GOLF: Henrik Stenson is called the Iceman for a reason, and records melted with his 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole to beat veteran Phil Mickelson by three shots and win a classic British Open.
The world No.6’s 20-under-par total of 264 was the lowest 72-hole score in Open history and the lowest in any major.
It beat Greg Norman’s total from Royal St George’s in 1993 by three strokes, and Tiger Woods’ 19-under-par winning score from St Andrews in 2000 by one.
Stenson’s eight-under was only the second 63 in the final round to win a major, after American Johnny Miller achieved the score at the 1973 US Open.
The first male golfer to win a major for Sweden, it’s been quite a comeback for the Swede, who had slumped to world No.230 in 2012 and who lost $A17.5 million in the Allen Stanford financial scandal in 2009.
The 40-year-old takes home $A3 million for his troubles at Troon.
“Wow, this will take a little while to sink in,” he said as he held the coveted Claret Jug. “I’m still trying to find my bearings here.”
Stenson, who had the chance to record the first ever 62 in a major but missed a five-footer for birdie at the 17th, agreed it felt like a heavyweight boxing contest against Mickelson.
“We managed to pull away from the rest of the field and we both played some great golf,” Stenson said.
“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. So to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days, it makes it even more special.
“I knew he wasn’t going to back down. I knew I had to keep on pushing and he wasn’t going to give it to me, so I had to pull away. I’m just delighted I managed to do that with a couple of birdies at the right time on the final stretch.”
Spare a thought for five-time major winner Mickelson, aiming to become the oldest winner of the Open in the modern era.
The 46-year-old shot a 63 in the first round, and compiled a sensational six-under 65 in the final round, with no bogeys, to finish at 17-under par, 11 strokes clear of fellow countryman J.B. Holmes in third place – and he lost.
His total of 267 would have won every other Open held at Troon by at least five strokes. His 17-under par would have won or forced a playoff in 141 of the 145 Opens.
A teary-eyed Mickelson was asked if it was any consolation that he had been a part of one of the greatest ever final-round contests.
“No,” he said. “I don’t remember a match like that. The best I have ever played and not won.
“I threw as much at him as I could but he didn’t make any mistakes. (I’m) happy for Henrik. He’s a great champion. We’ve been friends for a long time.”
Jason Day was the best-placed Australian, finishing at one-over overall and in a tie for 22nd place after a final-round 71. Countryman Matt Jones was four-over (tied for 39th) and Adam Scott five-over (tied for 43rd).
ARM SPORTS BUREAU with INM