We would’ve been so happy for Britain to have claimed another major winner on its own soil this summer. Golfer Lee Westwood led the British Open at the start of Sunday, just weeks after fellow countryman Andy Murray captured Wimbledon.
But we’re even more gratified by American Phil Mickelson’s stunning down-the-stretch mastery to capture the Open. And not just because he’s ours, or such a fan favorite, even though he is.
Our delight is heightened by the way in which Mickelson won – and the two great examples he set in the process.
The first example is resilience.
Although he had triumphed only a week earlier at the Scottish Open in a U.K. warmup for the Open, he was still grieving his failure to finish off the recent U.S. Open as champion – yet another second-place finish in his own country’s national championship, which he has yet to win.
Rather than let the disappointment of another major meltdown take hold of him, he shook it off – and won the British Open for the first time. He has now grasped the trophy at three of the golf world’s four majors.
He did it with world-class buoyancy, a determination not to let the past, even the immediate past, weigh him down.
The second example he set is utter grace under fire.
At one point, after a fairway shot he didn’t particularly like, he actually apologized to his longtime caddie and took responsibility for the shot.
That might seem unremarkable – but how many top athletes have you ever seen react to misfortune, in such a pressure-packed moment, with such humility? And consider the context: Mickelson’s class and dignity came within moments of Tiger Woods having profanely cursed fate after a similar errant shot – for all the world to hear.
Even the ESPN announcer, who was no doubt nonplussed with Woods’ obscene tantrum, took note of the contrast to Mickelson’s decorum and sense of responsibility.
Phil Mickelson has further solidified his legacy as one of the ancient game’s all-time greats. Just as important, he did it while exhibiting greatness. Greatness of character.
In so doing, he proved the power and beauty of attitude. Neither player chose to hit a wayward shot; but both chose how to respond to the setback. One chose anger, the other humility.
The latter is a champion today.
Of a golf tournament and so much more.