Just how good was Phil Mickelson?
Phil Mickelson posted a round to remember, a closing 66 on a cold, wind-blown day at Muirfield to pick up his first Open Championship. Our experts examine Phil's win, Tiger Woods' latest weekend fade at a major, Lee Westwood's disappointing Sunday and the wild fact that it didn't rain a drop over a week in Scotland in this week's installment of Monday Four-Ball.
1. Where does Phil Mickelson's 66 rank among golf's great closing rounds?
Bob Harig: Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont was lower, and Jack Nicklaus' 65 at Augusta National more historic. But it's hard to say this one wasn't just as good. Of the last 22 players to tee off, Mickelson was the only player to shoot in the 60s and he had the best score by four shots -- to win by three.
Gene Wojciechowski: Mickelson says it was one of the greatest rounds he ever played in his career. And he has five majors. So that works for me. To shoot 66 ... on Sunday ... of a major that he only had two top-10s ... and was five strokes behind the leader at day's start? That HAS to be one of the great closing rounds.
Ian O'Connor: It's hard to top Johnny Miller's epic 63 at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open, but I think Mickelson's 66 at an iconic course with iconic past winners is right there behind it. Nobody ever thought Phil would win an Open Championship, and certainly not from 5 strokes back. They'll be talking about his 32 on Muirfield's back nine long after we're all gone.
Michael Collins: Easily inside the top 10 because of the gravity, for Phil, of winning a major he had never won before. The big names he had to pass on the way to the top of the leaderboard add to what will become Phil's Open legacy.
2. Even after another disappointing weekend at a major, Tiger says he likes how he's playing. Do you agree with him?
Harig: He likes how he's hitting the ball, but he can't like the way he played Sunday. Sure, the conditions were tough. But the bottom line is if he shoots 69, 2-under par, he's in a playoff. Woods had difficulty adjusting to course conditions that changed and made the greens slower, but that's part of the deal, and he couldn't deliver.
Wojciechowski: Absolutely. He's close. Really close. This was a major he could have won, and you could make a strong case that he should have won. But Mickelson's performance overpowered everybody else. Bottom line: If Woods shoots 70, there's a playoff. Instead he shoots 74 and finishes the weekend with two over-par scores. Still, he's moving more toward winning a major than away from it.
O'Connor: Tiger has never been big on copping to his weaknesses, so in defeat he's forever saying that he's right there, and that he just needs this tweak or that tweak. Truth is, the Tiger of old would've done what Mickelson did to Muirfield. Woods is feeling the heat on major weekends now, just like all his vanquished foes felt it back in the day.
Collins: He likes playing bad on Sundays at a major? If you believe that, then you believe you've just won the Congolese lottery email you get every week. You are SO lucky!
3. Will Lee Westwood ever win a major?
Harig: It is getting harder to believe he will. This was a prime opportunity and he led the tournament with 11 holes to go. Now he has 8 top-3s in majors without a victory, a record.
Wojciechowski: Sure, why not? He's a great ball striker. His putting is on a new level. And his short game, while not great, has improved. At some point, if he keeps putting himself in contention, he'll get one of these things. Hello, PGA Championship?
O'Connor: No. Westwood was only kidding himself when he said Saturday night that he knew what it took to seize a major despite the fact he'd never won one. This would've been a soul-crushing defeat for anyone, never mind a 40-year-old who's on the clock, and Westwood's efforts to play down the pain ("I don't really get disappointed with golf anymore") didn't ring true.
Collins: No. Someday Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker, and Luke Donald will get replica trophies made and all take turns clubbing them like that scene in "Office Space" with the printer. Hope I'm there to see it!
4. Not a drop of rain over four days of the Open Championship. Did you miss it?
Harig: Not a bit. The weather was glorious and yet Muirfield was every bit as tough as advertised. We didn't need nasty weather to make it tough, and it sure was nice to watch golf in beautiful sunshine.
Wojciechowski: What I missed was my SPF 50. Never, not in a thousand years, will I miss sloshing around a golf course in the muck and rain. Thank you, sun, for a great week.
O'Connor: I had my ridiculous-looking rain gear and waterproof sneakers all set to go before the Open Championship was played under weather fit for a Caribbean cruise. Did I miss the wind and the rain? Let's just say I would've missed it if I was watching on TV.
Collins: Heck, no. Two days of heat and baked out rough guys could muscle shots out of, then a Sunday finish that was cold, a little windy and overcast just like the Open I picture in my mind was awesome. I'll take that every year.