It seems fitting that Phil Mickleson, the man who first criticized the Muirfield setup after shooting an opening-round 69, was able to conquer the course on a Sunday afternoon that will be written into the history books.
By my count Muirfield was called "unfair," "unplayable," "a lottery," and "shocking" this week but the golfer who said R&A officials needed to "check their egos at the door" finally hosted the Claret Jug on a foggy, windy Sunday night by the North Sea.
A lot of people don't love the way some of the major championships play out -- the last two have yielded precious few birdies and eagles have been rarer than Tiger Woods wearing something other than red on a Sunday.
But I believe it was Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest who said all of this was "kind of the point of a major." I concur -- majors aren't supposed to be like the John Deere Classic where you can shoot 23 under and still lose.
We say this every year after the US Open but majors are supposed to drain everything you have going on mentally. They're supposed to empty your bag of shots and make you want to cuss the groundscrew.
They're supposed to destroy you and Muirfield gave it her best shot this week. There were only 32 total rounds under 70 -- the scoring average hovered around 75 all week long.
We saw putts roll into bunkers, golfers stand in bunkers to putt, sand shots hit purposefully into the thick rough, and drivers smoked off stone walls.
It was bloody.
And yet Lefty emerged in the end with some brilliant golf -- one of the best final rounds in recent major championship history, maybe ever.
Because you knew if somebody could tame this beast, that player could win by a lot. Mickelson came into the final day down five and came out of it the winner by three.
Here are our grades for the British Open:
|A||A great win for Phil Mickleson, yes, but the coolest moment for me was when he called "Bones" his "main man" when accepting the Claret Jug and we saw the caddie weeping off to the side. Great, great stuff.|
|A||At one point on the back nine I thought Adam Scott was definitely going to win this thing. I thought his loss last year taught him how to win this year. Then he finished with four bogeys in his last six holes and tied for third.|
|B||Our scale for judging Tiger Woods is skewed but a T6 finish for him isn't terrible. His continual fading on the weekend, however, is.|
|B||Brandt Snedeker shot a 43 on the back nine on Friday. If he shoots par there he wins the tournament by one.|
|B||Defending champion Ernie Els couldn't break 70 this week at Muirfield. Still had a T26 finish and amazing hole-out from the fairway on Sunday.|
|C||Disappointing week for Dustin Johnson who was in the thick of it on Thursday and Friday. He'll win one of these someday but went 76-77 on the weekend this year. Back to Paulina.|
|C||I thought Graeme McDowell could make a late Sunday run at the Claret Jug but he carded a 77 instead. First time in nine tournaments he hasn't either won or missed the cut.|
|F||Justin Rose missed the cut one month after winning the US Open. Dirty little secret of Rose's career is that he's never been very good at the British Open -- only one top 10 and that came as an amateur.|
|F||The worst score of Rory McIlroy's career (12 over) means he missed the weekend for the first time at a British Open.|