Stunning Stenson too good to be Troon


Phil Mickelson bemoaned the golfing gods denying him the first 62 at a major on Thursday - on Sunday he played against one of them.

What Henrik Stenson produced in the fourth round of the 145th Open Championship was something other-worldly.

Royal Troon may just have played host to the best round of golf in history. This was a man without a major, who played like winning this one was his divine right.

He slept on a one-stroke lead, saw it reversed on the first green, and then summoned something extraordinary to prevail in a stunning duel reminiscent of the 1977 Open at Turnberry.

Back then Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus by one shot, the rest of the field merely incidental to the drama, sitting way back from it all.

Stenson and Mickelson were also on another plane in South Ayrshire, their nearest rival trailing by double figures as they traded birdies.

Mickelson did not drop a shot on Sunday, he eagled the fourth, he played like the champion he is. His total of 17 under would have won 140 of the previous 144 editions of the tournament.

And yet it wasn't enough. Not this time.

It was a score of 63 that so pained Mickelson in the opening round, when a quirk of gravity kept his ball out of the 18th hole and his name out of the record books.

And that score caused even greater anguish on Sunday, as Stenson's card bore that same two-figure stamp of supreme quality.

As the duo headed down the stretch, it was natural to wonder if Stenson - having never been in this position before, though he did finish runner-up to Mickelson at the 2013 Open - might let the tension get to him.

None of that. Not even close. He birdied four of the last five holes, including a monster putt at the 15th that took him two clear. It felt like the moment he won The Open.

At 18 that triumph was confirmed with another lengthy putt sunk to seal the lowest overall score at a major.

After so much of the pre-tournament talk centred on the so-called big four, all with wins at one of the sport's top four events to their names and boasting an average age of 27, Troon crowned a first-time major winner at the ripe age of 40.

Stenson delivered where Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy could not. And he did it in unforgettable style.

He tamed a course that had led more than one of his rivals to such levels of frustration that their clubs had been left broken in two on the windswept ground.

The omens had pointed as much to Mickelson winning as Stenson - Troon's previous six champions were American, but the last three were maiden major winners.

But omens mean nothing to a man who has foreseen his destiny.

"I felt like this was going to be my turn," Stenson declared. And he was right.