Stenson edges Mickelson in classic duel
Henrik Stenson has won the British Open at Royal Troon after a thrilling final round. The Swede clinched his first major title at the 42nd attempt. Phil Mickelson finished three shots behind in what was a classic two-man duel over the weekend. The pair was in a league of their own and finished 11 shots clear of the field.
In claiming the famous Claret Jug, 40 year old Stenson becomes the first Scandinavian man to win a major. In a fierce battle that will be remembered fondly in years to come, the world no.6 Stenson finally broke the deadlock sinking long birdie putts at 14 and 15. Even with two bogeys, he carded a major record-equalling round of 63, just as Mickelson did on Thursday.
Stenson finished at 20 under par which breaks the British Open record, previously set at 19 under by Tiger Woods in 2000. He also equals Jason Day’s all-time major record score set at last year’s PGA Championship.
Mickelson, at 46, was looking to become the oldest Open champion since Old Tom Morris 149 years ago. He shot a fabulous, bogey-free round of six under 65, including an eagle at the fourth. And it should have been enough to secure his sixth major title if it wasn’t for the metronomic Stenson.
The epic showdown evoked memories of the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ Open at Turnberry in 1977 when Tom Watson edged Jack Nicklaus. Right from the start, you could tell it was going to be a special day. Both played clutch golf in an extremely high standard round, even better than the day before. Each time one lifted the bar; the other matched, or bettered. It was that good. Very rarely was a fairway missed. The iron shots were often within ten feet of the pin. And the putts were outstanding.
This win was coming for Stenson, though. Just like Dustin Johnson last month, he was due. After four previous top-three finishes at majors and 19 titles to his name, there was a feeling of inevitability about the Swede eventually winning a maiden major.
“I felt like this was going to be my time. It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil. He’s been one of the best to play the game and certainly in the last 20 years”, said Stenson.
In his acceptance speech, Stenson dedicated the win to a friend from Dubai who died of cancer this week. “I felt like he was there with me.”
Mickelson was magnanimous in defeat. “It’s disappointed to come in second by I’m happy for Henrik. He’s a great champion and we’ve been friends for some time. I played close to flawless golf and got beat.”