Following on from Merion and the difficulties that saw not a single player under par for the second US Open in succession, The Open at Muirfield proved to be no walk in the park.
It takes just a second to see the list of stars who missed the cut on day two – US Open winner Justin Rose down on +10 alongside Jim Furyk and Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel and Rory McIlroy languishing on +12, and six time major winner Sir Nick Faldo all the way down at +15.
However, the conditions paved way for one of the greatest final rounds in Open Championship history as Phil Mickelson birdied four of his last six holes as everyone else collapsed around him to win his first ever Claret Jug.
It was a fitting moment for Mickelson, having won the Scottish Open a week earlier, to write his name into the history books as the first man ever to win both titles in the same year.
Following shed tears and family hugs, Mickelson crowned his final round as one of the best rounds of his career, and it’s hard to disagree.
Day One proved to be the lowest scoring of the four days as Zach Johnson made the most of early conditions to post a brilliant round of 66 to lead the Open outright overnight.
Day Two saw the scores balloon as many of the players struggled with tough pin positions and lightening fast greens suffering from a baking in the hottest British summer for seven years.
As the scores rose, so did the hopes of two players desperate for a major title – Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. Rounds of 71 and 68 saw the pair sat comfortable in second place, ready to attack the lead on Saturday and Sunday, particularly the major-less Westwood, having posted a tied best -3 for the day.
It would prove to be an even better day for the English favourite on Saturday as he took an outright lead at -3, two shots clear and with expectations higher than ever.
Hunter Mahan matched Westwood’s charge, posting a round of 68 as he putted, drove and chipped his way into contention for the title. The Americans seemed poised to snatch the title should Westwood crumble under the pressure.
Day Four started as one man had promised it to start – in a frenzy of birdies. That man was Ian Poulter, who claimed he could still win from eight shots behind; such was the nature of the course and the tournament. He certainly wasn’t wrong, storming up the leaderboard to within one of the lead at level par – an eagle at 9 and back-to-back birdies from 10 to 12 setting the tournament alight.
The leader in the clubhouse at one over, Poulter just had to sit back and watch, hoping for every ball to find the sand. However, whilst the majority felt the pressure, including Woods, who ended two over with a round of 74, Mickelson thrived.
Striding down the back nine he carded a 32, which included a bogey at 10, as it became clear it was going to be his year. The man with eight second placed finishes was about to win his fifth major.
It was fitting that Mickelson birdied the par four 18th, sending the crowd into raptures as the American lifted his arms above his head and punched the air. Even with Westwood and Scott still playing, he knew it was enough.
In actuality Poulter was not far away, tied for third as Henrik Stenson avoided all media attention despite an impressive score of even par to finish second – the only man bar Mickelson to not finish over par.
What made this win all the more special for Mickelson was that he know has the grand slam at his fingertips. The Open had been his most challenging major, finishing in the top ten just twice before 2013. Now all that lies in his way is that illusive US Open, one he must feel he deserves to win after six second placed finishes at the event.
Whatever happens, Mickelson will always go down in golfing history, and this win just adds another chapter to an already glittering career.
Now it’s over to US PGA Championship on 8-11 August to keep the standard set in 2013. It’ll be a tough task. Maybe, just maybe, Woods will win it…