Nicklaus: Stenson & Mickelson Open battle beats Turnberry

Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site. "Phil Mickelson played one of the best rounds I have ever seen played in The Open and Henrik Stenson just played better - he played one of the greatest rounds I have ever seen".

Stenson made 10 birdies, including a 50-foot putt across the 15th green that had him pumping his fist in a rare show of emotion Sunday. There's been many great players from my country tried in past years and decades and there's been a couple of really close calls, Jesper (Parnevik) in particular twice.

New world No. 5 Stenson had started the day on 12-under, a shot clear of Mickelson, but dropped a stroke at the first to lose his lead. The whole process of winning a major is about staying in the moment.

"Right now I'm running on adrenaline".

"I don't remember being in a match like that, where we've separated ourselves from the field by so many strokes", said Mickelson.

The 40-year-old Swede wore down Phil Mickelson in an epic battle to clinch the Claret Jug at Royal Troon, and is looking to add to his fledgling major haul and perhaps throw in an Olympic gold medal and the Ryder Cup in the next few weeks. Stenson went on to shoot 63 and win the British Open by three shots.

"It's probably the best I've played and not won", admitted Mickelson.

"I was fortunate to watch every second of today's final round of the Open Championship, and I thought it was fantastic", said Nicklaus.

"I had about a 40-, 45-footer on 15 and I'm thinking I've got to make that", Mickelson said.

In contrast, the so-called "Big Four" of Dustin Johnson, 32, and 20-somethings Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy never really challenged in Troon, even if the latter ended up in a tie for fifth. Even so, he made 10 birdies amid relentless pressure of trying to win his first major. Stenson started the final round with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, and knew it would be a two-man race from the opening hole when Mickelson almost holed out from the fairway.

Stenson, 40, hit an eight-under-par 63 - the lowest final-day Open-winning round - to record a tournament record 20-under total and win by three shots.

The last birdie was for the record book.

Mickelson, 46, was bidding to become the fourth-oldest major victor and join Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino with six majors. "I knew I had to keep on pushing, keep on giving myself birdie chances". A number of top players who have pulled out of the Games have cited the virus, which is linked to microcephaly - small heads - in babies, as their reason for not going.

Letting the dust settle on a memorable Open, Jack Nicklaus admits his "Duel in the Sun" with Tom Watson at Turnberry in 1977, below, has now been put somewhat in the shade.

There was a wobble when he missed a par putt at the hard 11th hole but remarkably he produced three straight birdies from the 14th to put the outcome beyond doubt. In the final round, they combined to make 14 birdies and an eagle.

"We'll never see perfection on a links like that ever again in our lives", Nick Faldo said. "I knew that he would ultimately come through and win". "I'm happy for Henrik", said the 46-year-old.

J.B. Holmes won the B-Flight. Beyond the score, the measure of his performance was that he putted for a birdie on every hole Sunday in a mild wind off the Irish Sea.

Stenson and Mickelson matched pars on only six of the 18 holes. He can second-guess himself for his shots on the 18th hole at Winged Foot in 2006 or his poor wedge play down the stretch at Merion in 2013.

Mickelson had not won since the British Open at Muirfield three years ago, with Stenson as the runner-up. Troon had the better golf. "It's going to be massive for golf in Sweden with this win".

"I knew this was going to be my time", Stenson said.

Golf's top four players have withdrawn from the Olympics, but the Rio Games will have at least two of this year's major champions - Stenson and Masters victor Danny Willett of England.

He played bogey-free for a 6-under round and posted a score (267) that would have won all but two Opens over more than a century. Take a breath, Henrik. That honor still belongs to Julius Boros, who was 48-plus when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship.

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