In a duel for the ages, Henrik Stenson blistered Royal Troon for a final-round 63 and bested Phil Mickelson by three shots on Sunday to win the 145th Open. In the process, Stenson broke Greg Norman’s record for the lowest four-day total in an Open and tied Jason Day's mark for the lowest score in relation to par in a major championship. Here’s what happened on one of the most entertaining Sundays in Open history:
What it means: This is Stenson’s first major title and 15th career victory across the PGA and European tours. He is the first Swedish male in history to win a major title. As Stenson alluded to with 18 holes to play on Saturday night, the win serves as a bit of revenge after he finished runner-up to Mickelson at Muirfield in 2013. Stenson and Mickelson left in the field in the dust when they combined to shoot 8 under on the front nine with matching 4-under 32s. Mickelson did his best to keep pace, but Stenson finally separated himself with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15, the latter a 51-foot make from off the fringe that the Swede walked in before a big fist pump. He maintained his two-shot lead when both players birdied the par-5 16th. From there, Stenson made a two-putt par at 17 and a lengthy birdie at 18 to play his way into the record books. He shattered Norman's 267 total set a Royal St. George's in 1993 with a four-day score of 264. He also tied Day's record of 20 under par in a major, set last year at Whistling Straits. The lowest previous score to par in an Open was set by one Tiger Woods (19 under) at St. Andrews in 2000. In finale, just like Mickelson on Thursday, Stenson tied the record for the lowest round in a major, with 63. At 40 years old, Stenson won his first major title in the most convicing way possible.
Round of the day: Stenson opened with a three-putt bogey at the first and rebounded with five birdies across his next seven holes, making three in a row on Nos. 2-4. After trading a birdie and a bogey at Nos. 10 and 11, Stenson staked his claim to the claret jug with three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16, finally shaking free of Phil after an hours-long battle. After a two-putt par at 17, Stenson missed the Norman bunker on the home hole by at most a yard, his ball coming to rest just short of the mouth of the bunker. He found the green with his approach and poured in the birdie putt to make his mark on Open and major history.
Biggest disappointment: It’s strange to call a bogey-free final-round 65 from a member of the final pairing a disappointment, but there’s no way around it for Mickelson. The 46-year-old has made repeated mention this week – with respect to both his bid for 62 and a sixth major championship – that he doesn’t know how many more chances he’s going to get. Mickelson opened with a birdie at the first and followed up with an eagle at the par-5 fifth. On two occasions down the stretch, with a birdie try at 12 and an eagle attempt at 16, Mickelson put the perfect pace on his putt only to have the ball come to rest next to the hole, an inch away. Mickelson made par at 17 and 18 to finish an incredible 11 shots clear of the field and yet still three behind the champion. Sunday marks the five-time major winner’s 11th career runner-up at a major and his third since his last win of any kind in 2013. He is second all-time to only Jack Nicklaus, who finished second 19 times, in that category.
Best of the rest: Making his pseudo title defense after missing the Open last year, Rory McIlroy tied for fifth place at 4 under for the week with a round 4-under 67 Sunday. The 2014 champ made six birdies around a pair of bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12. Sunday marked his ninth career top-5 finish in a major championship.
Shot of the day: Stenson’s improbable make at 15 to go up two and distance himself from Mickelson for good.