Phil Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes of the Open Championship at Muirfield to claim the prize that even he had doubted was within his compass. In taking possession of the Claret Jug, another level of professional fulfilment had been attained, a fifth major and the third element of a career Grand Slam. He was a popular winner, the only man to break par over four rounds and three strokes better than anyone else. This famous course does not permit imposters to sully its roll of honour. The company he keeps is consummate with his standing in the game. Now that he has conquered the wild frontier, the exposed links which had prodded his weaknesses with their crooked finger, he deserves a recognition which many were not prepared to concede. When we speak of the greatest, no longer should he remain an embarrassed afterthought.
Funny how things work out. When a seventeen year old Justin Rose chipped in from the rough on the final hole at Birkdale in 1998 to finish tied for fourth in the Open Championship we thought we’d found our next superstar. It was just two years after Nick Faldo last donned the green jacket at Augusta and this young amateur was hailed as his heir apparent. At the time I remember thinking that in the euphoria of the moment he took the plunge with undue haste, joining the professional ranks without a backward glance. Carpe diem perhaps, and who am I to criticise? Twenty one missed cuts later and we Brits were able to indulge in our traditional past-time of gleefully knocking down what we had manically built up. Rose ignored it all and, though it took longer than any of us might have hoped, finally delivered on that promise on a wild weekend in Pennsylvania. Destiny rarely works to a timetable.