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Phil Mickelson wonders ‘What do I need to do’ to win another major

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Phil Mickelson knows he played well enough to win his sixth major Sunday at Royal Troon and yet all he was left with was a question for the ages.

Phil Mickelson was disappointed by once again finishing second in a major and, despite firing a scorching final-round 65 on Sunday at the Open Championship, noted that the window was closing on his chances of catching that sixth major title.

"It’s not that I have decades left to win majors so each one means a lot to me," Mickelson, 46, said after a three-shot loss to 40-year-old Henrik Stenson at Royal Troon.

Mickelson, who came within a millimeter in Thursday’s opening round of setting a new all-time major scoring record of 62, carded a 6-under that was his lowest finishing round in a major. Indeed, the 2013 Open champion scored in the 60s in three of his four rounds for a week-long tally that would have been good enough to win on almost any other day.

For sure, Mickelson — second to Jack Nicklaus’ 19 runner-up finishes with 11 — would have been the proud final-day owner of 141 of the past 145 Claret Jugs with his 17-under 267.

But not on this day, against this relentless opponent, who threw darts all across Royal Troon. Mickelson kept up with Stenson, each player one-upping the other throughout until the end, when the eventual winner birdied four of his last five holes to his challenger's one on the 16th.

"I thought we played pretty good golf," said Mickelson in a classic understatement about the record-setting heavyweight battle between the two 40-somethings. "I hit a lot of good shots and Henrik made 10 birdies. I mean, that’s really impressive golf."

No kidding. The first Swedish Open winner bettered Tiger Woods’ British Open 2000 record of 19-under, draining a no-doubter for birdie on the 72nd hole to get to 20-under for the tournament and match Jason Day’s mark at last year’s PGA Championship.

Stenson, on his way to the 29th round of 63 in major history, also set a new aggregate score record of 264.

Mickelson did his best to keep up, but those birdies, man.

"It’s disappointing but he just played some incredible golf," Mickelson said. "I threw as much at him as I could and he didn’t make any mistakes.

"He made 10 birdies," Mickelson repeated, as if he were waiting for that number to sink in. "That’s just incredible play."

Mickelson, whose aging bones may be taxed to get it up for another major run starting in 11 days at the PGA, said he was pleased with the state of his game.

"I really like … how my game is coming around, the shots I'm hitting with ease and how I'm able to control the ball off the tee and play stress-free golf," said Mickelson, still in the hunt for his first victory of the 2016 season.

"Three out of four rounds I played stress -free golf. I hit a lot of good shots," he said, "so I'm happy with where my game has come this year. I just haven't gotten the win yet. But I feel like I'm getting some momentum and it’s getting better and better each week."

Still, though, that window.

"I played close to flawless golf and was beat," said a wistful Mickelson. "I’m happy with the way I played but even more disappointed that it wasn't enough. Because you look back and say, ‘Well, what do I need to do?’"