Stenson wins duel with Mickelson to claim British Open
TROON, Scotland — Henrik Stenson is the champion golfer of the year, thanks to a final round for the ages.
He kept hitting the best shots of his life, one after another, and he needed each one to stay ahead of Phil Mickelson in a British Open duel that ranked among the best in major championship history.
Stenson made 10 birdies, including a 50-foot putt across the 15th green that had him pumping his fist in a rare show of emotion Sunday.
The final stroke in this masterpiece was a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that curled into the cup on the final turn. It gave him an 8-under 63, tying Johnny Miller at Oakmont for the greatest closing round by a major champion, and Stenson didn’t even realize it until he sat down to sign his card.
Records didn’t matter. This was about winning his first major.
“Right now I’m running on adrenaline. But there will be some point when I’ll struggle to make it up the stairs when I get back to the house,” Stenson said after four hours of an epic battle between two 40-somethings at Royal Troon.
Mickelson was a runner-up for the 11th time in a major, but never like this. He can’t look back at a mistake because he really didn’t make any. He opened with a 63, closed with a career-best 65, shot the second-best score in Open history and was 11 shots better than everyone in the field.
“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won,” Mickelson said. “I think that’s probably why it’s disappointing in that I don’t have a point where I can look back and say, ‘I should have done that or had I only done this.’ I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major. Usually, that’s good enough to do it, and I got beat. I got beat by 10 birdies.”
He got beat by arguably the best final round in 156 years of major championships.
Miller also made 10 birdies in his final round of the 1973 U.S. Open, and then waited to see if anyone could catch him. Stenson started the final round with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, and knew it would be a two-man race from the opening hole when Mickelson nearly holed out from the fairway.