BILL DWYRE

Phil Mickelson goes for broke, strikes it rich to win British Open

Going for it as usual, Phil Mickelson has a round for the ages, a final-day 66 good for a 3-shot win and his first British Open title.

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GULLANE, Scotland — He finished with a flourish, with an exclamation point, not a comma. A fist pump, not a wave. It could have been one of those backing-in victories we see so often in major golf tournaments.

But it wasn't.

A two-putt for par would have been fine, enough to close the deal in this 142nd British Open. But that's not Phil Mickelson.

Don't-hold-back Phil didn't hold back.

Just winning is enough for most. Mickelson won by three on Sunday.

"It's the way I've played my entire career," he said later. "I've always tended to go out and get it. Today, I did."

He stroked the putt gently, as one must from above any of the holes on the wonderfully devilish Muirfield course. He had read it perfectly. It started right, turned smoothly left and was dead on line and two feet away when Mickelson knew. His arms flew into the air and the emotion rolled up through his throat and into his eyes.

The putt dropped and the tears began.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Mickelson had won four major championships before — three Masters and a PGA — and had kicked away a half-dozen U.S. Opens.

But the British Open? Are you kidding? Not his stuff. Not his style.

The British is more for grinders than stylists. Most often, the guy with the weathered skin and the best rain suit takes home the Claret Jug. You don't float shots in here. You don't spin them back. You ram them over traps or muscle them out of knee-high grass.

On a comfortable and overcast Sunday afternoon, with several thousand Brits surrounding the 18th green in bleachers and behind ropes, they handed Mickelson the coveted trophy and he told them he was "proud to be their champion."

He also told them this was special because "I didn't think I was equipped."

Mickelson is a California guy. It's not that he's a wimp. His roots, his surroundings, are different.

The only similarity between his San Diego golf and Muirfield's links is that there is a major body of water nearby. His is the Pacific Ocean, blue and pretty, everything around it warm. Muirfield's is the North Sea, with its biting winds and stormy days. That's on a good day.

Maybe it helped that Scotland's weather was unusually mild all week. Maybe Mickelson felt more comfortable.

Lee Westwood, leader by two shots going into the final 18 holes, joked Saturday that, while he had recently moved his family to sunny Florida, he hadn't figured he was doing it "to acclimatize myself for a British Open in Scotland."

Weather probably had little to do with what Mickelson did here. His incredible golf skills simply found new magic.

"Today was as good as I can play," he said. "It was one of my best rounds ever."

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