Henrik Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson in an utterly engrossing and unforgettable duel to deservedly claim a first major title at The Open on Sunday (17 July). The Swede, who finished runner-up to his rival in 2013, boasted a narrow overnight lead and held his nerve throughout a historic final round to card an8-under63 and claim the iconic claret jug with a record-lowest overall score of 20-under par at Royal Troon in South Ayrshire, Scotland.
"This will take a while to sink in, I am still getting my bearings," Stenson said after his superb victory. "It seems like it was not going to be anyone else but the two of us. I am delighted to come out on top. Thank you very much for a great fight."
"I want to thank my wife, my family, my team, all the hard work has helped to make this possible and my caddie Gareth Lord. I lost a dear friend on Wednesday morning in the States from cancer and I feel like he has been with me all week, Mike this one is for you."
The contest began with an immediate two-shot swing when Mickelson struck an excellent shot to the green and successfully putted for birdie. Stenson bogeyed to relinquish his advantage, but recovered with consecutive birdies of his own.
An eagle from the American at four left things all square, before another birdie from the eventual winner on the eighth saw him edge ahead once more. A best-ball 7-under 29 on the front nine spoke volumes as to the remarkable and often spellbinding quality of golf on display.
A bogey from Stenson at 11 levelled things up again and Mickelson then saved par with a wonderful putt. The former crucially restored his slender lead with a birdie at 14 and nailed an excellent long putt on the next hole to crucially extend that advantage further.
Mickelson came within a whisker of another eagle with time slipping away, only to frustratingly settle for a tap-in birdie. Stenson matched to take that two-stroke margin into the par-three 17th, where he hit a tremendous shot off the tee to all but secure victory.
He spurned the chance to birdie, instead settling for par and celebrating a truly momentous victory in style with a long birdie putt on the 18th green. Mickelson parred the final two holes to finish as a major runner-up for the 11th time with an excellent 6-under 65. He was 17-under for the tournament.
The rest of the field were simply an irrelevance for most of the weekend in the face of such brilliance, with JB Holmes eventually securing his best major finish 11 shots back in third. Steve Stricker was fourth and 2014 winner Rory McIlroy was tied for fifth at four-under alongside England's Tyrrell Hatton and Sergio Garcia. Andrew 'Beef' Johnston finished a memorable week in eighth on three-under. Deposed champion Zach Johnson was 12th.