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July 14, 2013

Mickelson wins Scottish Open in playoff for first UK victory

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Phil Mickelson celebrates his Scottish Open win with his wife, Amy, and his children, Evan, Amanda and Sophia (Getty Images).

Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open in a playoff over Branden Grace on Sunday at Castle Stuart in Inverness, Scotland.

The final round was a roller-coaster even by the daring Mickelson's standards. Starting the day two shots behind, Henrik Stenson, Mickelson made a double-bogey on the first hole, then rallied with a barrage of birdies to take a one-shot lead over Grace to the par-5 18th hole, only to three-putt for bogey from less than 20 feet. Stenson shot 73 to finish T3.

On the first playoff hole -- the par-5 18th -- Mickelson pitched his third shot to inside six-inches for a tap-in birdie.

"I almost let it slip away but to come out on top feels terrific," Mickelson said.

Mickelson was using the tournament to hone his links game ahead of next week's British Open at Muirfield and he looks in great shape to challenge for a first claret jug and a fifth major title.

He should tee off on Thursday as No. 5 in the world and 500,000 pounds ($740,000) richer.

Mickelson and Grace shot 3-under 69s in the final round to finish on 17-under 271 and overhaul overnight leader Henrik Stenson, who bogeyed three of his last six holes for a tie for third with unheralded Dane J.B. Hansen on 15 under.

Mickelson had to dig deep to earn his first win on European soil since a capturing a title in Paris on the European Challenge Tour in 1993.

When Mickelson drove into the rough on the first hole, topped his second shot and then three-putted, he dropped four shots behind Stenson, who started in a manner befitting his nickname "The Iceman" in the toughest conditions of the week.

After three calm and sunny days, the wind had picked up off the Moray Firth coastline and made the Castle Stuart course much more challenging. Only five players shot lower than 70.

Mickelson was in more trouble when his chip from just off the third green came up short and rolled back down the hill to his feet. He was now five shots off the leader.

Urged on by a Scottish crowd that has really taken to the American -- a long-time supporter of this tournament and a lover of Scotland and its links courses -- he birdied the next three holes and then picked up shots at Nos. 11, 12 and 14 to take the sole lead, after briefly sharing it with Stenson and Hansen.

See photos from Mickelson's Scottish Open win.

With the two Scandinavians dropping shots coming home, Grace became Mickelson closest challenger, but the American only needed to par the 72nd for victory.

He reached the green serenely in three but slid a putt five feet by the hole, and again back up.

"I was so mad at myself after mentally losing my focus," said Mickelson, who embraced his family before returning back up the 18th hole where he was forced to wait to tee off again after organizers had removed the tee markers, clearly confident Mickelson would finish the job the first time around.

Mickelson held his nerve in the playoff, though, with his approach shot bringing roars of approval from fans in the grandstands.

"The people here in Scotland have treated us so well," he said. "I've really enjoyed my time here."

He now hopes to take his form into Muirfield.

"Although I did a lot of things well, I have certainly things to work on," he added. "Today was great for us to have this type of weather."

The win at Castle Stuart comes on the eve of the British Open, which starts Thursday at Muirfield in Scotland. Mickelson has never won the British Open, although he finished second in 2011.

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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