HENRIK STENSON became the first male Swedish golfer to win a major after a memorable final round duel with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.
The two over 40 year olds put on a magnificent display of links golf to for once match the pre-round hype and to make it relatively easy in Australia to sit up till the wee small hours without an Aussie competitor in sight.
The pair began the final day with a heathy lead over the rest of the field and it only got better as they spurred each other on.
Watching the coverage from the other side of the planet you were never sure who was going to win, or who you wanted to win – the 40 year old Swede with no majors in his cabinet or the 46 year old American with six, including the 2013 Open.
Whilst everyone else was struggling with the punishing Royal Troon layout, particularly the back nine, the final pair seemed to be playing a different course. Hitting the greens in reg, and when needed sinking some amazing putts.
In the end, Stenson came home best. He had four birdies in his final five holes to finish at an Open Championship record 20-under.
His 8-under 63 matched Mickelson’s recording equalling round on the first day.
Mickelson “only” managed an eagle and four birdies in a flawless final round to get to 17-under – a score than would have romped in most years.
Stenson had an amazing ten birdies offset by a bogie on the first and another on the 11th.
“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..
“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.”
Stenson acknowledged his 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.”
Mickelson, who lipped out on the 18th in a first round that would have seen the first ever 62 in a major, was gracious in defeat.
“That’s probably the best I’ve played and not won,” he said, in a big statement for a golfer with seven runners up finishes at the US Open.
“It’s disappointing but at least I don’t have to look back and regret something I’ve done.
“It was a challenging day but I’m happy for Henrik. He’s a really great champion. We’ve been friends for some time. I’ve always thought he was one of the best ball-strikers in the game and that major championships should suit him.
“I always knew he would ultimately come through and win. I’m happy that he did but disappointed he did it at my expense.”
As for the rest of the field…
There were other golfers playing Royal Troon on the weekend but they just didn’t seem blessed with the same “sunny” conditions as the final pair.
J B Holmes (69) was third way back at 6-under while Jason Day (71) just never got it going, finishing the best of the Aussies at 1-over.
2016 British Open Final Round Highlights Video