Phil Mickelson celebrates winning the Open with his family
Our golf man Ben Coley blogged live from the Open Championship where Phil Mickelson produced a magical performance.
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1835 Well first things first – what a wonderful round of golf that was from Phil Mickelson, who now has five major titles.
Out on the 18th green he just labelled that closing 66 as the best round of golf he’s ever played, and confirmed it as the best feeling of his career as it was a victory which confirmed to him that he had the game for an Open test.
He is in all ways a true champion. A wonderful golfer who has every shot in the bag, as well as winning titles he plays to excite crowds and in victory as in defeat he speaks eloquently.
It’s therefore no surprise that when Phil wins, everybody is happy enough.
Of course, we once again ask what might have been for Lee Westwood. This was the first time he’s led by three shots at any stage during the final round of a major and while Phil’s score would’ve been extremely hard to beat, the manner of Westwood’s defeat will be hard for him to take.
His last birdie of the championship came at the fifth hole today whereas Mickelson made five in the last 10. While Westwood’s long-game abandoned him when he needed it most, Mickelson’s shone – he hit superb shots from 13 through to 18, whether they were rewarded or not.
For Henrik Stenson, this marks confirmation that he’s back among the game’s elite. For long periods over the last three years he’s been absent from events like this let alone leaderboards, and from here he can surely build a solid case for a return to the European Ryder Cup team.
Adam Scott’s back-nine was ugly at times and again, as is usually the case when he does falter, the putter was to blame. But a closing birdie ensured a tie for third and another exceptional major performance, the like of which we’ve seen consistently for two years now. If this week told us anything about Scott it’s that his Masters triumph is unlikely to be the only major title he owns come the end of his career.
Ian Poulter’s charge was superb. Whether or not he can harness that energy on a week-in, week-out level remains a concern and until he finds the formula, appearances on major leaderboards will be fleeting. Still, he’s now been in the frame twice in the last seven Open Championships and this links test is one he enjoys, particularly when par is a good score.
To many, the week’s surprise package has been Hideki Matsuyama, although I sense not to the man himself. The 21-year-old Japanese sensation carries himself with confidence and ended the tournament tied for sixth along with Tiger Woods.
And what of Woods? It’s five years and counting since his last major success, and as of April 2004 he’s won six majors to Mickelson’s five, a record which would surprise many. There’s no doubt in my mind that his domination is over, but that he’s very much the man to beat in every tournament he decides to play nonetheless.
Beyond these we see good performances once again from Angel Cabrera and Hunter Mahan, the latter perhaps not producing as he’d have liked today but again advertising that all four of the sport’s majors are viable targets. His variable ball-flight is something I’ll take away from this week.
And me? I’ve had a wonderful time. Working at the Open is exhausting and you don’t see as much golf as you’d expect. But this week I’ve come within touching distance of players I’ve admired from afar throughout the last 15 or so years. I’ve had a close-up view of how they hit the ball, I’ve heard rumour and speculation, I’ve seen players asked bizarre questions, I’ve seen them hang out with their friends on tour, I’ve seen them produce shots from the subline to the ridiculous and I’ve seen one of them produce the performance of a lifetime.
Of course I’ll leave here disappointed that Westwood couldn’t win a first major and I’ll question whether that time will ever come. But ultimately this has been a marvellous week and I’ve got my eyes fixed on Royal Liverpool already.
1728 Matsuyama, by the way, is on his way to a top-five finish here. Remarkable stuff.
Anyway, at 16, Westwood’s bunker shot rolls 10 feet past. With that, I need to go and witness first-hand what this means to Phil so as to cheer up a tad.
I’ll be back in an hour with words from our 142nd Open Champion.
1725 It’s definitely over now folks as Westwood misses the 16th green with a poor iron shot and from there he’ll do well to make par.
1720 Another bogey for Scott and he’s back at two-over as Westwood and Mahan prepare on 16.
Surely now Westwood knows exactly what he has to do and that’s hit the nine best shots of his life for three birdies.
I’m well aware this isn’t about to happen and what we’re faced with is a low-key 45 minutes while the final groups finish before we can crown Mickelson a truly great Open champion.
1717 Phil is in tears by the 18th green. What a round of golf that is – a stunning 66 to run away from the field and win comfortably.
Westwood’s birdie putt on 15 slides past and nothing short of a miracle is needed for his fans now. This has been hard to watch but if there’s a man I’d want to win other than Lee, it’s Mickelson.
1715 Championship putt for Phil and it finds the cup. There’s your Open winner folks, and boy does he deserve it.
1713 Here’s Westwood on 15 and it’s a good shot, but it gets a soft bounce and he has a delicate down hill putt for birdie from some 20 or so feet. He’s just not hit the ball close today.
Woods and Scott both find sand on the tough 16th.
1710 Game, set and match as Mickelson fires into 15 feet on the last. It was a foot from sand, but got the right bounce and Mickelson has been rewarded for an aggressive approach.
If he makes that the engraver can go to work. If he misses, the engraver can probably still go to work as Scott has just missed his par putt on 15.
It seems that not for the first time Westwood is going to finish second to Mickelson in a major.
1707 Scott’s putting has deserted him and he has around eight feet for par on 15.
Back on the tee, I fear that’s it for Westwood as he elects to hit iron. The wind has died a bit but Poulter very nearly drove that green earlier and I’d liked to have seen Lee have a go. Mickelson isn’t going to budge here so it’s two birdies or nothing.
1704 Awful birdie try from Westwood at 14. I know these greens aren’t to be taken lightly but he must know he needs biridies and to leave it a foot short just isn’t going to do the job.
Mickelson meanwhile hits a superb drive down 18 and as far as I’m concerned if he hits the green with his second, the Claret Jug is his. And what a fine champion he’d be.
1700 Westwood is soon to be two off the lead so from a perfect spot on 14 he needs to do something and he needs to do it now.
He has 202 yards so clearly it’s far from easy but he plays a fine shot to 20 feet. He’s made plenty of these this week but it’s Sunday afternoon when they really count.
Meanwhile, Mickelson may have one hand on the Claret Jug with a birdie at 17. If he pars 18 the worst he’s getting is a play-off and I think more likely he’d win by one or two.
1657 What an Open Championship for Hideki Matsuyama. Par on the last puts him tied eighth for now and he beats Donaldson by seven in their two-ball. He’s here to stay.
On 15, Woods goes with an iron and finds the fairway. Assuming Mickelson makes birdie on 17, Tiger needs something very special here.
1655 Westwood finds the 14th fairway as up ahead on the green Scott hits an inexplicably awful putt and drops a shot.
And just like that, Mickelson is odds-on for the Open with a glorious three-wood to the 17th green which leaves an outside eagle chance and an almost certain birdie.
1651 The putt misses left and Westwood is now three-over for the day through 13 holes and one behind Scott and Mickelson.
On 14, Tiger sets up a certain birdie with a superb approach and will be within two, providing Scott doesn’t make one of his own which appears unlikely as his ball falls off the green 50 feet away.
1649 We have another one of those massive, massive putts coming as Westwood uses his imagination and the contours of Muirfield to leave 20 feet for par, as good as he could do from a terrible spot.
On 17, Mickelson hits a three-wood down the middle of the fairway. Birdie-par to register two-under, and that would surely get a play-off at the very least.
1647 Fairway for Scott on 14. I feel like Westwood has two birdie chances to come – 15 and 17 – and both require driver from the tee. The way he’s playing I really think he needs a chip and putt birdie, because he doesn’t look like hitting an iron close enough to make a putt.
And as Mickelson’s putt on 16 finds the cup, Westwood is going to need to make a putt.
1643 Come on, Lee. One pure iron, in off the bank and inside 10 feet. Easy, eh?
Well, no. He squirts one into the air high, right and short, and it gets an ugly bounce, too. He needs luck with the lie to make a par.
Ahead on 16 there’s a massive putt coming for Mickelson. He has around 10 feet for par to remain one-under heading to the 17th.1642 Another bogey from Mahan and he’s undone the eagle on nine in three holes. He’s now two-over and four behind Scott’s lead and as Johnson makes a bogey, nobody is on level – the winner looks like one of Scott, Mickelson or Westwood, each of whom would provide a big story.
And they’re now tied as Scott’s par putt grazes the edge but stays up on 13 with Westwood waiting on the tee.
1640 Scott got a tad lucky with his lie but there’s still no denying the quality of the shot that will give him around seven or eight feet for par.
On 16, Mickelson rightly likes what he sees but the green sends his ball back off the front edge and it just keeps going. He’ll need some of that wedge magic from there.
Back to 12, and Westwood’s putt is always low. It’s an easy par but he has to take an opportunity at some point if he wants to win this. Which, you know, he obviously does.
1637 Inexplicably, there are people here in the media room wandering about, chatting, eating cake, popping to the loo, checking the cricket.
I don’t get it.
1635 Big wide from Scott on 13. He’s missed the green by some distance and will be playing downhill to it from the rough, I believe.
On 15, there’s a mistake too from Mickelson as his birdie try races past the cup. Johnson also has a little tidying up to do for his par on 14.
Back on 12, Westwood has 151 yards to the pin and it’s better, some 20 feet right of target.
As he’s playing, Mickelson’s par putt threatens to stay up before giving in to gravity and he remains one off the lead.
1633 Birdie for Woods on 12 but he’s still four off the pace set by his playing partner.
Back on 12, Westwood has iron in hand from the tee and with it splits the fairway.
So, we’ve Scott heading to the 13th tee in the lead. Mickelson has an outside birdie chance on 15 and is currently one behind him. On 12, Westwood is in the fairway and also one off the lead.
Zach Johnson is only two behind and the rest have work to do.
1632 Westwood makes. That was a hugely important putt and keeps him within one shot of Scott’s lead.
On 15, Mickelson has a wedge in hand and produces a solid if not spectacular shot to 25 feet.
1630 We’re about to see a putt which will either keep Westwood firmly in this or, I fear, see his chances end. That sounds dramatic on the 11th but I just don’t see him responding to another bogey and he has eight or so feet to avoid one.
On 12, Scott has a chance to extend the lead to two but it’s just short. That’s fine, it’ll be an easy par and six more of those may well be enough.
1626 It’s another poor shot from Westwood on 11 as his approach comes up short of the green. While Scott and Mickelson are flying, he’s stalling.
On 12, Scott’s approach isn’t his best but 30 feet for birdie will do when you’re in the lead. Mickelson meanwhile refuses to be drawn into driving the 15th green and finds the fairway with an iron.
1624 Fairway for Westwood on 11 as Mickelson pours in a birdie at the 14th! He’s now just one off the pace and that generated as much excitement in the media centre as anything else that’s happened today.
1622 Westwood can’t respond on 10 so for the first time today he’s out of the lead at one-under, one behind Scott who has made four birdies in a remarkable five-hole stretch.
On 13, Stenson’s par putt misses so he’s now three off the lead and it’s also a bogey for Mahan on 10, so he’s back at one-over.
1620 Stenson finds sand on 13 but plays a decent shot to leave a par opportunity from around 10 feet. The same goes for Mahan on 10 as Tiger drops another on 11.
That leaves the way clear for Scott and the Masters champion makes no mistake. He now takes the lead on two-under.
1618 Two-ball updates seem a little silly at this stage but I’ll squeeze one in. Matsuyama is home and hosed so we’re sure of small profit regardless, but Garcia is now within one of Snedeker to two from two is very much a possibility again.
1617 Mahan finds sand by the green on 10 before Westwood steps up in A1 position. It’s time to hit a good one.
And hit a good one he does, albeit it stops shorter than expected some 20 feet from the cup. Make it please. Please make it.
1615 Tiger is all over the place again and has found a terrible spot in sand on 11. He won’t be enjoying watching Scott stride into a share of the lead.
Speaking of Scott, his approach to the hole is perfect and leaves a short birdie putt in the region of eight to 10 feet.
1613 Westwood finally finds a swing on 10 with a driver that splits the fairway as Stenson makes bogey on 12 to fall back to level, the same score as playing partner Johnson who can only make par.
1610 My apologies, it was a bogey for Woods on 10 and he’s two-over. Ahead on 13, Mickelson joins the group at level with a birdie. This is a thriller. I’d rather it wasn’t, but it is.
1609 Zach Johnson sets up a good birdie chance at the down wind 12th hole as Westwood cleans up for par. At one stage he held a three-shot lead but he makes the turn tied with Stenson and Scott.
Mahan is just one behind alongside Johnson after tapping in for a brilliant eagle.
1607 Westwood’s second had found sand unfortunately, so he’s still on the front edge in three with par now his best and most likely score.
Woods and Scott both par the 10th to remain one-over and one-under respectively, as Westwood’s birdie try settles two feet away.
1605 Poulter makes and that’s a fine round of golf, two bogeys, four birdies and an eagle to post a competitive target. I don’t think it’ll be enough but it has a chance.
1603 Westwood manages to hack one down the ninth fairway and into a position from which he can still make a birdie, one he needs to get back on track.
At 10, Scott’s second from an awkward lie is very sensible and finds the front edge of the green some 40 feet away. He looks in control of his game here.
Meanwhile ahead at the 18th Poulter will have a couple of feet for par and a fine 67, one which will set a clubhouse target of one-over.
Back on nine, Mahan reignites his challenge with a stunning approach to a couple of feet and will have that for an eagle to get back to level.
1600 Stenson has a chance on 11 but it’s just right and that’s a par. Meanwhile Zach Johnson, almost the forgotten man of the championship, moves to level par with a birdie at the same hole.
1558 Westwood is at crisis point here. With an iron in hand off the ninth tee he tugs it left, dangerously close to the out of bounds but ultimately in play.
Of the three leaders, he’s the one battling his game right now. He needs to start hitting fairways again if he’s going to win this.
1556 Sky Bet now have Westwood as a slight favourite at 9/4, Scott 5/2, Stenson 100/30 and Woods 8/1.
1554 Woods moves back to one-over with a birdie at nine as Westwood pushes his putt on eight a good five-feet long.
Three-way tie for the lead. Stenson, Scott and Westwood.
1552 Westwood can only advance his ball to the front of the green on eighth and looks set to make bogey at best.
Ahead on nine, Scott has a real look at eagle here and surprisingly leaves it in the jaws of the hole. Still, that’s birdie and he’s the man to beat now at one-under.
1550 Poulter’s birdie try misses but look at this from Scott – he plays a beauty into nine and will have 15 feet for eagle.
On eight, Westwood’s second from a bad lie comes up woefully short and he’s faced with a very difficult third and the possibility of bogey or worse.
Stenson then has a great opportunity to join and perhaps pass Westwood but his putt on 10 lips out and it’s a par.
1547 Nasty scenes in the canteen as an angry mob begin to question where all the chocolate has gone.
Apparently one man told Dave Tindall they were attempting to ‘locally source’ some Mars bars which frankly isn’t good enough. When the Americans are coming, you stock up. Basics.
1545 We’re really into the teeth of this tournament now as Stenson and Poulter set up birdie chances on 10 and 17 respectively and Scott finds the fairway on nine.
Meanwhile on 11, Mickelson’s attempt to respond to bogey on 10 with a birdie edges wide and he remains three back at one-over.
1541 HUGE. That’s the word and the style I’m going with as Westwood drains his bogey putt on seven. Remember yesterday, when he did that on 16? He’s not done that before when he’s needed to in majors and he’ll feel great heading to the eighth tee.
1540 Another birdie for Scott and he’s level now, and heading to the reachable ninth. If he birdies that he’ll probably take over as favourite.
1539 Me and my big mouth. Westwood is plugged on seven and can’t get it out at the first attempt – he’s staring at a double here.
His third is a much better shot and he’ll have 15 feet for bogey – a huge, huge putt in the context of this tournament with Stenson in the middle of the 10th fairway.
1535 Stenson won’t be happy with his third on nine and has 15 feet for birdie on the easiest hole at Muirfield.
Back on seven, Westwood seems puzzled by the breeze before hitting a shot which appears to come up well short. On 10, Mickelson has a lengthy par putt to come.
If Westwood can par seven and eight then take advantage of nine he’s going to be in a great position, although as I type that Stenson curls in his birdie putt to get within two.
1532 Poulter’s charge stalls on 16 as his par putt just misses and he’s now one-over. Westwood leads by three to Stenson and Mickelson.
1530 Mahan has been in all sorts of bother at six and will have 10 feet for bogey. Westwood has to wait an age to play his third but when he does it’s a good one, which threatens to find the cup before rolling maybe three and a half feet past. Those are the putts you need to be making.
Back on seven, Scott finally finds a putt to return to one-over and that’s a shot ahead of Mahan after he rolls in his bogey putt – he’s three-over through six today.
Westwood then steps up to a putt which looks longer to me with each passing second. We know it breaks a bit, too…but he makes it. Phew.
1527 Oh, Matsuyama leads Donaldson by loads of shots by the way so we’re on a winner there bar a real disaster.
Poulter’s chip on 16 is decent enough but the 10-foot putt he has left could dictate whether he can win this championship.
Back on seven, Woods produces a superb lag to make par and remain five back as Stenson’s second to the ninth passes within a foot of the flag before skipping through the green.
1524 What seems like a first mistake from Poulter. His approach to 16 is left and runs out into rough, albeit not the worst spot going on what’s a difficult par-three.
Westwood’s approach to the sixth isn’t his best in terms of distance but it’s out of trouble at the front of the green. Meanwhile we have a new man at level as Mickelson makes birdie on the short par-five ninth before Stenson finds the fairway.
1520 It’s a three-putt bogey for Stenson and a two-putt bogey for Woods. Westwood now leads Poulter and Stenson by three shots.
Thirteen pars, Lee. Thirteen nice, delicious pars.
1518 Poulter’s delicate birdie putt on 15 comes up just short and that’s a par. He has three holes left and will surely know the situation.
That doesn’t mean he, or anyone, knows what the best plan is. Three pars and hope? Try to make three birdies and risk undoing all the good work? My guess would be something between the two as Westwood pounds one down the sixth fairway.
1515 Stenson takes an age over his approach to eight and is a long way from the pin as Poulter splashes onto the green at the 15th. It’s a good shot but still 30 feet short, scant reward for a bomb of a drive.
Back at five, Mahan is first and his double-breaking putt is good, it just doesn’t drop. That’s a par and he remains three behind Westwood.
Make that four! Westwood holes the putt and for the first time today other members of the media join me in outpouring of emotion.
Come on chaps, you might all be older, wiser, even more miserable, but we’re in this together.
1512 Pleased to report that Westwood did find fairway on five but still needs a three-iron for his third. It is an absolute ripper, the best shot he’s hit today, and sets up a good birdie chance from inside 15 feet.
Tiger seems happier with is drive on six but it looks to have found sand and that’s a nasty place to be on what’s a punishing par-four.
Mahan’s third to the fifth is just a shade long but he too is on the green and will have a good birdie chance, perhaps from 20 feet.
1509 Driver for Poulter on 15 and it’s a ripper, chasing all the way down into a pot bunker some 20 or so yards short of the green. It’s a very tough up and down from there whereas had he just flicked past the bunker he’d be as good as on the green.
1506 Poulter pumps the first as the par putt finds the cup. Back on five, Woods gets the pace just about right and has a short par putt to come.
At seven, Stenson’s lengthy birdie putt just about comes to rest inside five feet so there are some crucial par putts coming.
Scott is the one who will be disappointed with par as his short-range birdie attempt on five misses by quite a distance. Back down the fairway, Westwood manages to advance his ball quite a distance although it’s unclear whether it’s on the short grass.
As for those par putts, both Woods and Stenson find the hole.
1503 Woods hates his third on the fifth and will have 50 or more feet for birdie. He’s not on it at all – yet.
At the down wind seventh, Stenson’s approach finds the front portion of the green but some 75 feet from the pin.
Westwood has gone with driver every day at the fifth and sticks to the plan, only this time he’s 10 yards right of target and finds a nasty little pot bunker from where he cannot even consider the green.
Ahead again to 14 and Poulter’s putt isn’t bad, but does leave a nasty four-footer for par.
1500 It’ll be a par for Stenson but probably not for Mahan, who is still off the green in two on the fourth.
Woods manages to lay up in the fifth fairway albeit a long way from the green as Westwood’s birdie putt on four just misses.
He’s leading the field in one-putts this week but so far today has four two-putts. Still, one-over through four is just about par.
As Mahan makes bogey, Poulter finds the edge of the 14th green and will have 40 or so feet for yet another birdie. He’s currently two behind and in third.
1456 Stenson misses the sixth fairway but finds the green with a chasing approach to 15 feet.
On 14, crowds have cottoned onto Poulter and they see him find another fairway. It’s so strange that a player who spends most of the year playing pretty poor golf can produce spells where he’s untouchable.
Fairway for Scott on five but not for Tiger, who again finds thick stuff.
1454 Mahan’s tee-shot on four is right and in thick rough. He’ll have green to work with but needs a good lie.
Westwood now and he’s looking to steady things down after a poor bogey on three where he only hit one decent shot. Big cheers from the crowd reflect how tough this hole is because he’ll have 35 feet for birdie. Good shot.
1452 Bogey for Scott and he’s now two-over, but still within four. With Westwood having still to play the fourth hole, that could soon be three because make no mistake, par on this is taking a shot from the field.
Woods now for his par and it’s wide, so he’s now over-par. At what point does Poulter become favourite? It may have happened had his birdie putt on 13 found the cup but it’s just left and he’s two behind.
1450 Scott’s second on te fourth isn’t bad but he’ll have 25 feet for par. Woods will also do well to make par having left his putt way short.
Ahead on 13, Poulter is in Ryder Cup mode and will have 10 feet or so for another birdie. Since nine he’s gone eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie and is now among the favourites.
1447 Par for Stenson on five and he’s two off the lead. In fact, make that one as Westwood’s par attempt on three grazes the edge but stays up.
It’s a bogey for him and Mahan will have the honour on four after a par.
Meanwhile, Poulter rolls in another on 12 and he’s now level for the championship and five-under today. Astonishing stuff.
1445 Poulter will have another good opportunity on the 12th, from something in the region of 20 feet.
Boosted by good par saves, Scott and Woods are now faced with the hardest hole on the course and it’s Scott first.
His approach is a nasty low hook that finds thick rough. He’ll be pitching into the wind – assuming he can get the ball in the air – but it’s really not a place from where you’d expect him to scramble par.
As Westwood lines up a chip from what’s a good if bare lie, Woods finds the front of the green, an almost identical spot to what which saw Stenson make par.
Back to three, and Westwood’s pitch is pretty good but not great. He’ll have a tricky 10 foot par putt which, if he were to make, would be a real boost.
1441 Tiger makes the save and remains level for the championship. He’s now 11/2 with Sky Bet, who’ve cut Poulter all the way down from 125/1 to 12s as he plays the 12th.
Back on three, Westwood’s second is short and left but he could be lucky as he’s hit into an area trampled down by the crowd. Even so, from where he is par would be a slight surprise.
Stenson’s third to the fifth is well short so birdie looks unlikely, as Scott follows Tiger home for par on the third.
Mahan’s second to the third is short and he’s around 50 feet away, just shy of the putting surface. The wind is really gusting now.
1438 Big par putt coming for Woods after his third comes up eight feet short. On five, Stenson is unfortunate to get a soft bounce with his second and is some way short of the green in two on the par-five.
Scott’s birdie putt is heavy-handed, meanwhile, and he’ll have six feet for par as the penultimate group struggle early.
1435 Obviously, five birdies in five holes is a perfect start but in reality few will better what Mickelson has done, that’s a birdie and four pars. He’s now one-over and four behind Westwood, who finds thick rough on the third.
On 11, Poulter again finds the cup with that new putter of his and at one-over is a real threat here. If he can play the last seven holes in one-under, level-par could yet be a really competitive score even if I feel he’ll probably need one or two better.
Fine tee-shot from Mahan on three.
1433 Mahan makes bogey to fall back to level-par. He really didn’t do much wrong but once you find a fairway bunker, par becomes almost impossible to achieve here.
On three, Woods has a decent enough lie and does well to get to the side of the green. With room to work with and options available, he should manage to come away with a par.
Back on two, Westwood’s birdie try comes up just short but that’s another par in the bag and a stress-free start. Well, perhaps not stress-free, but good shots and good putts have resulted in good scores.
Scott now on the third and that’s a decent enough shot to 30 feet.
1429 Playing to his strengths, it’s driver off the third tee for Scott and he finds the fairway, from where he’ll have a good chance to attack the pin.
As Mahan is forced to splash out sideways on two, Woods hits his customary iron off the third tee but it’s a poor push into the thick stuff.
Back to the second and Westwood. Just a short iron from the first cut and it’s a good one to around 15 or so feet. Mahan’s third is just short of pace and he’ll have 40 feet for par.
1425 Westwood is again in the first cut on two but that’s fine. Over on the fourth, Stenson’s second is just outstanding and he’ll have no more than two and a half feet for par and a fine, fine start.
Back on the second, Woods leaves his birdie putt short and remains level-par for the tournament. Scott has the chance to join him there but it’s one he can’t take and he’ll remain four back on one-over.
Matsuyama meanwhile birdies five to get to two-over and four ahead of Donaldson.
1423 As Mahan appears to find sand off the second tee, I can tell you that Woods is out to 4/1 with Sky Bet with Scott now 10s.
1422 Both Woods and Scott find the second green in two, but it’s Scott who has the real birdie chance from around 12 feet with Woods at least twice that distance away.
Meanwhile ahead on 10, Poulter is making a charge. A birdie from off the green moves him to two-over, five off the lead.
1420 Here comes the first proper test this golf course has to offer for Stenson – the fourth. Close to 200 yards, uphill, into wind and a back-left pin.
His shot is hung out to the right and way, way short, but for now at least it’s clinging to the front.
Back on the first, Westwood’s putt looks in for all money but turns left at the death and that’ll be a par.
Mahan has a chance to slash the deficit and looks to have taken it, before his ball turns the other way. Baffling. Anyway, both would’ve taken a par there and that’s what they have.
1417 Wow – that’s not the start anyone expected from Woods. He misses from four or so feet and is back to level, while Scott is one-over after his bogey five.
Stenson meanwhile makes his birdie so we again have three men under-par.
On one, it’s a great start from Westwood as he sets up a birdie opportunity of around 20 or so feet. I’m already in bits. Mahan’s reply is even better and he’s just 10 feet away – what a start from the final pair.
1415 Ryan Moore and Zach Johnson have made solid, blemish-free starts to remain as they were and the same goes for Phil Mickelson at two-over.
So far only Stenson is under-par from the leading groups but credit to Woods who produces a super putt on the first, leaving four feet for par.
On three, Stenson plays a brilliant wedge to around six feet and has that to get under par.
As for Scott, he should make bogey after a solid chip.
1411 “On the tee from the USA, Hunter Mahan.”
The American is first after warm handshakes with Westwood and caddie Mike Kerr. It’s a lovely, low bullett to the left-hand side of the fairway.
“On the tee from England, Lee Westwood.”
Huge cheers, albeit nobody wanted to join in with mine here in the media centre. It’s a low cutter which just fails to hang on to the fairway but that’s fine in the first cut.
1408 Not the best start for Tiger, who will have a putt in excess of 70 feet for birdie. Early bogey for Cabrera, too, but a big move from Ian Poulter with an eagle on nine and he’s now three-over.
Back at the first, it looks like a bogey at best for Scott after his third trickles through the back of the green.
1406 Par for Stenson on the second and that’s fine, even if his birdie try was on its way to the middle of the hole but lacked the required pace.
On the first, Scott is in a horrible spot, right up against the face of the bunker and with an awkward stance. The sole aim is to get the ball out of sand and he does well to achieve it, but he’s only just past Tiger.
1402 Excellent Matsuyama news – he’s made par at the horribly difficult fourth to Donaldson’s triple-bogey six. That gives our Japanese buddy a three-shot advantage early on.
I am left wondering why I didn’t just stick with him throughout as Sergio plods along in Snedeker’s rear view mirror.
Big mistake on the first from Scott, whose draw keeps turning and finds sand – he may not be able to reach the green from there.
Woods hits a better shot which finds the fairway.
1400 So, here we are. Bloc Party said that, that is before they got all moany. Anyway, I’m pretty sure they were talking about golf and, more specifically, the final round of the Open Championship.
Scott and Woods are on the tee. There won’t be much chat between this pair today – just business. I wonder whether Mahan and Westwood, fellow PING staff players, might be more chatty and whether that will help or not.
1355 Wow, what a bonus that is for Stenson. The Swede plays the first pretty poorly – modest drive, short approach – then holes an absolute monster from 50-odd feet for birdie. He’s now level and three behind.
1347 An early blow for today’s two-balls as Sergio starts bogey-bogey to fall to five-over and probably lose all chance of winning this tournament.
He can still win the two-ball though and, let’s face it, that’s what matters most. Matsuyama and Donaldson remain tied after three pars each.
1340 Westwood and Woods are side by side on the range and both dressed in red with a black tank-top, an item of clothing only acceptable on the golf course.
Meanwhile both today’s two-ball tips are under way, with Matsuyama and Donaldson each recording pars on the first and second holes.
Up ahead it’s now four consecutive bogeys for Bjorn and it looks like Stenson will just need to shoot something sensible to be the top Scandinavian.
1320 I’m expecting a call from Sky Sports News Radio any minute so I’m off to find a quiet spot and a sandwich.
1315 With less than an hour to go before the leaders tee off, it seems a good time to take a look at Sky Bet’s latest prices.
They have Westwood as a 7/4 favourite ahead of Woods at 9/4. Scott is 7/1, Mahan is 15/2, and it’s 20/1 or bigger the rest.
You can have 3/1 that either Scott or Mahan win and that might not be the worst bet if you want to take on the leader – you’re getting two players and a bigger price than Woods alone.
1307 Another bogey for Bjorn as conditions get tougher. He’s now back to where he began the day at six-over and five behind Stenson.
Meanwhile on three it’s a birdie for Els and he’s five-over.
1305 That’s a lovely way to finish for Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, who goes birdie, par, par to finish 10-over and low amateur by five shots.
Well played young man.
1300 Just had a text from a pal who has never been a massive fan of golf.
“I’ve got everything crossed mate,” it reads. “I’ve even bought a small Buddha and some incence.”
With that behind you, what can go wrong eh? One day Westwood will learn of this and refer to it in some kind of interview, preferably one which takes place with me at St Andrews.
1255 The pin on nine today is really accessible, a fact underlined by Bud Cauley’s approach to around 15 feet which he’ll have for eagle.
Meanwhile Bjorn bogeys the fourth which is good news for the Stenson punt as Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rafael Cabrera-Bello get under way.
1240 It does seem the wind has switched slightly, as confirmed by our latest weather report.
Where yesterday it was easterly, today it’s north-easterly and that means both five and 17 are playing somewhat easier, while nine remains reachable.
In short, the par-fives are there to be had today. Westwood played them in eagle, bogey, birdie yesterday, Woods in par, birdie, bogey, Mahan in par, birdie, birdie and Scott in par, birdie, par.
1235 Golf.com and CNN’s Shane O’Donoghue is next to me in the media centre and he’s telling a pal that in his opinion, Westwood appears ready for this.
He reckons Westwood needed the lead but he has it, and it’s his to win.
Shane dresses well and he likes Westwood. He doesn’t have a clue who I am, but I feel like we’re friends.
1233 Another birdie for Bjorn. He’s two-under for the round and four-over for the championship approaching the tough fourth hole.
For what it’s worth, that hole still ranks toughest ahead of 16, 18, eight, 14 and 15. It’s a tough closing stretch.
The scoring holes remain nine, five and 17 in that order – the par-fives. Earlier, Bubba Watson got greenside on the fifth with an iron, even though it’s still playing into the wind.
Of course, he’s a monster hitter but Westwood needed two drivers to get there yesterday so I can only assume the tee is up. As yet the R&A haven’t given us the sheet with the exact yardages.
1230 I like a plan, so here’s today’s.
I’m going to base myself in the media centre and canteen, but I will head out to the practice putting green at around 1345 to see the leaders put the finishing touches on their preparation.
Then it’s back here to take you through what’s going to be a thriller, with occasional forays to 18 if anyone is threatening to post a competitive number.
And, of course, I’ll be there to cheer Westwood down the 72nd hole. I really hope I’m cheering him to a first major success – to have my first working Open happen to be Westwood’s first major would be an absolute dream.
1220 Birdie at the first for Thomas Bjorn, which we could’ve done without given the hefty bet on Henrik Stenson to be top Scandinavian. It looks like a match now and, as of this moment, it’s one that Stenson leads by four.
Speaking of betting, two- and three-balls have served us well this week (just don’t mention Branden Grace) and there are two I like today.
Click here to have a read.
1210 As you’ll know if you read my diary entries over the last fortnight, this is my first Open as a member of the press but second overall.
Now, I don’t believe in fate or omens, but I’m aware that some people do so I feel obliged to tell you that there are certain similarities between this and my previous Open, Turnberry 2009.
The key one is that Westwood again has a chance to win. Four years ago he made a charge from the penultimate group but missed the play-off by a shot after a heartbreaking bogey on 18. Scoring was very similar that week, too.
But what could be interesting – equally it could be irrelevant – is that the first golf person I saw on that trip was Stewart Cink. I watched him tee off down the first and then saw him stride up 18 five hours later on his way to victory.
So far today I’ve not seen anyone and I’m now quite tempted to wander around the players’ area with my eyes closed going ‘Lee, Lee Westwood? Where are you Lee?’ But, for the sake of my career, I’ll give that a miss.
However, the first golf person I saw when I got to the course on Wednesday was Hunter Mahan’s caddie. Gulp. The second person I saw was Adam Scott. Omens? Signs? Fate?
Of course not, silly. Westwood is going to win.
1200 My first impression when strolling the course today was that the conditions were better than at any stage so far, bar perhaps Thursday morning.
That’s been reflected somewhat in the scoring with Jason Dufner having just registered a round of 67 and Bo Van Pelt just one behind that.
However, the latest R&A weather bulletin says that we should expect gusts up to 20mph this afternoon as the sun breaks through the clouds.
It really will be interesting to see if someone on three-over or so can find that 66 which is out there and post one- or two-under. That’d give the leaders a lot to think about – my gut feeling is if Westwood can shoot par he’ll win.
1000 Hello again from Scotland on the fourth and final day of the 142nd Open Championship.
It’s a day which couldn’t really promise more.
Atop the leaderboard is arguably the most popular golfer on the planet, arguably the greatest of all time never to have won a major. Lee Westwood carries with him the hopes of millions and if he can convert a two-shot lead into victory, this day will rank among the greats. The day Westwood won his first major on what’s been widely acclaimed as Britain’s best links course.
But these things are never straightforward and a two-shot lead is fragile at best, especially when the men chasing are firmly fixed within the upper echelons of this wonderful game.
While he might be in the penultimate group, Tiger Woods is the biggest threat to Westwood. Two shots back having stumbled to a 72 yesterday, Woods is searching for a 15th major title and was keen to remind us all that he’s the one who has been there and done it when interviewed last night.
Many will cite the fact that Woods has never won a major from outside the final group on Sunday. It’s interesting, no doubt, but is it all that revealing? Put simply, when Woods was at his dominant best he was in the final group. If he was not in the final group it meant that, that particular week, he was not playing well. It stands to reason that he’d therefore be far less likely to win.
And, crucially, this time he’s in the second-last group simply because of a system which says ‘first in, last out’. He has achieved the same score as Hunter Mahan, but Hunter Mahan finished his round before Woods. It’s a technicality. How many times has Woods been in the penultimate group but so close to the lead and still in second? I’ll try to find out but it’s not many if at all.
There is one opposing view, which is that Woods requires the intimidation factor to win. When he’s in the final group, everyone knows it and his chief rival fails to perform. That’s a view which has become less relevant with each passing year since his one-legged US Open success in 2008.
Let us not forget the role Adam Scott has to play in this. Seeking redemption after last year’s heartbreaking second, he knows that being three shots behind is nothing, really. More than most, Scott has gone about his business quietly and efficiently this week and seems sure to play well today.
As for Mahan, he’s getting used to this. In June he played in the last group in the US Open and went on to finish fourth. By coincidence, an Englishman won his first major that day.
And there are more. Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Francesco Molinari, Sergio Garcia – these are all within range given that last year’s champion Ernie Els came from six behind to win.
It’s going to be a fascinating day and one which I truly hope will end with Lee Westwood finally winning the greatest tournament of them all, so join me from noon to see the action – and my mental wellbeing – unravel.
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