A week after lifting the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open title, Phil Mickelson was cradling the Claret Jug after becoming the first player to win the two titles back-to-back.
His victory in The Open Championship completed the Castle Stuart hat-trick as the last three Open Champions have now played the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open the week before lifting golf’s greatest prize, Mickelson following Darren Clarke and Ernie Els to the title.
When he won at Inverness last week he ranked it as one of his greatest achievements as he finally proved to himself he had the game for links golf.
“Well, winning Castle Stuart, at the time, was a big win for me. But in seven days it has gone down considerably,” he joked.
“It was a special week for me last week because I was playing so well. It gave me confidence heading into this week. It was exactly what I needed to propel me into this championship. And playing well in that final day in difficult conditions gave me the confidence that I could play some of my best golf on links conditions. And I did. Today was as good as I could play. It was one of the best rounds I've ever played.”
He also confirmed he would be at Royal Aberdeen next year as that schedule clearly works for him. “I think that getting your best golf out, and trying to peak for certain events is a very personal thing. Some people like to play the week before, some people don't. For me I do. And for me personally Castle Stuart was a great place for me to get ready.
“It gave me some great links golf experience. I got to hit all the shots that we were playing today. In fact Castle Stuart was very firm and fast, just like it was here at Muirfield. That doesn't mean that it was right for everybody, but it certainly was good it for me.”
Mickelson got his first taste of links golf in the 1991 Walker Cup at Portmarnock, but it has taken him 22 years to finally master the craft to bring home the Claret Jug.
“I did enjoy links golf when I first played at the Walker Cup in '91 at Portmarnock. It was a wonderful test. I played well. But the conditions and the penalty for missed shots in The Open Championship are much more severe than we played then. And it took me a while to figure it out.
“It's been the last eight or nine years I've started to playing it more effectively, I've started to hit the shots more effectively. But even then it's so different than what I grew up playing. I always wondered if I would develop the skills needed to win this championship. And to finally capture this, it feels really, really good.”
Runner-up Henrik Stenson of Sweden also warmed up for his tilt at the title with a tied third finish at Castle Stuart Golf Links last week, whilst the two previous Open Champions – Ernie Els (2012) and Darren Clarke (2011) – also honed their links game by competing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open the week prior to lifting the Claret Jug.