United INVERNESS, Scotland —
Phil Mickelson doffed his cap to an adoring and applauding crowd in the grandstands overlooking the 18th green at the Scottish Open, and walked to the side of the putting surface to hug his wife and three children.
It was a similar scene 20 minutes later — this time with Mickelson having seized his second chance to secure a first victory in Europe in 20 years.
Mickelson beat Branden Grace in a playoff Sunday after putting himself, his family and his growing legion of Scottish fans through a tense finale on a wild final day on the Castle Stuart links.
"Nobody likes a movie that is predictable," said Mickelson, who appears to be as popular in the Highlands as he is back in California. "You always want to have a little bit of suspense."
After overcoming a terrible start to his last round and wiping out a five-shot deficit to overnight leader Henrik Stenson, Mickelson only needed two putts for par on the 72nd hole to complete the perfect preparation for next week's British Open at Muirfield.
From the fringe, 15 feet out, his putt raced past the hole and his return effort from 5 feet clipped the edge of the cup and stayed out. That meant a new duel with Grace, who shot a 69 like Mickelson in the final round to finish at 17-under 271.
Before heading back up the par-5 18th, Lefty embraced his family, who had been waiting nearby hoping to celebrate with him.
"I was just getting a little luck from them. And refocusing after making a mistake like that," Mickelson said.
It was skill rather than luck that eventually decided things in his favor.
With Grace landing his third shot in the playoff 25 feet away, Mickelson seized his chance by producing a pitch from 45 yards with a 64-degree wedge that spanned back to within a foot of the pin.