He nearly pulled it off.
The 38-year-old Swede suddenly found himself tied for the lead after making five birdies on the outward nine and turning in 30.
“I got off to a great start, hit some great shots, hit some great putts,” said Stenson, who was done in by an even-par back nine, closing with a 5-under 66, good enough to share third place with Rickie Fowler. It was Stenson's second consecutive third-place finish at the season’s final major.
“It would have taken a back nine similar to my front nine , I guess, to pull it off," he said. "I just didn’t have it. I had one half of it, not two."
Even in defeat, Stenson acknowledged what an extraordinary Sunday it was for the game and how special a summer it has been for the man who came out on top.
“It was a lot of roars being thrown back and forth and a lot of birdies being made. It must have been a great championship to watch on television out there. I was part of it. I’m happy with that. Gave it my best.
“(McIlroy’s) on a roll. He is the best player in the world and just playing phenomenal golf. He’s got the confidence. He just keeps coming back and playing aggressive and good golf. Just take our hats off and give him the appreciation he deserves.”