Stenson wins British Open in a duel vs. Mickelson
Stenson only cared about that silver claret jug. He wound up with so much more Monday.
His final stroke of this major masterpiece was a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Royal Troon that tumbled into the cup on the last turn. His 10th birdie of the round gave him an 8-under 63 to match Johnny Miller for the lowest closing round by a major champion.
Stenson finished at 20-under 264, the lowest 72-hole score ever in a major. He tied Jason Day’s record for lowest under par set last year at the PGA Championship.
Records didn’t matter. This was about winning his first major.
“I didn’t know until they told me in the recorder’s hut,” Stenson said when asked if he knew that last putt was for 63.
Stenson won by three shots over Mickelson, a runner-up for the 11th time in a major, but never like this.
Lefty played bogey-free for a 65 and posted a score (267) that would have won all but two Opens over more than a century.
“A 65 in the final round of a major is usually good enough to win,” Mickelson said.
Not this time.
Stenson held the claret jug and told Mickelson at the closing ceremony, “Thank you very much for a great fight.” Mickelson said it was the best golf he ever played without winning.
“You know he’s not going to back down and he’s going to try to make birdies on every hole,” Stenson said. “So I just tried to do the same, and just delighted to come out on top and managed to win this trophy.”
This was heavyweight material, reminiscent of the “Duel in the Sun” just down the Ayrshire coastline at Turnberry in 1977, when Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus battled right down to the final hole, and no one else was closer than 10 shots.
Stenson and Mickelson were never separated by more than two shots over 40 straight holes until the Swede’s final birdie.
Stenson became only the fourth player to win the British Open with all four rounds in the 60s, joining Tiger Woods, Nick Price and Greg Norman.