No real loser in epic Stenson-Mickelson showdown at British Open

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Henrik Stenson, Phil MickelsonHenrik Stenson’s record breaking British Open win at Scotland’s Royal Troon was a two-person battle with 46 year old, five time major champion Phil Mickelson. It will go down as one of the best weekends ever in golf.

The Swedish champion, the first Scandinavian to win a major championship (The Masters, US Open, British Open, US PGA), set a major championship record for a major at 20-under par and his final round 63 tied the lowest closing round in major championship history to Johnny Miller’s 63 at the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

The 40 year old Stenson’s three-shot victory over Mickelson with rounds of 68, 65, 68, 63 came in a windswept setting with cold weather clothing and stocking caps the norm for spectators and competitors alike. Stenson’s final round 63 and Mickelson’s 65 to go along with the legendary American’s rounds of 63, 69, 70 lapped the field. The closest golfer to this two-man show was American J.B. Holmes who finished a distant 11 strokes behind Mickelson for third place.

This year’s Open championship brings back memories of the 1977 epic at Turnberry, now known as The Duel in the Sun, when Tom Watson edged Jack Nicklaus by a single stroke. That weekend, Hubert Green finished a distant third, 10 strokes behind Nicklaus.

Mickelson in his swashbuckling Arnold Palmer style of play was vying to become the oldest British Open Champion in the modern era. He came out firing with a birdie on the first hole.

This quasi-match play scenario began taking shape in the third round with neither of the duo being separated by more than two strokes over 40 holes. When they approached the par 3, 14th hole tied for the lead Sunday, Stenson holed an 18-footer for birdie to take the lead. On the 15th hole, Stenson drained an amazing 50 foot putt for birdie to stretch out to a two shot lead going into 16, site of the a deciding factor in Stenson’s win. Mickelson’s eagle putt came so close while Stenson got up and down for birdie from the very deep rough. Phil was superb, but Henrik was even better.

“It’s probably the best I’ve ever played and not won,” Mickelson said. “I think that’s probably why it’s disappointing in that I don’t have a point where I can look back and say, I should have done that or had I only done this. I played a bogey- free round of 65 on the final round of a major, usually that’s good to do it, and I got beat.”

Henrik Stenson’s place is now in golf history with the coveted claret jug now in his possession in epic style.

”It hasn’t sunk in yet.” he said. “But I’m very happy.” “I felt,” he said, “Like this was going to be my turn.”

A historical turn indeed it was, one for the ages.

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