Mickelson savors journey from agony to ecstasy with British Open win
GULLANE, Scotland, July 21 (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson reflected on the emotional roller-coaster of the last few weeks after timing his run to perfection to scatter the field and win his first British Open on Sunday.
Under the radar most of the week, the 43-year-old American shot a brilliant 66 at Muirfield to secure an emotional victory just over a month after finishing runner-up at the U.S. Open for the sixth time.
"It's a huge difference in emotions as you can imagine," he told a news conference.
"Being so down after the U.S. Open, to come back and use it as motivation, to use it as a springboard, it really feels amazing. It's a day that I'll always cherish, always remember."
Mickelson has learned the importance of being resilient as a golfer - a useful attribute around a concrete-hard links course like Muirfield this week.
"After losing the U.S. Open, it could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back," he said.
"But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career. I worked a little bit harder and in a matter of a month I'm able to change entirely the way I feel."
The big left-hander did not make a concerted effort to spark himself into life.
"The wow factor just kind of happened," Mickelson, who warmed up by winning the Scottish Open last week, told a news conference. "It wasn't like I was setting out thinking, I need to make birdies or I was trying to force birdies. I was just trying to hit good shots. And I made a bunch of putts today."
Mickelson, who started the day on two over, birdied the fifth, ninth, 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th holes and had just one bogey on his card at the 10th.
He holed a 10-footer on the final green to make virtually certain of victory even though several players were still out on the course and he raised his arms in the air before hugging his long-serving caddie Jim 'Bones' Mackay.
"We did a good job together," Mickelson said. "Bones was exceptional. This is a really special time and as fulfilling a career accomplishment as I could ever imagine."
Mickelson British Open triumph came at the 20th attempt having earlier in his career struggled on links courses.
"It's been the last eight or nine years I've started playing it (links golf) more effectively," he said.
"I've started to hit the shots more effectively. But even then it's so different than what I grew up playing. I always wondered if I would develop the skills needed to win this championship."
He will now try to complete his set of majors by finally ending his U.S. Open jinx.
"I think that if I'm able to win the U.S. Open and complete the career grand slam, I think that that's the sign of the complete great player," he said.
"I think there's five players that have done that (won all four). And those five players are the greats of the game. You look at them in a different light. I'm very hopeful that I will the U.S. Open." (Editing by Martyn Herman)