Phil Mickelson holed a 12-foot birdie putt on Muirfield’s 18th hole that may have been enough to give him his first Open Championship victory. Mickelson’s final-round 66 gave him a 3-under 281 total. He held a three-shot lead over Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood when he walked off the green.
"Today's round will be one of the most memorable rounds of golf I've ever played," Mickelson said.
Stenson only had one hole remaining, while Westwood, the 54-hole leader, has three holes to try to catch Mickelson.
Mickelson’s 66 matched the low round of the championship. He closed with birdies on four of his final six holes (Nos. 13, 14, 17 and 18). Mickelson reached the green in two with a fairway wood on the par-5 17th, then two-putted from 35 feet for birdie.
"I putted amazing today and hit it as well as I ever have," Mickelson said.
Mickelson is coming off a victory at last week’s Scottish Open. He also finished runner-up at this year’s U.S. Open. He arrived at Muirfield having finished in the top two in three of his past four starts (one win, two runners-up). "I'm playing some of the best golf of my life," Mickelson said.
Mickelson had just two top-10s in 19 Open Championship starts entering this year. He was runner-up in the 2011 Open Championship, finishing three shots behind Darren Clarke.
A win would give Mickelson five career major titles and leave him a U.S. Open victory from completing the career Grand Slam. He has been runner-up in the U.S. Open a record six times, most recently this year.
Phil Mickelson two-putted for birdie on Muirfield's par-5 17th hole to take a two-shot lead in The Open Championship. Mickelson is 2 under par, two shots ahead of Adam Scott and Lee Westwood. Mickelson is 4 under par for Sunday's round after making birdies on 13, 14 and 17.
Mickelson is coming off a win at last week's Scottish Open. He has traditionally struggled in The Open Championship, finishing in the top-10 just twice in 19 appearances. He was runner-up at the 2011 Open Championship, finishing three shots behind Darren Clarke.
Poulter made an eagle and three straight birdies in the middle of his round Sunday. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Ian Poulter wasn't focused on a number. He just knew he needed to make birdies instead of bogeys on Sunday if he was going to have a shot to win The Open Championship.
After all, he was eight strokes behind Lee Westwood when he went to bed on Saturday night. But Poulter had played in enough Open Championships to know a lot can happen in the final round, and he thought he was playing well enough to stir the pot.
"I felt the way I've played this week, I definitely have put myself in a lot of good positions to make birdies, and I probably haven't taken as many as I wanted to," Poulter said. "So I just felt that if I could stay patient today, take a few chances, don't make silly mistakes, then I could definitely move up that board. ...
"You just realize that Paul Lawrie came from 10 back. There was a six-shot swing in four holes last year. This tournament does it year in, year out, and it creates a lot of drama. You've just got to find yourself in position around the back nine and see if it's good enough."
Poulter put himself in that position, too, when he channeled his Ryder Cup persona and went eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie as he made the turn. The Englishman suddenly was even par for the tournament and the leaders certainly were taking notice.
"As tough as this golf course is to get rewarded with making some putts for birdies, it's a really nice feeling, because sometimes it takes a long time to make a couple of birdies in a row," Poulter said. "Sometimes you just feel like this golf course is beating you up all day.
Poulter bogeyed the 16th hole and couldn't get it back at the par-5 17th but when all was said and done, his round of 67 had moved him into a tie for third with AAdam Scott and Lee Westwood. But he waited around until Phil Mickelson's victory was assured and was among those congratulating his caddy Bones MacKay as the popular lefthander was doing his TV rounds.
"I think I've been frustrated on the golf course in the last few months because I know I've been playing very, very well," Poulter said. "And I don't seem to get frustrated in this golf tournament. I'm here in front of home fans. I really enjoy this event. I enjoy that it's difficult."
But there were times on Sunday when Poulter made it look easy
GULLANE, Scotland -- A pair of bogeys by Lee Westwood has created a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard with 10 holes remaining in The Open Championship.
Westwood, who led by two at the start of the day, is now 1 under and knotted with Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott. Stenson is through 11 and Scott has completed 10 holes.
Westwood's troubles started with bunkered tee shots at Nos. 7 and 8. He left it in the bunker from a plugged lie on the par-3 seventh on the way to the first bogey and came up shot of the green from the sand at No. 8, eventually making a 5-footer for the 5.
Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan are one stroke back at even par. They have completed 11, nine and 13 holes, respectively.
Ian Poulter has completed a round of 67 that included a stretch of four holes starting at No. 9 that he played in 5 under. He is the leader in the clubhouse at 1 over.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, is an incoming freshman at Northwestern. (Redington/Getty Images)
Incoming Northwestern freshman Matthew Fitzpatrick shot 72 Sunday to earn the silver medal as The Open Championship’s low amateur. Fitpatrick finished at 10-over 294 (73-76-73-72), five shots ahead of the other amateur to make the cut, Jimmy Mullen. Mullen shot a final-round 75.
Fitzpatrick is the No. 9 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. The 18-year-old from Sheffield, England, won the 2012 British Boys championship and earned his way into The Open Championship through local final qualifying. Northwestern head coach Pat Goss called Fitzpatrick, “the most significant player we have signed since Luke Donald.” Goss also serves as Donald’s swing coach. Donald won the 1999 NCAA individual title at Northwestern, and was the Haskins Award winner as college golf’s player of the year.
GULLANE, Scotland -- A birdie at the par-5 ninth hole has moved Phil Mickelson into a tie for second with Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson at even par.
Mickelson, who has two top-10s in 19 appearances at The Open Championship, played the front nine at Muirfield in 2 under. Mickelson won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last Sunday to notch his only victory in the UK.
Lee Westwood still leads and his advantage is now three after he made a 20-footer for birdie at the fifth hole. He is 3 under and the only player in red numbers now on the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods, who started the day tied for second with Hunter Mahan, has made three bogeys in his first six holes to fall five behind Westwood. Ditto for Mahan, who is playing in the final group with Westwood.
GULLANE, Scotland -- Playing like he thinks he teed it up at the Ryder Cup instead of The Open Championship on Sunday, Ian Poulter has moved into a tie for third, two strokes off Lee Westwood's lead.
Poulter eagled the ninth hole, then reeled off birdies on his next three holes to get back to even par for the tournament. He had a chance for a fourth straight, too, but his 15-footer at the par-3 14th stopped about an inch to the left of the cup.
About an hour before he teed off, Poulter posted what is turning out to be a very prophetic tweet: "Lets see if we can get into the mix by the end of today's round. Slowly slowly try and get back into position. @The_Open quality."
Poulter finished ninth at last year's Open Championship. His career best came in 2008 when he finished second, four strokes behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale.
We’re nearing the finish line at Muirfield. Here’s five players to keep an eye on Sunday at The Open Championship:
-- Lee Westwood: All eyes will be on the 40-year-old Englishman as he seeks his first major. Westwood started the final round with a two-shot lead.
-- Hunter Mahan: Mahan, another player seeking his first major, is in the final group for the second consecutive major. He shot a final-round 75 at Merion to finish four back of Justin Rose at the U.S. Open. Mahan's fourth-place finish at Merion is the best of his career in a major.
-- Tiger Woods: He’s seeking his 15th major and first since the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods has never won a major when not leading after 54 holes, though. He also started the final round at 1 under par, two shots behind Westwood.
-- Adam Scott: The Masters champion is trying to win the Claret Jug one year after losing The Open Championship with bogeys on his final four holes. He’s also seeking to join an elite list of players who have won the Masters and Open Championship in the same year. Ben Hogan (1953), Arnold Palmer (1962), Jack Nicklaus (1966), Gary Player (1974), Tom Watson (1977), Nick Faldo (1990), Mark O’Meara (1998) and Tiger Woods (2005) have accomplished the feat.
-- Phil Mickelson: He’s finished in the top-10 at The Open just twice, but is coming off a win at last week’s Scottish Open. He starts the final round five shots back as he seeks redemption for last month’s heartbreak at Merion.
-- Hideki Matsuyama: The 21-year-old from Japan was assessed a one-shot penalty for slow play Saturday, but still entered the final round six shots back of Westwood. He’s seeking his second consecutive top-10 in a major after finishing T-10 at Merion. He’s also No. 8 in the International Team standings for The Presidents Cup, so a good Sunday would send him up the standings.
GULLANE, Scotland -- Now that everyone has teed off in the final round of The Open Championship, we turn to you. Who do you think will win the season's third major?
Will Lee Westwood delight fans in the UK by becoming the first Englishman since 1992 to win the Open? Can Tiger Woods, holding at 14 and counting, win his first major in five years?
Hunter Mahan finds himself in the final group for the second major in a row. What are his chances to win his first major? Can Masters champ Adam Scott avenge last year's disappointment and win his second major of the year?
And what about Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera, both bidding for the third legs of their career Grand Slams? Or Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson and Ryan Moore?
Use the Comments section below to let us know what you think will develop as the afternoon progresses.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Stewart Cink says Lee Westwood's biggest challenge on Sunday during the final round of The Open Championship will be not getting ahead of himself.
Cink, who shot a 69 on Sunday, won his first -- and so far, only -- major when he beat Tom Watson in a playoff at Turnberry in 1999, a playoff that Westwood came within a putt of joining. The former Open champ says the Englishman has definitely played well enough to deserve a major -- or more.
"The only thing that's standing in his way today is that thing between the ear that holds us all back occasionally," Cink said. "It's a tough prospect when you're leading, having never won, and have the monkey on your back, so to speak, and be free and continue to do what you're doing without thinking about getting ahead of yourself, thinking about what may lie at the end of the 18th green.
"So that will be his biggest challenge out there today with the conditions being a little more tame."
And what about Tiger Woods? What are his chances of winning his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open?
"I think you're bordering on waking the sleeping giant when you start bothering him about something like that," Cink said. "I include myself in your group, we have bothered Tiger a lot about things over the years, and he seems to come through just fine. He will be definitely a force to be reckoned with out there."
So does it surprise Cink that Woods hasn't added to his major haul of 14 in the last five years?
"It does but think about what he's been through in five years, to me it's remarkable that he got back to where he is, No. 1 in the world," Cink said. "Because he had a serious blow to that aura of invincibility. And he just is proving that that's not all he had. He's the best golfer that's ever played, as far as I'm concerned."
Cink is 40, as it Westwood. Woods is three years younger. But fitness, better nutrition and advances in equipment have lengthened careers considerably -- "especially these days, guys are just hitting their stride," Cink says.
"The only thing that I think is a negative as you get older is that you accumulate more of the negative stuff in your mind, the scars kind of build up," Cink said. "And golf will deal you a few of those. ... In golf knowing who you are on the golf course, I think, means a lot more than probably it does to any other athlete in any other sport."