At British Open, a match-play field for final round

by Steven Clarke July 23, 2016, 6:20
At British Open, a match-play field for final round

Troon. - Henrik Stenson emerged victorious from a titanic duel with Phil Mickelson to win the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon yesterday after firing a final round of 63 that equalled the lowest round score in major history. He finished the tournament at 20-under, three shots ahead of second-place Mickelson, who shot a six-under 65 and finished at 17-under.

Mickelson lifted the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013 and the 46-year-old American has not won a tournament since. "I knew I was going to have to battle back if it wasn't, but I think that was the extra self-belief that made me go all the way this week". "He played some great golf and obviously delighted to come out on top this time but thank you very much for a great fight".

Stenson finished at 264, breaking by one shot the 72-hole scoring record in the majors that David Toms set in the 2001 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Stenson and Mickelson were phenomenal all week long, and in any other situation Mickelson's score would have easily taken home the Open trophy.

"It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil. He's been one of the best to play the game, and certainly in the last 20 years".

"I don't remember being in a match like that, where we'd separated ourselves from the field by so many strokes", a disconsolate Mickelson said later.

Mickelson set the tone by birdieing the first hole to reclaim the lead as his playing partner made bogey. Stenson bounced back with three consecutive birdies and Mickelson's eagle on the fourth, when he knocked a 4-iron from 237 yards to 8 feet, only got him a share of the lead. Stenson will be a threat to Mickelson as Round 2 of the British Open 2016 resumes. Mickelson ended an exceptional week by fluttering just the tiniest bit in the final few holes, and that was enough to allow the relentless Stenson to shore up and add to a lead that changed hands seven times in the first 14 holes.

Dark skies at Troon over Phil Mickelson on the 12th green
SNS Dark skies at Troon over Phil Mickelson on the 12th green

Mickelson kept his hopes alive with a 12-footer for par, then watched Stenson nearly drive it into a pot bunker with a 2-shot lead on the last hole.

Henrik Stenson's major championship drought is finally over.

"I want to thank my wife, my family, my team for all their support and for all their hard work, the fans, the R&A and my caddie Gareth Lord. I get you've got to cover it. But why interfere with it?"

Mickelson's approach to the green then span back around 15 feet and caught a down slope that took it closer to the hole, from where he holed for the most unlikely of pars. Over the next 10 holes, they halved with par only twice while combining to score nine birdies, an eagle and one bogey. He became only the second golfer to win a major by carding 63 in the final round, joining Johnny Miller (1973 U.S. Open).

One such effort was his birdie putt at the 18th on Thursday that just refused to drop, agonisingly denying him the first ever round of 62 in a major. Lefty shot a bogey-free 65, good enough to win on just about any Sunday but this one, another runner-up finish in a major providing little consolation.

They traded birdies at No. 10, but Stenson fell into a tie when he bogeyed 11 with a three-putt.

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