GULLANE, United Kingdom: British Open champion Phil Mickelson has his eyes firmly set on joining the elite list of golfing legends who have won all four of the majors.
The 43-year-old American’s superb three-stroke victory at Muirfield on Sunday means he has completed the third leg of the career Grand Slam, having previously won the Masters three times and the PGA Championship once.
And that leaves only the one he covets the most—the US Open, a tournament he has finished runner-up in a record six times, the last of those coming last month at Merion Golf Club where he was pipped at the post by Justin Rose.
In winning the British Open, Mickelson joined Seve Ballesteros, Peter Thomson, Byron Nelson, JH Taylor and James Braid as a five-time major winner.
Only five men—Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods—have completed a modern career Grand Slam of winning the Masters, US Open, Open and US PGA titles at some stage.
Nicklaus and Woods have won the full set three times apiece
“I think that if I’m able to win the US Open and complete the career Grand Slam, I think that that’s the sign of the complete great player,” he said.
“And I’m a leg away. And it’s been a tough leg for me. But I think that’s the sign. I think there’s five players that have done that.
How Mickelson has managed not to win a US Open is a mystery to many, including himself after so many near misses especially at Winged Foot in 2006 when he had a one shot lead teeing off at the 72nd hole. but shot double bogey to hand the title to Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
In 2009 at Bethpage Black on Long Island he shared the lead after an eagle at the 13th hole, but fell back with bogeys on 15 and 17 and the unheralded Lucas Glover captured the championship.
This year at Merion was possibly the most heartbreaking of all as he started the final round leading by a stroke but was reeled in by a superb finish by Rose.
That was his sixth runner-up finish, an event record and only behind Jack Nicklaus’s seven runner-up finishes at the British Open – though Nicklaus did win that tournament three times.
It was all the more painful in that it came on his 43rd birthday and on Father’s Day.
But his win Sunday in the British Open shows that perseverance and resilience are key components of golfing success, coming as it did on his 20th outing, matching Darren Clarke’s record for the most appearances before winning the event for the first time
“You have to be resilient in this game, because losing is such a big part of it,” he said, no doubt with his US Open record at the back of his mind.