Sunday, 14 July 2013
Phil Mickelson - 2013 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Champion  (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson - 2013 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Champion (Getty Images)
Phil Mickelson went from agony to ecstasy to win the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after a play-off with Branden Grace.

Needing just a par five at the last to secure victory in regulation play, the American uncharacteristically took three from the edge of the green.

That meant extra holes with South African Grace, who was already in the clubhouse on 17 under at that stage.

But on the first trip back down the 18th, Mickelson produced a stunning wedge to within a few inches of the cup and Grace could not match his birdie.

"This is really cool," said Mickelson, who claimed his first individual victory in Britain just four days before the start of The Open Championship at Muirfield.

"I have been coming here for some time and had some opportunities and I almost let it slip away today. To come out on top was terrific.

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

“I started coming here around 2000 or so and spent a lot of years here enjoying my time in Scotland and enjoying this competition, I’ve come close a couple of times, and to finally win, that feels great. 

“It's important to me, and it's probably the biggest challenge of my career hitting the shots that are required here. And so to win here and to play well here, finally win on a links golf course, it really means a lot to me, and it also builds my confidence heading into future Scottish and British Opens.” 

Mickelson began his round with a double bogey six on the first after topping his second shot and three-putting, but birdied four of his next five holes and also picked up three more shots at the start of the back nine.

A birdie on the 14th gave him the lead for the first time and three straight pars, including an excellent save on the 17th, had seemingly secured the €579,080 first prize.

However, the four-time Major winner's closing bogey meant a round of 69 to match that of Grace in the group ahead and a second Scottish Open play-off, the left-hander having lost out to France's Gregory Havret at Loch Lomond in 2007.

Overnight leader Henrik Stenson and Denmark's JB Hansen shared third place on 15 under, Hansen having threatened to pull off one of the most remarkable victories ever seen.

The 22 year old began the final round just two shots off the lead but his chances of a maiden European Tour title looked to have disappeared with a quadruple-bogey nine on the par five second.

However, Hansen bounced back with five birdies in succession, picked up another shot on the ninth to be out in 34 and when he birdied the tenth as well was suddenly in the outright lead.

The Challenge Tour graduate also got back into a share of the lead after Stenson had overhauled him with birdies on the tenth and 11th, only to drop three shots in his last four holes.

A place in The Open was on offer to the winner of the tournament if not already exempt, but with Mickelson taking the title first reserve Scott Stallings gets the Muirfield berth.

Asked if it was possible to win back-to-back events and lift the Claret Jug for the first time next week, Mickelson added: "I certainly hope so. I don't think there is a better way to get ready for a Major Championship than playing the week before and getting into contention and coming out on top just gives me more confidence.

"But there's a lot of luck involved in the Open. You need some luck with your tee times, you need to play well and have some good bounces.

"This really was valuable (preparation), not only for the things I did well but because I have a few things I need to work on. Today was a great day to have this type of weather because the first three days were very benign. I am anticipating this type of weather next week and if we get it, this week is going to be very important."

Grace had played the back nine in 32 but was unable to birdie the 18th in regulation and was unlucky in the play-off to see his approach pull up around 20 feet short of the flag.

"I hit what I thought was a great third shot and it came up short," he said. "I was surprised it didn't skip up coming out of the rough.

"You never know what's going to happen but with the touch he's got you think he's going to do something spectacular and that's what he did, so all the best to him."

Hansen, who all but secured his playing rights for next season, was still disappointed with his finish.

"I’m very disappointed. To finish three over for the last four holes is not what I expected.

"I felt really good when I had the lead and had good hold of my nerves. I really had the feeling I could win this. It's been a very valuable experience. I played fantastic golf this week, just what I needed at this time of the season."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
2GRACE, BrandenRSA18-17
T3STENSON, HenrikSWE18-15
T5LAIRD, MartinSCO18-14
T5MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-14

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