GULLANE, Scotland - One way to recover from the heartbreak of a record sixth runner-up finish in the U.S. Open is to win the very next major.
That's how Phil Mickelson sees it.
Mickelson fired a final-round 5-under 66 to finish at 3 under par at Muirfield Golf Club and win the British Open for the first time. He was five shots behind 54-hole leader Lee Westwood when the day began.
"This is the greatest feeling I've had in the game," Mickelson said. "It's probably the greatest round of my career."
As he walked off the green at 18, Mickelson embraced his caddie, Jim Mackay, who was in tears, then he embraced his family.
It was a fabulous finish for Mickelson, who walked off the course Thursday complaining about the setup at Muirfield. He closed by making birdies on four of his last six holes.
This was the major Mickelson had so rarely been close, except for 2011 when he tied for second.
"This is such an accomplishment for me," Mickelson said. "I never knew if I'd be able to develop the game and the shots to play links golf effectively. To play what is arguably the best round of my career, to putt the way I putted, to shoot the round of my life, it just feels amazing to win the Claret Jug."
It's Mickelson's fifth major championship - along with his three Masters (2004, '06, '10), one PGA Championship ('05).A month ago, Mickelson finished second to Justin Rose at Merion Golf Club after holding at least a share of the lead through three rounds.
Phil Mickelson hugs wife Amy and children Evan, Amanda and Sophia after finishing the final round of the British Open.
(Photo: Rob Carr Getty Images)
Mickelson made it back-to-back wins in Scotland - a week earlier he won the Scottish Open.
Henrik Stenson finished second at even par, three shots behind.
Westwood struggled to close after leading to start the day, and his record in majors falls to 0-for-62. He closed with a 75 and for third at 1 over par with Ian Poulter (67) and Masters champion Adam Scott (72). Scott got to 2 under (he started the day at even par) before fading down the stretch.
"A couple of bad shots, and a couple of wrong clubs," Westwood said. "I would say I didn't play great, but I didn't play poorly either."
"Everybody knows Phil's capable of that," Westwood said of Mickelson's closing stretch, four birdies in the final six holes.
"All of a sudden I got on a run again that you don't want to be on," said Scott, who made four bogeys in a row starting at 13. "It's a shame, because it's a missed opportunity."
Tiger Woods, who began the day at 1 under par, two behind Westwood, never got it going and now has gone 17 majors without a victory, still stuck on 17. He shot a final-round 74 and finished at 2 over.
As he finished up his practice session Sunday before he began his round, Mickelson had a little chat with his coach, Butch Harmon, who told his pupil that even par or 1 over could win.
"I'm going to be better than that," Harmon said of Mickelson's response. "He wasn't lying."