Stenson revisits historic win at Royal Troon
As we near the first anniversary of one of the most thrilling final two days in the recent history of The Open and Henrik Stenson has spoken of enormous respect for the player he fought headlong to deny success at Royal Troon.
Stenson and Phil Mickelson have crossed paths often since that weekend last July along the Ayrshire coast.
And very much like the ‘Duel in the Sun’ that unfolded one year short of 40-years earlier at Turnberry, the head-to-head tussle over 36 holes between Stenson and Mickelson was, if not, more thrilling.
The Swede and the American turned last year’s Championship into a two-man dogfight, not giving an inch nor a favour, and for two thrilling days captivating not only golfers but sports fans around the globe.
Of course, the spoils of success went to Stenson carding a last day 63, and the same score Mickelson had shot on day one, to hand Stenson a three-shot victory from the same golfer Stenson had finished a distant runner-up to three years earlier at Muirfield.
That Stenson and Mickelson dominated so much, a question now being asked at sports trivia nights is ‘name the golfer to finish third in The 145th Open in 2016? (the answer being JB Holmes).
But while Stenson and Mickelson may never enjoy a long fireside chat reliving the two rounds, Stenson is grateful that he and Mickelson do remain on good terms.
“I saw Phil at the following tournament, which was the PGA Championship, and you know, it takes two to tango as I wouldn't have shot 20-under and put a new Championship record in the books if it wasn't for him pushing me all the way, either,” said Stenson.
“So, it was a great match and he was very gracious in defeat.
“He's been on the winning side and on the losing side before, as we all have throughout the years. I mean, it's not something that I would sit down with him and relive those moments with Phil. I don't think he would be interested in that and I wouldn't even try and do that.
“I've seen him before, I've seen him after on a lot of occasions and we just have a lot of respect for each other and for each other's game. Phil's been one of the best players in the world for 25 years, so it was a big thing for me to beat him on one to one.
“Like I said, he's been on the good end and on the bad end before and you just accept that.
“I think it possibly could have been easier for him to accept the defeat given how well he played.. I think he said that in his remarks afterwards, that it's the best he's ever played without winning.
“The times that you end up losing and you make a mistake, you three-putt the last hole or something like that, those are the ones that really hurt, but he played a great final round, which would have been good enough to win I guess 99 times out of 100 and this time it wasn't.
“So, that's just the nature of the game and sports in general that sometimes you do your best, you play well and it's just not good enough”.
And in the intervening 10 months Stenson revealed also how much he has enjoyed sitting down with his now seven-year old son, Karl.
“Well, I watched the highlights quite a few times in the following weeks and months, in particular with my seven-year-old son”, said Stenson.
“He was very intrigued and he wanted to go and watch the replays quite a few times. I watched it with him.
“It is always a different experience to watch something whwhen it's actually myself on the screen. I don't know, for some reason I don't feel like I'm playing as well as -- as I actually did. I guess being a professional and a bit of a perfectionist, you always analyse things and oh, I could have done that better, I could have hit that shot closer and so forth.
“Butat the end of the day I made 10 birdies and shot 63, which is a phenomenal score.
“So, I guess I'm a bit harsh if I start criticising that final round. You know, it's a good one to have when you're not playing great and you're feeling a bit down with your game, it's a good one to take and put up on the big screen and watch again.
“I'm sure I will do that in the years to come a few times.”