Henrik Stenson has become the first Swedish player to win a major golf championship after out-duelling Phil Mickelson in a round of golf for the ages.
The final round of the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon was more like a boxing match than the end to a golf tournament. One journalist had described as ‘flat’ before the final round had started, but it finished being anything but flat as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson produced one of the most memorable Sunday’s in Open Championship history.
Stenson finished beating Mickelson by three shots, Stenson becoming the first Swedish player to win the Open with a record-breaking birdie on the last to get to 20-under par; the lowest score in the history of the tournament.
“I felt like this was going to be my turn,” said Stenson, who had previously had three second place finishes and six thirds in Major Championships.
“Right now I’m running on adrenalin. It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil. He’s been one of the best to play the game. So to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days makes it even more special.”
Stenson carded 10 birdies and two bogeys in his phenomenal final round that saw him trade blows with Mickelson on almost every hole. Remarkably through 13 holes Mickelson, who had an eagle, three birdies and an eagle on his card was still in a tie for the lead with Stenson and needed to play out of his skin to keep up with the Swede.
As many predicted before the round, it was just Mickelson and Stenson who battled it out for the Claret Jug, with a whopping 14 strokes separating Stenson from third placed JB Holmes.
The turning point in the battle came at the 15th hole when Stenson holed a monster 50-foot putt from off the green for birdie. When Mickelson missed his 40-footer (this happens most of the time) Stenson had a two-stroke lead and after matching birdies on the 16th hole – yep, more birdies – Stenson took the weight of Sweden on his shoulders and made history.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2016
“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won. 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,” Mickelson said. “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.”
After countryman Jesper Parnevik had finished second twice (1994, 1997) and Stenson himself has second in 2013, this was a historic moment.
“There’s been many great players from my country tried in past years and decades and there’s been a couple of really close calls. Jesper in particular twice,” Stenson said after the round. So he sent me a message, “Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish,” and I’m really proud to have done that, and it’s going to be massive for golf in Sweden with this win.”
Stenson is known as one of the most colourful characters in world golf and after so many near missed he finds himself firmly crossed off the list of players never to have won a major. Never one to miss as opportunity to have a laugh, Stenson joked about the scale of the achievement to the press after the round.
“Yeah, given that I failed my driver’s test probably as many times I was second or third at major championships, that one has to be higher than this, of course (laughter),” Stenson joked. “No, I think the birth of my three children and then winning The Open. Wife is in the corner over there, so thanks for the reminder.”