the 2008 U.S. Open. Can Westwood pull a "Lefty" and win at Oak Hill?

Ian Poulter didn't win the Open, either, but after shooting 75 on Saturday, he has to be pleased with a two-bogey, four-birdie 67 that featured an eagle at the 9th. This is just a WAG (wild-@$$ guess) on my part, but this writer predicts that Poults will capture a major before Westwood does.

And then, there's Adam Scott. Ugh. After bogeys at 1 and 4, the current Masters championship reeled off four birdies in five holes from 7 through 11. With just seven holes to go, Scott found himself in the lead!

And then, just like last year, the wheels fell off. A bad shot at 13 found the dunes to the right of the green, then his par putt burned the lip. Then came the bogeys at 14, 15, and 16. His closing 20-foot putt for birdie at 18 was not only hollow succor, but by then, utterly meaningless. This game can be so cruel...


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