Two guys at two different stages of their careers. But both were on the same track Sunday. They won a tournament in two different countries in two different continents. And they got the same way.
Phil Mickelson, 43 years old, and 19-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth won over the weekend on different tours. Mickelson conquered Europe’s finest at the Scottish Open while Spieth overcame a final-round deficit and the defending champion at the John Deere Classic. These were some of the very few differences between the two.
Both began the final round not atop the leaderboard. Mickelson trailed Henrik Stenson by two and Spieth was in a huge hole, nine strokes behind Daniel Summerhays. The two also went to a playoff due to a bogey at the 72nd hole.
Photo Credit: AP / Kenny Smith / PA
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Mickelson led Branden Grace by a stroke heading to the par-five eighteenth. He played it perfectly, putting it hole-high just off the green on his third shot. He proceeded to put it a couple feet past the hole. The pressure appeared to get to the four-time major champion as he pulled the par putt. A 73rd hole would be required to determine a champion.
Spieth, on the other hand, was done with his round when Zach Johnson got to the eighteenth with a one-shot lead. Johnson drove it into a fairway bunker, then put it in the rough short and right of the green. A tough lie and a tough pin location in the backside of the green, Johnson chipped it pin-high on the fringe. Another chip just left of the cup and Spieth lived to see another hole.
Back across the pond where Mickelson and Grace went back to the eighteenth tee to play the par-five again. Lefty has always been a daredevil and he put his second shot just short and right of the green. Grace laid up with his second then put his third safely on the green, but still had a long putt for birdie. Mickelson, the king of the short game, flopped it up with backspin to within a foot. He wasted no time, tapping it in before Grace putted. Grace gave it a shot, but it went on past the cup, making Mickelson the champ.
In Illinois, a three-way tie for first would be decided by sudden death. Johnson almost made up for bogeying the last by hitting the stick with his birdie chip. All three parred it, then parred the next two before going to the par-five seventeenth. David Hearn hit his second greenside just left of the green. Then, he pitched it to under five feet. Spieth and Johnson both had long putts for birdies. Advantage: Hearn. Not surprisingly, Spieth and Johnson two-putted for par, setting up a very makeable putt for the win for Hearn. The pressure definitely got to him as he lipped out for his first PGA Tour victory.
Photo Credit: AP
And it was back to the eighteenth for now a fourth time for the three players. All three drove it right into the trees. Hearn was way back after hitting one of the trees. He punched out and left himself a long shot into the green for his third. Johnson tried to go for it, but hit a tree and it bounced straight left into the pond. He was basically out of it. Now Spieth finally had the advantage. He squeezed his shot through the trees and to the back of the green. A perfect shot from a very unperfect lie. Hearn hit a nice approach to the back part of the green. Spieth again, like the first playoff hole, had a putt for the win. He lagged it just short, two feet away. Now Hearn again had a pressure putt. This time he put it right and the 19-year-old rookie had a tap in for his first PGA Tour win. He didn’t miss it, putting it in the center. Not only did this give him a trip to The Open Championship this week. It also gave him full membership on the PGA Tour and his FedEx Cup points now counted.
Mickelson won for the first time in Europe since 1993, and as mentioned Spieth won for the first time ever on the PGA Tour. Both, also, are going to Muirfield this week for the third major of the year, The Open Championship. And both should be heavy favorites to win The Claret Jug.
Even though Mickelson and Spieth are separated by 24 years, they both were up to the challenge Sunday. Mickelson is towards the end of his career and Spieth is just beginning, but both want their first major championship at the home of golf, Scotland.
The 142nd Open Championship begins on Thursday in Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland at Muirfield Golf Links. This will mark the eighth time since 1959 the championship returns here.