Phil the finisher: Mickelson unlikely winner

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It was a day full of fist-pumps for Phil Mickelson.

Well, this was a surprise from a statistical perspective in a number of respects.

Phil Mickelson had never had a final round like the one he had on Sunday, capping an improbable comeback from five shots down at The Open to win by three shots.

Mickelson is only the third golfer in the last 100 years to be down five shots after 54 holes in a major to rally to win by at least three shots. The other two were Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters and Justin Leonard at the 1997 Open Championship.

Let’s look at the numbers that go with this unlikely victory.

The history

This is Mickelson’s first Open Championship and fifth major title. His five majors since 2004 rank second to Tiger Woods’ six in that span.

Most Appearances by Winner
Before 1st Open Championship Win

This was Mickelson’s 20th Open start, tying the record for most starts before a first win at The Open.

Mickelson has won three of the four legs of the career Grand Slam, needing only a victory in the U.S. Open, at which he’s finished runner-up six times, to complete it.

Mickelson’s 66 was the lowest final round in a major in his career and tied the lowest final round by a major winner since 2000. It also tied the lowest round of the tournament (Zach Johnson shot a 66 in the first round).

Mickelson, the third straight Open winner age 42 or older, played the final six holes in four under par (four birdies). He totaled four over par on those same holes in rounds one through three.

No player had more than two birdies on holes 13 through 18 in the final round. Mickelson is the only player with four birdies on these holes in a single round in the entire tournament.

Mickelson (age 43) is the oldest player to win a major since Ben Crenshaw at the 1995 Masters (also 43).

Tough day for Tiger

Tiger Woods continued to struggle closing out majors. His 74 tied his highest final round score at The Open as a pro. Over his last six majors, Woods is 11-under in the first two rounds, but 23-over in the second two rounds.

Tiger Woods In Majors
Rounds 3 and 4 Since 2005

This marked the ninth time he finished in the top-6 in a major since his last major win at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods was within two shots of the lead entering the final round Sunday, the sixth time he's been either one or two shots back entering the final round of a major. He's never broken 70 in any of those final rounds, and still never won a major when trailing.

Westwood unable to finish

This marked the second time that Lee Westwood failed to convert a 54-hole lead in a major. In each instance (the other being the 2010 Masters), Westwood lost to Mickelson.

Westwood now has eight top three finishes in a major, the most by anyone without a win since the Masters began in 1934.

Westwood did lead the field in one area this week, finishing with 33 one-putts.