East Lothian, Scotland – For years, Phil Mickelson struggled playing on links golf courses. At 43-years-old, he's figured them out.
Mickelson put together one of the best final rounds in major championship history on Sunday as he fired a 5-under 66 to win the Open Championship.
He matched the low round of the week and his second-best score in a major to finish at 3-under-par 281.
"This was a day I'll remember my entire life. It was one of the best rounds of golf I've ever played. To be able to share this with my wife and kids, it just makes this moment even more special," Mickelson said at the trophy presentation. "This was a win in my career I never knew if I would be equipped for, if I would have the shots, if I would have the opportunity to win at tournament.
"To do it, to play some of the best golf, probably the best round of my career, and break through and capture this claret jug, is probably one of the most fulfilling moments of my career because it was something I wasn't sure I'd be able to ever do."
Earlier this year, Mickelson ended second at the U.S. Open for a sixth time. He has come back from that tough loss with a win last week at the Scottish Open and now his fifth major championship victory.
After the win in Scotland last week, Mickelson had as much momentum entering the season's third major as anyone in the field. He started with one of 20 under-par rounds on Thursday, but went 4-over par in the middle two rounds.
With four birdies in the last six holes, Mickelson was able to rally for his first claret jug. He has come from behind in two of his five majors and was the 54-hole leader in the other three.
Henrik Stenson managed a 1-under 70 to grab second place at even-par 284.
Third-round leader Lee Westwood stumbled to a 4-over 75 to end in a share of third at plus-1. He ended alongside Masters champion Adam Scott (72) and Ian Poulter, who rallied with a 67 in the final round.
Three-time champion Tiger Woods couldn't get much going in the final round and finished with a 3-over 74 to share sixth place at 2-over-par 286. He ended alongside former Masters champ Zach Johnson (72) and Hideki Matsuyama (70).
For the first nine holes, the Open Championship was a battle between Westwood, Scott and Stenson.
Mickelson had dropped a shot on the 10th to slip to plus-1 for the championship. After a pair of pars, he started to make his move with a birdie on the 13th.
That moved him within one of the lead as Westwood bogeyed the eighth and ninth to fall into a share of first with Stenson and Scott.
Scott then rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at 11 to move to 2-under. Mickelson made it two in a row as he birdied the 14th to again get within one of the lead.
After a par at 12, Scott tumbled off the pace with four straight bogeys from No. 13.
That opened the door for Mickelson.
The left-hander parred 15 and 16 to remain alone in the lead. He smashed a pair of 3-woods onto the green at the par-5 17th and 2-putted for birdie to extend his lead to two.
Mickelson dropped his second shot within 12 feet at the last. He poured that in for birdie to end three clear of the field.
Westwood was the only player with a chance to force a playoff, but he stumbled to a bogey at 16 to fall four off the pace. The Englishman parred 17, and that clinched the claret jug for Mickelson.
"I need to bring my 'A' game today. I just need to bring it, and I need to show up and play some of my best golf, and I did. I played some of the best golf of my career," Mickelson said of his mindset. "It feels amazing to have this championship."
Westwood bogeyed the third, but got that shot back with a birdie on No. 5. He was two clear at that point, but stumbled to bogeys at seven and eight. As he parred the next four holes, Mickelson caught him atop the leaderboard and the Englishman had no answer.
Scott, who bogeyed the last four holes last year to lose the title, poured in four birdies in a 5-hole span from the seventh to take the lead at minus-2. He gave all those strokes back with four bogeys in a row from the 13th to cost himself a chance at winning his second major championship of the season.
Stenson birdied the first and third to get to 1-under. He turned there after a bogey at eight and a birdie at nine. Stenson held part of the lead then, but bogeys at 12 and 13 dropped him off the pace.
Woods had three bogeys in the first sixth holes, two of which were 3-putt bogeys. He finally made his first birdie at the ninth, but followed with bogeys at 10 and 11.
The world No. 1 came back with birdies at 12 and 14 to get within two of the lead at plus-1. However, Woods tripped to a bogey at the 15th, then parred the final three holes to share sixth place.
"I didn't really play that poorly. I hit a couple bad shots at 10 and 11, that was about it," Woods said. "Other than that I hit the ball well today. I could just never get the speed of these greens."
Ernie Els, last year's winner, and the winner at Muirfield in 2002, posted his third 74 of the week on Sunday. He ended in a tie for 26th at 8-over 292.
NOTES: For Mickelson, this was his 42nd win on the PGA Tour and ninth on the European Tour ... Matthew Fitzpatrick won low amateur as he topped Jimmy Mullen by five strokes ... Next year's Open Championship will be contested at Royal Liverpool, where Woods won by two in 2006.