Stenson (63) bests Mickelson by three to win Open

By Nick MentaJuly 17, 2016, 5:29 pm

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:

Leaderboard: Stenson (-20), Mickelson (-17), J.B. Holmes (-6), Steve Stricker (-5), Rory McIlroy (-4), Tyrell Hatton (-4)

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.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

@CallawayGolf via @goodwalkspoiled on Twitter

Watch: Phil flops ball over guy's head from 2 feet away

By Nick MentaJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

Sure, you trust Phil Mickelson to hit a flop shot. But would you trust him to hit one over your head from 2 feet away?

Evidently, this guy did, and his faith was rewarded.

Callaway Golf sent out this Twitter video on Tuesday taken by Mickelson's bother and caddie, Tim, ahead of this week's Open at Carnoustie:

If you look closely, you can see the guy holding his ... breath.

Yeah, that's it. His breath.