Henrik Stenson finally broke his major duck at the 41st time of asking after winning The 145th Open at Royal Troon in record-breaking fashion to take his place among the all-time greats.
The 40-year-old, who also became the first Swede to lift the Claret Jug, started the final day one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson and carded an eight-under-par 63, featuring ten birdies, to claim a three-shot victory over the 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year on a 20-under-par 264.
Stenson’s battle with Mickelson over the Ayrshire links will go down as one of the most historic head-to-heads in the history of The Open.
It was apt that it mirrored the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus back in 1977, which took place just down the coast at Turnberry.
The pair played 36 holes together at Royal Troon, trading shot for shot, blow for blow, and pulled away from the rest of the field as the weekend passed – with the eventual gap between Stenson and third-placed JB Holmes and incredible 14 strokes.
The Swede’s closing 63 shaved one shot of the previous record for the lowest last round ever recorded by a winner of The Open, which had been set by Greg Norman when he carded a 64 at Royal St George’s in 1993.
The great Australian had also set a new Open 72-hole record in the same year but Stenson beat it by three, bulldozing any hopes of Mickelson’s about claiming his second Claret Jug and felt immense pride at becoming the first Swede to win a major.
“I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy,” he said after being crowned Champion Golfer of the Year.
“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.”
Capturing the Claret Jug had been a long time coming for Stenson, who had previously had three second-place finishes and six thirds in majors.
After turning professional in 1998, the popular Scandinavian has spent over 250 weeks in the top ten of the Official World Golf Rankings and his career-high ranking of second is the best of any Swedish male golfer.