Henrik Stenson pays tribute to late friend and Phil Mickelson after British Open win
TROON, United Kingdom // Sweden’s Henrik Stenson created history as he claimed his first major title after coming out on top in a sensational shootout with former champion Phil Mickelson to win the 145th Open Championship.
Stenson carded a closing 63 at Royal Troon to become only the second player ever to finish a major on 20 under par, equalling the record set by Jason Day in last year’s US PGA Championship.
Stenson, 40, produced a staggering display to record 10 birdies and two bogeys to beat the Open record of 19 under set by Tiger Woods in 2000, as well as firing only the second 63 in the final round of a major by the eventual winner after Johnny Miller in the 1973 US Open at Oakmont.
Stenson’s 72-hole total of 264 also beat the best in any major set by David Toms in the 2001 US PGA and was three lower than the previous Open record set by Greg Norman at Sandwich in 1993.
Mickelson, who had beaten Stenson into second place to lift the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013, had to settle for second place on 17 under despite a flawless final round of 65, with American JB Holmes an amazing 11 shots further adrift in third.
Although the weather could not match the heatwave for the epic contest between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at nearby Turnberry in 1977, the golf certainly revived memories of the ‘Duel in the Sun’ as the final pair combined for 13 birdies and an eagle.
Stenson had started the day with a one-shot lead, only to three-putt the opening hole from just short of the green after Mickelson had already fired his approach to within two feet.
The resulting birdie took Mickelson to the top of the leaderboard and he almost chipped in for another on the second, but it was Stenson who found the bottom of the cup from 15 feet to draw level.
Another birdie from similar distance on the next restored Stenson’s overnight advantage, only for Mickelson to hole from eight feet for an eagle on the fourth.
Stenson two-putted from long range there for his third straight birdie and the pair traded birdies on the par-five sixth to remain tied for the lead, before world number six Stenson edged in front again with a birdie on the eighth.
Looking to become Sweden’s first male major champion after seven top-four finishes, Stenson rolled in his sixth birdie in the space of nine holes on the 10th, but Mickelson crucially followed him in from eight feet.
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Monday’s cover: So Swede for Stenson
The pair were tied for the lead again when Stenson three-putted the 11th and Mickelson ensured he stayed on level terms by holing from 18 feet for par on the next after twice tangling with the thick rough.
For the second day running and for the third time this week, Stenson birdied the par-three 14th to edge ahead once more, Mickelson having missed his long-range attempt.
Stenson’s approach to the 15th only just found the right-hand edge of the green, but from around 50 feet he holed the birdie putt to claim a two-shot lead for the first time.
Mickelson was not about to throw in the towel and hit a superb approach to the par-five 16th, but after his eagle putt agonisingly slipped across the front of the hole, Stenson holed from four feet for birdie – having missed the green with his second – to remain two ahead with two to play.
An historic 62 was even on the cards after a superb tee shot on the 17th, but after missing the birdie attempt there, Stenson made no such mistake on the 18th to bring a fitting end to an astonishing day.
“Wow, this will take a little while to sink in,” Stenson said. “I am just still trying to find my bearings a little bit.
“I’d like to thank Phil for a fantastic battle, we played some great golf and I am delighted to come out on top but thank you very much for a great fight.
“I want to thank my wife, my family, my team for all their support and for all their hard work, the fans, the R&A and my caddie Gareth Lord.
“I lost a dear friend [Mike Gerbich] on Wednesday morning after battle against cancer and I feel like he was with me. He was a keen golfer, Mike this one is for you.”
Stenson added on Sky Sports: “I know playing against Phil he is never going to ease off.
“In a small way it made it easy as I knew he would not back away.
“But I felt like it was my time. You can’t guarantee it by any means and I had to play some great golf to get there.”
Henrik Stenson Factfile
Born April 5, 1976
Birthplace Gothenburg, Sweden
Home Orlando, Florida, USA
Height 6ft 2in (1.89m)
Turned pro 1998
Joined PGA Tour 2006
PGA Tour victories 4
European Tour victories 10
Major championship wins 1 (2016 British Open)
Ryder Cup 2006-W, 2008-L, 2014-W
McIlroy saves face at Troon
Rory McIlroy signed off a sometimes frustrating week at Troon with a flourish on Sunday by shooting 67 in the final round.
The Northern Irishman’s four-under-par round featured six birdies and two bogeys at the difficult 11th and 12th holes and he finishes at four-under for the championship.
The 2014 champion had four birdies and no dropped shots on the front nine but the inward nine has caused trouble to almost everyone this week and McIlroy was unable to go under-par coming home.
Nevertheless his was on course to be the lowest score of the day which would set him up for a second top-10 finish at a major this year after the Masters at Augusta in April.
“It was a tough week,” said McIlroy, who never recovered from having to play in the most miserable weather conditions of the week during his second round. “I think Friday for our side of the draw especially and then Saturday was a tough day.
“I didn’t take advantage of the easier start on the front nine and when I reflect on this week that meant I couldn’t get anywhere near the leaders.”
Despite that McIlroy showed up the best of the ‘Big Four’, ahead of Dustin Johnson (-2), world No 1 Jason Day (+1) and Jordan Spieth, who ended on two-over despite a final round of 68.
“I felt I played ok. In the conditions I’ve faced this week I felt like I handled them pretty well. I leave with my head held high and go on to Baltusrol.”
The final major the year, the US PGA Championship, will be held at Baltusrol in New Jersey beginning on July 28, an earlier start than usual because of the Rio Olympics.
“I’m playing well. I’m driving the ball great. I think that’s a big thing, especially with the PGA coming up,” McIlroy added. “The PGAs are usually if you can drive the ball well, you’ll do well, and I’ve had success in that tournament before, so I’m really happy with that. I’ll go there feeling pretty good about myself.”
Two of McIlroy’s four major wins have come at the PGA, in 2012 at Kiawah Island and at Valhalla in 2014.
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