Monday, July 29, 2013

The British Open, Day 4 Wrap-Up

Phil Mickelson's victory in the 2013 British Open is exactly the sort of thing that makes us sit through so many sports events year after year -- we know that if you watch often enough, you'll see something amazing.

Going into Day 4, we didn't think anyone from the back of the pack could shoot a score low enough to catch the leaders.  But we were wrong.  First, Ian Poulter went out and shot a four-under-par 67 to get achingly close to the lead.  And then, Phil Mickelson -- who had started the day five shots out of the lead -- made the turn in only 34 strokes, which left him two under for the day and even par for the tournament.  He promptly bogeyed the 10th hole to fall back to one over, and he was still at one over when he came to the thirteenth.  He then played the last six holes in 2-3-4-3-4-3.  That's four birdies and two pars.  Think about it like this.  He played the first 66 holes of the tournament in one over par, and he played the last six holes in four under.

It was a great triumph for Phil Mickelson, and takes him to a different level in the history of the game.  Mickelson has now won five major titles -- three Masters' trophies, one British Open, and one PGA.  By moving to five titles, Mickelson pulls away from four-time Major winners like Raymond Floyd and Ernie Els, and joins five-timers like Byron Nelson, and Seve Ballesteros.  Only 13 men have ever won more than five majors -- and one of those, the legendary Harry Vardon, won his last major in 1914.  So Mickelson is now legitimately regarded as one of the very greatest players in history.

Mickelson's victory, and the dramatic manner in which he accomplished it, puts a different spin on his disappointments at the U.S. Open.  Watching him double-bogey away his chances of winning the National Open last month, it was easy to think of Mickelson as a guy who took too many chances and made too many mistakes to be regarded as a true champion.  But maybe these things have a way of evening out.  The same high-risk, high-reward style of play that hurt Mickelson at Merion was what won the title for him at Muirfield.  Maybe, instead of thinking of how Mickelson could have done better by being more conservative, we should say that he was a very aggressive player who won a lot of big tournaments that way.

If nothing else, Mickelson was a very popular winner -- it's hard to remember a recent major title that was so satisfying to so many fans.  Golf is really having a great year.  It's just a shame that the PGA is being held at Oak Hill.

 By the way, here's a fun fact about Tiger Woods.  Since his victory in the 2008 U.S. Open, he has played in 17 major tournaments.  He has finished in the top 10 on nine different occasions.  I would be very surprised if anyone else has nine top-10 finishes in his last 17 majors.  (For the record, Mickelson has only seven top-10 finishes in his last 17 majors -- but two of those were victories.)  Even in defeat, Tiger is amazing.

Tiger reminds me very much of Tom Watson at this stage of his career.  Watson, like Woods, was a very aggressive putter whose touch deserted him when he was about 33.  From the 1984 Masters to the 1988 Masters, Watson played in 17 majors -- and had nine top-10 finishes.  For that matter, Watson had ten top-10 finishes in majors after he turned 40.  But he didn't win any of those tournaments.  Watson's last major came at the age of 33.  Tiger was 32 when he won the 2008 Open, and you have to wonder if he can ever again putt well enough over four days to win a major title.  He certainly didn't look like it Sunday at the British Open.

1.   P. Mickelson-3 (69+74+72+66=281)

2.  H. Stenson (SWE):  Even (70+70+74+70=284)

T3.  I. Poulter (ENG):  +1 (72+71+75+67=285)
T3.  A. Scott (AUS):  +1 (71+72+70+72=285)
T3.  L. Westwood (ENG):  +1 (72+68+70+75=285)

T6.  Z. Johnson+2 (66+75+73+72=286)
T6.  H. Matsuyama (JPN):  +2 (71+73+72+70=286)
T6.  T. Woods+2 (69+71+72+74=286)

T9.  H. Mahan+3 (72+72+68+75=287)
T9.  F. Molinari (ITA):  +3 (69+74+72+72=287)

1 comment:

  1. First of all, hooray for the return of Go Heath! We really should've had a little more fanfare for this. Maybe a cake.

    Second, yeah, the British Open was excellent. I read somewhere the other day where someone said Phil Mickelson is our Arnold Palmer. I don't know enough about Arnold Palmer's career to mostly confirm or deny that assertion, but it sounded right on first blush to me. My dad first loved swashbuckling Arnold and rooted against calculating Nicklaus and then came to love Jack. I first loved calculating Tiger and rooted against swashbuckling Mickelson and now am coming to love Phil. We're a funny lot.

    Fourth, here are the previous reports from this tournament so that they're all handy:

    -- Tournament preview

    -- Day 1 fun and wrap

    -- Day 2 wrap

    -- Day 3 wrap