There are ways to win The Open – and then there’s the way Henrik Stenson became Champion Golfer of the Year at Royal Troon in 2016.
In perhaps the finest head-to-head final round matchup in the game’s history, Stenson shot 63 to fend off Phil Mickelson in a dual of souls for the ages.
Fittingly, our Shot of the Week is Stenson’s sensational putt on the 15th that would come to define his lifting of the Claret Jug.
Here’s a walk through an iconic moment in Open history.Phil lays down the gauntlet
It seemed fate drew Stenson and Mickelson together, the duo having been paired together in the first two rounds of that year’s U.S Open and for the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
Yet when the American carded a first-round 63, then the joint-record round at a major championship, it seemed he would have no peer on the west coast of Scotland.
In Phil’s words, it was “one of the best rounds of my life” – and he had a few to choose from.
There was a lingering sense of disappointment, however, as his three putt on the 18th lipped out and he fell agonisingly short of the first-ever 62. So it was the ninth 63 in The Open’s 144-year history.
Lo and behold, the tenth would arrive just three days later.
Stenson steels himself
That week, Stenson was steelier than ever with the loss of dear friend Mike Gerbich giving him a laser-sharp focus and determination to perform in his honour.
The world number six made 68, 65 and 68 to sit 12 under par and lead Mickelson by a stroke ahead of Sunday’s denouement.
Despite three-putting for bogey on the opening hole, Stenson recovered and the pair both turned in 32. Mickelson, Champion Golfer of the Year in 2013 at Muirfield, saved par on the 12th but gave up ground on the 13th and watched Stenson birdie a par three in sumptuous style.
Then, the par three 15th.
“I just managed to hole a little 51-footer”
Stenson’s tee shot left him over 51 feet from the hole, while Mickelson hit an iron to 30 feet.
The Swede’s putt was a thing of beauty – holding a proud line, breaking right and dropping into the cup, drawing an almighty roar from the grandstand as he punched the air.
Caddie Gareth Lord pulled the flag out with the ball a foot from the hole and couldn’t hide his emotion in roaring the ball in.
Stenson would soon become the first ever Champion Golfer of the Year to finish 20-under and broke Greg Norman’s 1993 record of 267 with an overall 264.
Speaking in 2017, Stenson reminisced: “I just managed to hole a little 51-footer on the 14th.
“It was probably the longest putt I made, or one of them. You could see my reaction – I gave it a good fist-pump on that one.
“I was in good tune with the speed of the greens. You don’t reach 20-under if you don’t have a flat stick that’s working.
“It was an amazing final round and battle with Phil. When you hear the announcement of the Champion Golfer of the Year, that’s a moment I’ll remember forever.”