Stunning Stenson: ‘The Iceman’ captures British Open
Swedish World No 6 fires brilliant closing eight-under par 63 to finish 20-under – three ahead of Phil Mickelson
Henrik Stenson kept hitting the best shots of his life, one after another, because there was no other way to beat Phil Mickelson in a British Open duel that ranked among the best in golf.
All he wanted was the silver Claret Jug. Stenson – ‘The Iceman’ – wound up with so much more on Sunday.
Stenson’s final stroke of this major masterpiece was a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Royal Troon that tumbled into the cup on the last turn for an 8-under 63, matching Johnny Miller for the lowest closing round by a major champion.
It also gave him a 20-under 264, the lowest 72-hole score in major championship history.
Stenson won by three shots over Mickelson, who played bogey-free for a 65 and posted a score that would have won all but two Opens over more than a century on the links.
“This will take a while to sink in, I am still getting my bearings,” said Stenson soon after his 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.”
It was reminiscent of the “Duel in the Sun” just down the Ayrshire coastline at Turnberry in 1977, when Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus by one shot after a weekend of punches and counterpunches.
Until that final birdie, Stenson and Mickelson were never separated by more than two shots over 40 consecutive holes. Stenson pulled ahead with an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-three 14th hole, and he seized control for the first time all day with a 50-foot putt across the 15th green.
Stenson started walking when the putt was halfway there, stopping to pump his fist, rare emotion for a 40-year-old Swede with ice blue eyes.
Mickelson narrowly missed an eagle putt on the 16th hole, and Stenson kept his two-shot lead with an up-and-down for birdie from deep rough.
J.B. Holmes finished third. He was 14 shots behind at six under par with Steve Stricker five under and Rory McIlroy four-under in a tie for fifth.