Phil Mickelson was spectacular at the British Open on Sunday, but, somehow, Henrik Stenson was even better.
The 40-year-old Swede put together one of the most impressive performances at a major in golf history, shooting an eight-under 63 on the day to finish 20 under par overall, completing a three-stroke victory over Mickelson at Royal Troon in Ayrshire, Scotland.
His score made history, per BBC Sport:
His final tally also tied the best mark at any major, per ESPN Stats & Info. And his 63 tied him for the lowest score in an individual round at a major, alongside Mickelson, who posted that score in Thursday's opening round, and a slew of other golfers.
"Wow, this will take a little while to sink in," Stenson said after play concluded, perI want to thank Phil for a fantastic battle. I want to thank my wife, my family, my team for all their hard work to make this possible. I lost a dear friend to cancer earlier this week, and I feel he’s been with me all week. Mike, this one is for you."
J.B. Holmes won the battle for third place, meanwhile, finishing six under for the tournament. Here's a look at the final leaderboard:
And here are the payouts for the top finishers:
|2016 British Open: Prize Payouts|
|Source: The Telegraph|
Just how good was Stenson? Mickelson shot a final-round 65, his lowest final round at a major in his career, and didn't bogey a single hole, finishing with four birdies and an eagle. And despite that fantastic performance, Stenson still gained two strokes on him.
"It was fun to be part of that challenge," Mickelson said, per ESPN.com's Jason Sobel. "It was disappointing for me, but we've got a great champion."
Stenson's performance on Sunday was the stuff of legend. Despite two bogeys, he dominated the course, finishing with an incredible 10 birdies.
Matt Jones of Bleacher Report was amazed by what he saw:
So was Ben Smith of BBC Sport:
Stenson came into the day with a one-stroke lead, but Mickelson quickly regained the lead on the first with a birdie, whereas Stenson bogeyed the hole. But Stenson would have his lead back by the third, sinking birdies on the next two holes, while Mickelson parred each.
Stenson earned his third straight birdie on No. 4, but Mickelson drew even with this fantastic eagle, via The Open:
Both players would par Nos. 5 and 7 and birdie No. 6. Sobel was left in awe of the level of play:
But Stenson again regained the lead with a birdie on No. 8, while Mickelson parred the hole. Both players parred No. 9 and birdied No. 10, before Stenson's bogey on No. 11 drew them even once again.
Each would par the next two before Stenson appeared to take control over the next two holes, carding birdies on the 14th and 15th to take a two-stroke lead. His birdie on the 15th was nothing short of phenomenal:
ESPN's Mike Greenberg was speechless:
Mickelson missed his eagle attempt by the slightest of margins on No. 16, settling for a birdie, but Stenson didn't blink either, sinking a birdie of his own to retain his two-stroke lead. Both players parred the 17th, which left Mickelson with one final hole to pull even.
Even his par save on No. 17 was breathtaking:
Stenson barely avoided disaster on the 18th, missing the bunker off his tee shot by what appeared to be inches. But it hardly mattered, as he birdied the hole and finished two strokes ahead of Mickelson on the day.
Here was the decisive putt:
It was a special day of golf, with Stenson and Mickelson waging a battle for the ages before the former pulled away down the stretch. Regardless of the result, watching the back-and-forth was a real treat for golf fans, as Oliver Holt of the Daily Mail noted:
"I was hopeful that I could shoot something in the mid-60s," Mickelson said, per Sobel. "I thought anything in the 60s would've been a good round today."
He added, per Sobel, "I played well enough to win by a number of strokes and got beat. I'm happy with the way I played, but disappointed it wasn't enough."
While the scrap between the top two players stole the show, plenty of other golfers provided excellent highlights on the day.
Andrew Johnston, for instance, sunk this fantastic birdie:
And Adam Scott had a nice putt on the third:
The putters didn't provide the only highlights of the day, however. Far from it.
Kevin Chappell hit this fantastic chip at No. 2:
And then there were the two players who made a strong case for shot of the day.
Matt Jones hit this absurd approach on No. 13:
Ryan Palmer matched it on the sixth, however:
But the day belonged to Stenson. It's hard to imagine a player putting together a much more dominant showing at a major—especially one as traditionally perilous as the British Open—and doing so with Mickelson breathing down his neck.
"For some reason, I just felt like this was my time," Stenson said, per Sobel. "And it was."
After finishing second at the tournament in 2013—yes, behind Mickelson, who stormed to the win in the final round at Muirfield—Stenson finally has his first major title.
And given the way he played Sunday, it wouldn't surprise anyone if it wasn't his last.
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