In an astounding toe-to-toe slugfest on Royal Troon’s ancient, rumpled ground, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson were two old men battling by the sea.
With each birdie traded and every gut-wrenching par exchanged on a magical Sunday by the Firth of Clyde, the pair of 40-somethings didn’t give an inch in a battle for the ages and for the title in the 145th British Open.
Reminiscent of the historic Duel in the Sun 39 years ago, when Tom Watson got the better of Jack Nicklaus by one shot at Turnberry to win the Claret Jug, Mickelson and Stenson tussled from the first hole onward and didn’t settle this masterpiece until the final hole.
When the curtain was drawn on the oldest major championship in golf, Stenson was three shots clear of Mickelson and holding the Claret Jug under sunshine peeking through the clouds.
After finishing fourth or better in seven majors, Stenson, who turned 40 in April, won his first by joining Johnny Miller as the only players to shoot 63 in the final round to win a major. With 10 birdies, including four on the back nine to hold off Mickelson, who at 46 was trying to become the oldest winner of the Open since Old Tom Morris back in the 19th century, Stenson finished at 20-under 264, the lowest total ever shot in a major and three shots clear of the lowest total in the Open.
Stenson also broke Tiger Woods’ record (-19 in 2000 at St. Andrews) for lowest winning total in relation to par in the Open. Oh, and his 63 was just the 29th time someone’s gone that low in a major.
J.B. Holmes won the consolation prize as he closed with a 69 to finish third — 14 shots behind Stenson.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I’m very happy,” Stenson said. “It was a great match with Phil. It seemed like it was going to be a two-horse race, and it was all the way to the end. I knew he wasn’t going to back down at any point, and in a way that makes it easier for myself. I knew I had to keep on pushing, keep on giving myself birdie chances and he wasn’t going to give it to me, so I had to pull away. I’m just delighted I managed to do that with a couple of birdies at the right time on the final stretch.
To continue reading this article, click here.