Stenson stuns Mickelson to triumph at Royal Troon
Henrik Stenson has won The 145th Open at Royal Troon to become the 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year.
The 40-year-old came into Championship suggesting he had only 12-15 more chances to break his duck and he finally did it at what was the 84th time of asking with an exceptional performance that came close to shredding The Open’s record books.
The Swede started the final day one shot ahead of Phil Mickleson and carded an eight under par 63 studded with ten birdies to claim a three shot victory over the 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year on 20 under par 264.
No wonder the American left-hander appeared shell-shocked as he congratulated his playing partner at the end of a head-to-head battle reminiscent of a similar duel between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus down the coast at Turnberry back in 1977.
On that occasion Nicklaus posted a 66 but came up one short. This time Mickelson scored 65 and still lost. In all truth he was bulldozed into submission by a superb performance by Stenson that ended any lingering doubt that he should be regarded as one of the finest golfers of his age.
The Swede’s closing 63 shaved one shot off the previous record for the lowest last round ever recorded by a winner of The Open, which had previously been set by Greg Norman when he recorded a 64 at Royal St George’s in 1993.
The great Australian had also set a new Championship 72-hole record that year in Kent but Stenson beat it by three and it won’t be lost on the luckless Mickelson that he tied the previous mark without ever coming close to claiming his second Claret Jug.
Those two records will stand out as we look back on one of the greatest episodes in Championship history but back at home he will be lauded as the first male Swede to win a Major Championship and among men of a certain age he will recalled as the fourth golfer over 40 to claim the Claret Jug in the last six years following on from the successes of from Darren Clarke (42 in 2011), Ernie Els (42 in 2012) and Mickelson (43 in 2013).
On the last day The 145TH Open quickly turned into the ‘Henrik and Phil show’ and that was highlighted by the fact that at the end of the round the American was no less than eleven shots ahead of third-placed JB Holmes who shot a closing 69 to finish on five under par 278.
That was a one shot bigger gap than third-placed Hubert Green found himself in back at Turnberry in 1977 and it emphasised the quality of the performance produced by this year’s two leading protagonists.
Further down the leaderboard Steve Stricker also carded a 69 to finish fourth on 279 one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Sergio Garcia.
Andrew “Beef” Johnston was eighth on 281 and Dustin Johnson, Soren Kjeldsen and Bill Haas were tied ninth on 282but in reality it this Championship was all about Stenson and Mickelson.
Their combined exploits will not be forgotten for a long time to come.