What I'll Remember About 2013: Phil's unlikely British Open win

Phil Mickelson celebrates his British Open win with his family, caddie, coach and manager.
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PGATOUR.COM asked its staffers and writers what they will remember about the 2013 season. For the archived list of essays and a complete review of the season, click here.

Truth be told, we probabaly all figured The Open Championship would be the one major Phil Mickelson would never win.

After all, his results didn't exactly inspire confidence. Before Mickelson tied for second behind Darren Clarke at Royal St. George's in 2010, he had played in the game's oldest major championship 17 times and posted just one top-10 finish.


Conversely, since finally snapping his 0-for-47 major drought at the 2004 Masters, the big lefthander has won three Masters and one PGA Championship. Mickelson's been runner-up at six U.S. Opens, as well.

Links golf is a different animal, though, and Mickelson wasn't always comfortable with the shots he needed to hit to keep the ball low to the firm, fast ground and out of the confounding crosswinds. He challenged himself to turn weakness into strength and when he finally got the chance at Muirfield, Mickelson closed with a phenomenal four birdies in his last six holes on Sunday to win the Claret Jug.

After he left the gray scoring cabin, Mickelson gathered his wife Amy and their three children, nearly teenagers all now, into his arms for an embrace that lasted several minutes. His college coach turned manager, Steve Loy, looked on with pride, as did his longtime coach Butch Harmon.

The husky Angel Cabrera, a two-time major champ, playing two groups behind and starting even closer to Lee Westwood's overnight lead, stuck out a beefy hand of congratulations. Mickelson's college teammate, Per-Ulrik Johansson, who was announcing, not playing this week, stood behind the fence trying to get Mickelson's attention -- and was finally rewarded when Amy saw him, hugged him and waved her husband over for the impromptu interview.

The missing man? Mickelson's caddie of two decades, Jim "Bones" Mackay, who had shared a tear-filled moment with his boss as the two left the 18th green arm-in-arm. He finally made his way out of the clubhouse only to be surrounded by reporters, pencils poised and cameras rolling.

Why the emotion, someone asked. Bones turned around, put his hands on his knees and took several deep breaths to compose himself before answering. Even so, his voice was halting and his eyes brimmed with tears as he talked about the quality final round and how much the win meant to the two.

Just a month earlier, after all, Mickelson had appeared headed to that elusive first U.S. Open win. He owned at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds at Merion but he bogeyed three of his last four holes and Justin Rose's name was etched on that big silver loving cup.

Mickelson refused to be defeated by his sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, though. He's always been a glass half-full kind of guy, a man who can turn such abject disappointment into positive reinforcement.

Sometimes, admittedly, the tendency is to think Mickelson is fooling himself. After 41 wins in a World Golf Hall of Fame career, though, we should know better.

"You have to be resilient in this game because losing is such a big part of it," Mickelson explained. "And after losing the U.S. Open, it could have easily gone south, where I was so deflated I had a hard time coming back. But I looked at it and thought I was playing really good golf. I had been playing some of the best in my career.

"I didn't want it to stop me from potential victories this year, and some potential great play. And I'm glad I didn't, because I worked a little bit harder. And in a matter of a month I'm able to change entirely the way I feel."

Mickelson would be wise to draw strength similarly when he heads to Pinehurst No. 2 next June. He's a storybook win from golf immortality at the course where his legacy of near-misses at the U.S. Open began so memorably, beeper in the bag, just days before his first child was born.

Fatherhood has suited Mickelson, just as Payne Stewart told him it would as he grasped Lefty's face in his hands on the 18th green that Sunday in 1999. So would a Grand Slam.