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Patient Mickelson claims first European win

ESPN staff
July 14, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open on Sunday © Getty Images
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After missing a putt for victory in regulation at the Scottish Open on Sunday, Phil Mickelson regrouped to win his first senior professional event on European soil at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.

The left-hander had a six-footer for par at the 18th to win the tournament within normal time on Sunday evening, but slid that opportunity past the hole to slip into a play-off with the resolute Branden Grace.

But he responded marvellously when forced to play Castle Stuart's closing par-five for a second time in 15 minutes - pitching up to within inches of the cup to force Grace to hole his 25-footer for birdie to continue matters, something the South African was unable to do.

A win at a minor Paris tournament 20 years ago aside, it was Mickelson's first ever professional victory on European soil.

"This is really cool," the American said afterwards. "I almost let it slide away today but to come out on top feels terrific.

"I've had so much fun over here the last three years, it's nice to win."

It did not look like it would be Mickelson's day when he opened with a double-bogey, but he rallied back to take control of the tournament thanks to six birdies between the fourth and 14th. As JB Hansen and Henrik Stenson fell back due to late slips (the duo would eventually share third), it was left to Grace to provide the American with his only real challenge.

A closing 69 from Grace - who won last year across the country at St Andrews in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - set the clubhouse mark at 17-under par, with Mickelson one ahead with just the last still to play.

But the four-time major champion paid the price for a lapse in concentration, three-putting from just off the green to slip down to level terms with Grace after his matching final round.

Returning to the 18th tee, both men avoided trouble with their tee shots. Mickelson was more aggressive with his second shot than Grace, whose third shot also did not find its way into obvious birdie range.

Mickelson, with a little bit of green to work with and the knowledge that a great shot would almost certainly seal victory, duly hit a crisp, spinning chip that checked up and rolled back to inches from the hole - tapping in to complete a win that would be formally confirmed moments later.

"I was so mad at myself for mentally losing my focus that I came out on the 18th pretty focused to make a four," he added.

"It was 45-yards, with the pin in that hollow, and all I had to do was fly it to the hole or just past with a little bit of spin and it would funnel back."

With Stenson and Hansen - who recovered from a nine at the second - both two shots back, the British trio of Martin Laird, Gareth Maybin and John Parry completed the top-five at 14-under.

Mickelson's win was also good news for Scott Stallings, who sealed his qualification berth for the Open by virtue of being the first player on the reserve list for the major championship. A spot had been set aside for the Scottish Open winner, but Mickelson was already exempt for next week at Muirfield.

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