"This one's for Sweden"
With one of the most stunning performances in the history of The Open, Henrik Stenson claimed the Claret Jug for his own at Royal Troon today and then declared, “This one’s for Sweden.
It has been a long time coming for Stenson and the country of his birth, but in the end the wait to win The Open was more than worthwhile. Jesper Parnevik, his countryman, had twice come close, but this time there was to be no faltering over the finishing stretch.
Anybody who witnessed Stenson’s battle royale with Phil Mickelson – who threw everything he had at the 40-year-old Swede – will ever forget what unfolded on the famous Ayrshire links. Put simply, it defied belief. Stenson played 36 holes with Mickelson over the weekend and likened it to a prize fight. They traded shot for shot, blow for blow, and pulled away from the rest of the field as if they weren’t there. The winning margin was three strokes, which is something in itself, but the gap between Stenson and JB Holmes, in third, was an incredible 14.
If Mickelson, who started the day one stroke behind, had been offered the 65 he scored before setting off in the final round, he would almost certainly have taken it. No one could have predicted that Stenson would better it by two and claim victory by three, setting a record-breaking score for the Championship of 264.
Parnevik, who led by two heading into the final round at Troon in 1997, but lost out to Justin Leonard, was watching from afar and rooting for his countryman. “Good luck this weekend Henrik Stenson,” he tweeted. “Finish off what I never did. Sweden has waited long enough.” He need not have worried.
“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.”
Needless to say, Stenson felt intense pride at becoming the first Swede to become Champion Golfer of the Year. “I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy,” he said.
“There have been many great players from my country who have tried and there have been a couple of really close calls. This is going to be massive for golf in Sweden.”
One of the most popular and humorous players on tour, Stenson never wastes the chance for a joke. Asked to place his win in the context of other life experiences, he compared it to passing his driving test. “Given that I failed my driving test probably as many times as I was second or third at Major Championships, that one has to be higher than this,” he joked.
More seriously, he added: “No. I think the birth of my three children and then winning The Open.” To which a voice called out: “Good answer.” It was his wife Emma. Not for the first time, his timing had been immaculate.