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July 22, 2013

Lefty claims a trophy he thought might elude him

(Continued)

GULLANE, Scotland —

Westwood managed only one birdie all day, his strong putting touch finally undone by a bunch of errant shots. Woods was happy with the way he hit the ball, but never figured out Muirfield's slick greens, which he insisted got slower as the week went on. Scott held the outright lead on the back nine for the second Open in a row, but was doomed again by four straight bogeys.

"I let a great chance slip," Scott said. "Had I played a little more solid in the middle of that back nine, I could've had a chance coming in."

But this didn't feel like Lytham, where Scott threw away an almost-certain victory on the last four holes and eventual winner Ernie Els was almost apologetic. Mickelson earned this title.

He described it as "probably the best round of my career," complete with "some of the best shots that I've ever hit," and threw in that he "certainly putted better than I've ever putted."

Not a bad combination.

Playing five groups from the end, Mickelson crept into contention on the front side as those ahead of him began to falter. He had a couple of two-putt birdies on the par 5s, made par on everything else, and went to the back side even for the tournament — a score he felt might be good enough to win.

A bogey at the 10th, where Mickelson hit his second shot into a bunker and couldn't get up-and-down, briefly halted his momentum. But the best shots were still to come.

At the par-3 13th, Mickelson knocked a 5-iron to 8 feet and rolled in the putt. At the next hole, a 9-iron curled up 18 feet from the flag and he made that. A par save at the 16th — after the tee shot rolled back off the front of the green — was crucial. When Mickelson went to the tee box at the 17th, he was tied for the lead. By the time he got to the green, 40 feet away after two swings of the 3-wood, the lead was all his.

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