Player and Watson revel in 'special day for golf' after stunning Stenson wins Open


Golfing royalty revelled in one of the great final-round performances as Henrik Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson at The Open, with Gary Player and Tom Watson heaping praise on the stunning duo.

In a display for the ages, Stenson lifted the Claret Jug on Sunday after prevailing by three strokes via a total of 20 under at Royal Troon.

American veteran Mickelson could do no more, carding a flawless 65, but the day belonged to Stenson, who birdied 10 holes - including the 18th - en route to an eight-under-par 63 as he broke through for a maiden major championship.

Regarded as one of the greatest golfers of all-time, Player - winner of nine majors - said it was a long time coming for talented Swede Stenson.

"I have always been a big Stenson fan. He has one of the best swings in golf today," the 80-year-old said.

"He has been very unlucky. Although luck is a residue of design people can say, but he has been in the top five of The Open five times. He lost in 2013 to Mickelson and turned the tables on him today and wins with a remarkable score.

"He is a champion. He is a very, very nice man. And I've always backed him. Funny enough at the Masters, I often put $100 on him to win because it is made for him. I still think he will do it, depending on his desire.

"But he and Phil both played fantastic golf. He hit almost every fairway and green the last round. Mickelson shot a 65 and lost, so it gives you an idea of the quality of play."

Stenson and Mickelson's battle at Royal Troon has already been dubbed 'Duel in the Sun II'.

The 'Duel in the Sun' at Turnberry in 1977 was made famous by Watson and Jack Nicklaus, who surged clear of the field before the former reigned supreme by a stroke.

"It was a remarkable performance by both Stenson and Mickelson," said Watson, who won five of his eight majors at The Open.

"Just fantastic. The shots that both hit in. Phil making the par putt at the 12th to stay right in there. Henrik at the last holes said, 'I'm taking it.'

"It was very similar to when Jack and I had our shoot-out at Turnberry - the 'Duel in the Sun'.

"Essentially, people watch sport for the rare occasion that today happens, the events of today happens. Today was a special day for golf."