GULLANE, Scotland — While the stodgy R&A brass was arrayed properly on the 18th green handing out all of the hardware to its top British Open achievers, Phil Mickelson was just hanging 100 yards away shooting the breeze with a few friends in the media.
Only when R&A chief executive Peter Dawson announced “the champion golfer of the year, Phil Mickelson,” did the left-hander politely excuse himself.
“Guys, I think I’m supposed to be on the green,” he said before setting a new precedent with a long victory walk and wave.
It’s hard to overstate just how giddy Mickelson was after storming to victory in the one major he believed would be the hardest for him to win. For 45 minutes he waited as nobody behind him really had a chance to catch him. He was cracking jokes with family and friends and even took the most impertinent questions in stride.
Talking about the twin “bullet” 3-woods he hit to reach the par-5 17th into the wind, Mickelson boasted that no club has changed his life so much since his first 60-degree L-wedge when he was 14.
“Could that 3-wood have hit the 18th fairway at Winged Foot in 2006?”
Mickelson laughed: “I don’t think any club would have gotten in that fairway. Did you see my stats?”
Everyone saw what he did this time with an improbable 66 in tough conditions with nothing but brilliant shots down the stretch. It will go down as one of the greatest Sunday major performances of all time. He deserved that victory march.
Here are some other highs and lows from 142nd Open Championship:
BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. The former two-time Asian Amateur champion has never missed a cut in five major starts and has consecutive top-10s after turning pro. Was tied for sixth at Muirfield despite a slow-play penalty. Major potential.
BOGEY: Adam Scott. For the second consecutive British Open, Scott bogeyed four consecutive holes on the back nine Sunday with the lead. At least he still has the green jacket.
BIRDIE: Ian Poulter. Much like Birkdale in 2008, Poults made a late charge with an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie stretch from 9-12. But he couldn’t post the score that could have forced the field behind him to flinch.
BOGEY: Tiger Woods. Once again poised to end his five-year major drought, all Woods did was struggle on his distance control and putting speed when it most counted. He never was a factor Sunday.
BIRDIE: Zach Johnson. Proving to be a consistent links performer after opening 66 and a tied for sixth finish. His kind of golf.
BOGEY: Lee Westwood. Despite all of the home support in the UK and much improved putting, Westy still backed up and watched someone else win his major on Sunday.
BIRDIE: Henrik Stenson. Former Players champion lost much of his money and his game not long ago, but only Mickelson was better in Scotland the past two weeks.
BOGEY: Hunter Mahan. Back-to-back final group pairings in majors and all he has is a pair of 75s to show for it.
BIRDIE: Miguel Angel Jimenez. Sure, the most interesting man in the golf faded fast after holding 36-hole lead despite recently breaking his leg on vacation, but his cool factor still captivates in words and actions.
BOGEY: Dustin Johnson. Tied for third after the cut and the bomber went 76-77 on the weekend.
BIRDIE: Scottish Open. Proved to be a perfect warm-up for Mickelson. Next year when it moves to classic links Royal Aberdeen, a lot of great names might try to follow Lefty’s game plan.
PAR: Ladies Golf Union. The status quo held firm in defense of all-male membership policies in the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and Royal & Ancient Golf Club. But perhaps the door has opened for future inclusive discussions.
BIRDIE: Muirfield. The world’s most pristine and perfect links course once again delivered a Hall of Fame winner. Perhaps we should take another look at Ted Ray’s and Alf Perry’s résumés.
BOGEY: Sean Foley. Swing coach started Sunday with three clients in the top three and none of them could close like Justin Rose did at Merion.
BIRDIE: Russell Henley. Cool sportsmanship moment of the week was Henley sprinting through the deep rough to locate where he saw 18-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick’s ball dive in. Helped the youngster make the cut and become low amateur.
BOGEY: Brandt Snedeker. His silky putting escaped him during 79 on Friday, otherwise he might be holding the claret jug himself.
BOGEY: Peter Dawson. Guy never backs down from a fight, whether it’s with the PGA of America boss over anchored putting, critics regarding gender discrimination or Poulter suggesting windmills and clown face for 18th hole setup. Pompous much?