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PGA Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson wins the British Open

Phil Mickelson
Thomas Lovelock / Sports Illustrated
Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th hole on Sunday to seal his first career British Open title.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Where does Phil Mickelson's 66 at Muirfield on Sunday rank among the finest final rounds in major history?

Joe Passov, senior editor, travel, Golf Magazine: Considering how difficult the course played, as well as the quality and quantity of the other contenders, this ranks awfully high. Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont in '73 was insane, considering how many long approaches he put to within 10 feet, but Muirfield's setup was not at all conducive to close approaches, so really impressive stuff. Putting more tricky than difficult (versus Augusta and U.S. Opens, for instance), but bunkers more problematic. Not No. 1, but top 5 for me.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Phil's 66 ranks with the best of all-time. Especially when you consider that he birdied four of the last six holes during a week when playing those holes in even par was cause for celebration.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It might break into the top 20. Major championship history covers a lot of ground. Phil's finish was terrific but there have been a lot of great ones before. It was a treat to watch.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: It's one of the best final rounds I've seen him play, I'll give you that. I'd rank it up there with his final-round 69 to win the '04 Masters for his first major. I liked how he stuck to his game plan -- conservative, which is definitely against type for our Phil. Also, the guy finished his round in shirtsleeves. It was cold out there!

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Phil's turned in some great final rounds of his own, and he called this one the best he's ever had. That automatically places this round in the pantheon. A few years from now, I wouldn't expect to watch a "Top 10 Countdown" on this topic without see Phil at Muirfield in there somewhere.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com: It's hard to beat shooting the low round of the week on Sunday afternoon on a brutally difficult course. What stood out to me was how lacking in drama it was. We're accustomed to seeing highs and lows from him in the final round of a major -- wild drives, putts sliding by the hole late -- but Mickelson was just impressively steady all day.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I don't know where it ranks, but in the conditions, and given the players he had to leap from, it's the best final round in a major I've ever seen, including Tiger at Pebble in 2000 and Tiger at Augusta in '97, which were clinics but he didn't need to do much. Mickelson had no margin for error, despite the three-shot win.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Nothing will ever beat Jack's final round at the 1986 Masters, but Phil's 66 Sunday was pretty darn impressive. Especially given how Phil started out the week by bashing the setup after his opening round, you'd think he was talking himself right out of the tournament.

2. Mickelson now has five major championship, 42 wins, a U.S. Amateur and six U.S. Open runner-up finishes. What is his place in golf history now, and where do you think he will finish?

Bamberger: His place in golf is unique, because of the U.S. Open history, because of the personality, because of the autographs, because of the giving nature, because of the family health issues, because of the rumor-mongering he has had to endure. He seems to be living large and loving it and how many can say that these days?

Morfit: Gary Van Sickle addressed this recently, and I think he was right. He said Phil would win two more majors. He's now won one more. I think he has one more left in him, which will give him a total of six. He'll then rank up there with Lee Trevino, just a couple majors short of Tom Watson.

Van Sickle: Phil will go down as the second-best player of his generation, overshadowed by Tiger Woods. He'll have to be considered among the top ten players of all time, but he'll also be remembered for his close calls in majors -- 13 fall into the coulda-shoulda won category. He could be challenging Jack's record.

Godich: He's in the top 10 -- and climbing. He lives for the majors, and the way he won the Open Championship will only fuel the fire. Remember, this is a guy who wondered whether his game was suited for the links style of play.

Reiterman: If Phil can win a U.S. Open and complete the career slam, I think he'll be top 10 all-time. Right now I think he's just outside the top 11 -- Woods, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Jones, Hogan, Nelson, Snead, Watson, Sarazen and Trevino.

Ritter: He's the second-best player of this generation, and one of the best of all-time. When Golf Magazine ranked the 20 best players of all time in 2009, Phil landed just outside the top 20. Gotta think he's moved up at least five spots by now, and probably more.

Lynch: Winning the Open and the third leg of the career slam is huge personally for Mickelson -- it's the one event his detractors said his high trajectory/high spin game couldn't handle -- but it doesn't really burnish his legacy all that much. He was already far away the second best player of his generation. He still is.

Passov: For way too long, he's been overlooked as one of history's greats, due to Tiger's dominance and to his own run of excruciating losses. He also hasn't done much on the world stage, and somehow, with his length, short-game genius and shot-making prowess, he's still one major behind Nick Faldo. This fifth major -- and third different one -- elevates him to a different level. Honestly, he's right there in Tom Watson/Arnold Palmer/Gene Sarazen/Lee Trevino/Seve Ballesteros/Walter Hagen territory, just behind Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, though still looking up at the Mount Rushmore of modern golf, Nicklaus, Woods, Jones and Hogan. After his physical and family issues, I never thought he'd accomplish this. As pure as he's playing right now, he still could climb.

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