Phil Mickelson wins the 2013 British Open at Muirfield

Andrew Redington

Phil Mickelson put an end to speculation about a playoff at Muirfield when he tapped in for birdie on the 17th hole for his first British Open title.

Phil Mickelson appears to have figured out that links golf thing, going back-to-back in Scotland with his first British Open title following last week’s victory in the Scottish Open.

"I used to hate it," Lefty said earlier in the week about his relationship with links golf. "Now I love it."

And he showed it.

Mickelson put an end to his futility in the U.K. with birdies on four of his final six holes, including on the 17th and 18th, to get to 5-under 66, 3-under for the week, and a three-shot victory over Henrik Stenson. He was the only player in the field to finish the tourney under par, as third-place finishers Ian Poulter, Adam Scott, and Lee Westwood came in at 1-over (Tiger Woods struggled to a share of sixth place, at 2-over).

"Great players make great plays when they need them the most," ESPN’s Paul Azinger gushed after Mickelson tapped in for a four on No. 17.

Lefty, who can’t seem to win his own national championship, had just two top-10 finishes in 19 previous starts at the Open Championship. The five-time major champion played the front nine in 2-under, the incoming nine at 3-under, and clearly whatever he figured out about his flat stick paid dividends for the 43-year-old from San Diego.

"I’m playing some of the best golf of my career and today was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played," Mickelson, the third consecutive 40-something winner (after Darren Clarke and Ernie Els) of the Open, told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after his incredible round. "It’s the best I've ever putted….It just was going in the hole. Just an incredible day on the greens."

Philputt_medium

Mickelson, who finished second for a record sixth time at last month’s U.S. Open, began Sunday five shots back of 54-hole leader Westwood, who will exit Muirfield still chasing his first major title. He ended his day with arms raised, an emotional hug with caddie Jim Mackay, and a tearful reunion with his family off the 18th green that left no doubt how much Sunday’s win meant to him.

More golf from SB Nation:

Phil wins his first Open

Phil celebrates in style

Tiger is not having a good time at the British Open

GIFs: Rinaldi laugh is back | Snedeker goes around the world

Final round leaderboard updates and coverage from Muirfield

A guide to Muirfield | A links course defined

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