Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mickelson proud of Open accomplishment, disappointed in the outcome


Phil Mickelson tied the British Open’s 72-hole aggregate score mark on Sunday, matching Greg Norman’s 1993 tally of 267 with a 17-under score at Royal Troon. He beat the next best player by 11 shots. He shot the best final-round score in his major career.

Mickelson didn’t win a second Claret Jug on Sunday.

Instead, just moments after Mickelson closed out a final-round, bogey-free 6-under 65, Henrik Stenson made a closing birdie — his 10th of the day — to beat Mickelson and Norman’s mark by three shots. Stenson shot 8-under 63 to beat Mickelson by three on the week, shoot 20-under 264 and win his first major championship.

The five-time major winner was denied a sixth major title with an aggregate score that would have won every 72-hole British Open outright except two.

“It was, gosh, it’s disappointing to come in second, but I’m happy for Henrik,” said the 46-year-old afterward. “He’s really a great champion. We’ve been friends for some time. I’ve always thought that he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game and that major championships are perfectly suited for him. I knew that he would ultimately come through and win. I’m happy that he did. I’m disappointed that it was at my expense.”

Given what Stenson did on Sunday, Mickelson would have needed to shoot an unprecedented final-round 62 just to get into a playoff. To put that in context, Mickelson’s 65 was the second-best round on Sunday by the field, two ahead of Rory McIlroy’s 67 that moved him up 13 spots on the leaderboard and landed him in the top five.

“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won,” Mickelson said. “I think that’s probably why it’s disappointing in that I don’t have a point where I can look back and say, I should have done that or had I only done this. I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major, usually that’s good enough to do it, and I got beat. I got beat by 10 birdies.”

Mickelson has faced so much major disappointment in his career, mostly the result of self-inflicted wounds that cost him majors. Sunday marked Mickelson’s 11th second-place finish in a major, and, of all of them, this one stings in a unique way. In so many of the others, it was a mistake here or there that kept him from hoisting the trophy and adding to his legend. Looking back on his battle with Stenson, Mickelson might find this loss stings most because, despite playing near-perfect golf on Sunday, it wasn’t enough.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Mickelson said, “but even more disappointed that it wasn’t enough because you look back and say, what do I need to do?”

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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