The putt on the final hole put the cork in 18 holes of the finest wine. He started the day two over par and ended it three under. That's a 66 on a course that seldom allows those. He birdied four of the last six holes. It was masterful, storybook stuff. The greatest players in the world dream about days like this and seldom get one.
There were challengers behind him. Tiger Woods was struggling but still grinding, still hoping for one of those miracle shots that have keynoted his career. Westwood was there, with the energy of an entire British kingdom willing him along. Adam Scott, the Masters champion freed of all that best-player-to-never-win-a-major tension, had propelled himself into the lead for awhile.
They all had time, a few holes left, some hope. Had Mickelson's final putt slid by for a little tap-in par, the door still would have been open a crack.
But when it rolled into the middle of the cup, the Claret Jug had been claimed. Mickelson had to wait, but not for others to challenge, just to finish. They were already beaten.
The separate walks down No. 18 for Woods and Westwood, the two most touted at the day's start to battle it out for the title, were mere ceremony. Smile sheepishly, wave the cap in genuine gratitude for the fans' support, and slip away as quickly as possible.
This was Mickelson's time.
The disbelief that a guy age 43 — oldest to win this since Roberto De Vicenzo in 1967 at age 44 — had won in his 20th try, after stumbling around links courses and hating them for years, was only part of the story. That he had won his first links event just last week, in the Scottish Open a couple hours north of here, was another part.
Perhaps the biggest amazement was that this came on the heels of yet another Sunday fade at last month's U.S. Open at Merion in Pennsylvania.
Suddenly, Mickelson stands on the verge of history. With a U.S. Open victory to complete a career Grand Slam, he would stand alongside Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Woods, as well as pre-Masters-era winner Bobby Jones.
He has blown U.S. Opens by hitting trees, trying to clear sponsors' tents, having mind fades.
"It's been a tough leg for me," he joked.
But when the perfect putt, with the perfect roll, reached its perfect ending, it was evidence enough that golf's master of drama is not done yet.