The name of Phil Mickelson doesn't usually inspire much fear or respect when it comes to playing golf across the pond.
Going into the weekend, he had not won a tournament in Europe in 20 years. On top of that, Mickelson had never won on a links course in his life.
That wasn't good news for Mickelson, who headed over to the Scottish Open at Inverness to prepare for the British Open at Muirfield in Ireland. He didn't just compete at the Scottish Open—he played exciting, resilient and winning golf in earning the title. He beat Branden Grace on the first playoff hole to earn the victory.
Mickelson is going into the British Open with the kind of momentum that he has never had in his career. His game resembles a full-speed locomotive roaring down the track.
Mickelson credited the welcoming fans in Scotland for allowing him to feel comfortable for four rounds and take the title, despite some difficulty in the final round.
"The people here in Scotland have treated us so well,'' Mickelson told the Associated Press (via the Golf Channel). ''I've really enjoyed my time here.
''Although I did a lot of things well, I have certainly things to work on.''
Mickelson, who shot a 17-under 271 for the tournament, closed with a 69 in the final round. He opened with a double-bogey on the first hole and closed with a bogey that forced him to go to a playoff with Grace.
On that playoff hole, Mickelson didn't put himself in the position of having to make a putt to win the tournament. Instead, he hit a 45-yard pitch shot within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie. When Grace's long birdie putt slid wide and never came back, Mickelson had his victory.
You may not know it because Mickelson lost his grip on the U.S. Open with a final round of 74, but he is having a sensational year. In addition to his Scottish Open triumph, Mickelson has won one PGA tournament (Waste Management Phoenix Open), has finished second twice and has two third-place finishes.
Mickelson has also been in the top 10 five times this year and the top 25 seven times. He has failed to make the cut in three tournaments this season.
If Mickelson had not made a good showing at the Scottish Open, he would have been nothing but a long shot at the British Open. Links courses have proved to be his undoing in the past. He has had a tough time keeping the ball in the fairway on these unforgiving layouts.
But the 2013 version of Mickelson doesn't seem to care about reputations and expectations. He has played excellent golf throughout the year. He comes into the third major with a head of steam.
While many are looking at names like Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els, perhaps it's the unpredictable Mickelson who will bring home the Claret Jug and win his first British Open.
His game is red-hot, and he has seemingly learned how to play the links courses that have always dogged him in the past.
The Mickelson train is rolling, and it may not be ready to stop anytime soon.
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