Those were heartbreaks, to be sure, but at least Mickelson knew he had a shot on any golf course where booming drives and sky-high lob shots could decide the outcome. Despite playing on this side of the Atlantic for 20 years, though, he struggled trying to keep the ball under the wind and his temperament in check whenever he got a crazy bounce — and there were dozens of those.
For the longest time, links golf appeared to be one puzzle he was never going to unlock.
“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,” Mickelson said. “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,” he added a moment later, referring to the claret jug he was holding, “it feels really, really good.”
Just last week, 3 1/2 hours drive up the coast from here, he won the Scottish Open, his first-ever win on the continent. But Castle Stuart wasn’t a true links, and even an opening-round 69 across the fast, firm ground here failed to erase nearly two decades of doubt — especially when Mickelson complained about the condition of the course afterward.
But Mackay saw things differently.
“When he got to 18 on Thursday, he hit the best shot he hit all day and then three-putted. I think that kind of reinforces that stuff happens over here that you really can’t control,” Mackay said. “That you’re going to hit good shots and it’s not going to work out, and you suck it up and you move on.
“And the tournament could have gotten away from him, too, in the fairway bunker on 15 yesterday. And he didn’t let it, you know what I mean? Suck it up and move on. That’s what he did. He was just in a great place all week.”