Henrik Stenson’s Major achievement at Royal Troon
Sports review of 2016: Philip Reid on how the Swede shot a sublime final round 63 to pip Mickelson to Open glory
“I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy. There’s been many great players from my country who tried in past years and decades and there’s been a couple of really close calls . . . I’m really proud to have done that. It’s a dream come true.” Photograph: Getty Images
Royal Troon, July 14th-17th
Henrik Stenson wins the British Open
In the old days, aspiring Major champions would find a note stuck to their locker door, or, somehow, slipped inside it ahead of their encounter with destiny. Times change. In Henrik Stenson’s case, the message that most struck a chord was delivered via text on the July morning of the final round of the British Open at Royal Troon.
“Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish,” was the succinct script from Jesper Parnevik, a nearly man of his generation who’d repeatedly knocked on the door but failed in his quest to become the first Swede to win a Major title.
The 145th edition of the Open Championship was historic in that Stenson, on Scottish terrain where once upon a time marauding Vikings had pillaged, became the first Swede to lift the famous Claret Jug.
But it was how he fulfilled that deliverance which provided one of the greatest ever closing acts of any playing of the championship.
In a duel for the ages between Stenson and Phil Mickelson, with third-placed JB Holmes a distant 14 strokes adrift, the final round was played out in a stiff wind which proved nothing more than an irritable nuisance to the pair who crafted shots and used their putters like a wizard would a wand.
Stenson shot a final round 63, Mickelson a 65.
It was magical, two players executing perfection on a links with everyone mesmerised by it all.
But Mickelson discovered his display of perfection wasn’t enough.
Stenson’s total of 20-under-par 264 - a record low aggregate for the championship - was sublime, his recording of three birdies in succession from the 14th to the 16th and another on the 18th providing a true masterclass en route to collecting the great prize.
When it was all done, Stenson and Mickelson - one the victor, the other the vanquished - wrapped their arms around each others’ shoulders in walking off the 18th green in a display of mutual respect after a duel in the wind that earned a place among the great contests of our time.
“I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy. There’s been many great players from my country who tried in past years and decades and there’s been a couple of really close calls . . . I’m really proud to have done that. It’s a dream come true,” said Stenson.
Low Light: A line was crossed on the Saturday of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, when hometown support moved beyond raucous encouragement to verbal abuse. Danny Willett - and his family - were the butt of much of it. So too Sergio Garcia. And, at one point of his afternoon fourball, Rory McIlroy was abused to the point where he confronted a spectator who was subsequently ejected from the course. “Someone just said a few derogatory things I thought were out of line,” explained McIlroy.