ROYAL TROON, SCOTLAND—Sunday’s final round of The Open Championship at Royal Troon was on for the record books. It was pretty much a two-horse race as Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson had separated themselves from the rest of the pack. However, the fireworks were bountiful in the gloomy Scottish sky as the two professionals gave us a performance that will be remembered as one of the best ever.
Going into the Sunday finale, the two were separated by 1-stroke. Stenson finished the third round at 12-under and Mickelson was chomping at his heels at 11-under.
Three years prior, Stenson finished runner-up to Mickelson at the 2013 Open at Muirfield. He made sure that the outcome was different in 2016.
After the first hole, Stenson’s lead had been relinquished as he bogeyed and Mickelson found the bottom of the cup for a birdie.
Henrik’s desire was eminent as he birdied five of the next seven holes to retake the lead by one over Lefty.
The two were neck-and-neck throughout the round, pushing each other to unforeseen limits and possibilities. Mickelson rolled in an impressive par-saving putt on 17 to keep him within 2-strokes and stoking a glimmer of hope for his Championship dreams.
Stenson ended the drama there and stomped out the flickering flame as he rolled in yet another birdie on 18 to seal his victory and first Major win by 3-strokes.
His 20-under total eclipsed Tiger Woods’ 19-under-par record total in winning The Open at St Andrews in 2000.
It also equals Jason Day’s record in a major, which the world number one set at the 2015 US PGA Championship.
Stenson’s final round 63 also beats two-time Open champion Greg Norman’s 64 at Royal St George’s in 1993 as the lowest final round by a champion.
Stenson said of his performance after the round, “I had to play my best to get it over the finish line. I lost a dear friend on Wednesday morning in the United States from cancer and I feel like he has been with me all week, Mike this one is for you.” He becomes the fourth man over 40 to win the Claret Jug in the last six years.
Mickelson’s final score of 17-under would have won 140 of the previous 144 championships. “I’m happy with the way I played, but disappointed it wasn’t enough. I played a bogey-free round and shot 65 in the final round of a major, usually that’s good enough to do it. And I got beat,” said Mickelson to the press after the round. “It’s disappointing to come in second, but I’m happy for Henrik. He’s really a great champion.”
The second place finish is Mickelson’s 11th of his career, second only to Jack Nicklaus.