Henrik Stenson did it: He went home a winner. Stenson beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes at The Open on Sunday to capture his first career major championship and become the first man from Sweden to win a major.
Each of the past four major winners was a first-time winner (Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Stenson), and each of the past four Open winners at Royal Troon was also a first-time major winner. It was a slight measure of revenge for Stenson, as he was runner-up to Mickelson in the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
Stenson did it in exciting fashion. He joined Johnny Miller as the only major champions to shoot 63 in the final round (Stenson was trying to protect a one-shot lead, while Miller entered the round six shots back). Stenson finished 20 under par, matching Day’s mark for most shots under par in a major, and his 72-hole score of 264 set a record, breaking David Toms’ mark of 265 in the 2001 PGA Championship, where, too, the runner-up was Mickelson.
It’s the 11th time in his career that Mickelson was the runner-up at a major. It’s another cruel second place for Lefty, as he shot a 63 in the opening round and a 65 in the final round, which tied his second-best score in a major round. So in 362 rounds of major championship golf that Mickelson has played, he shot the best round he’s ever shot and matched the second-best round he’s ever shot -- and lost. His 72-hole mark of 17 under would have won every Open except four -- and it would have been good enough for a playoff in one of those years.
Stenson’s win continues an incredible run for players 35 or older at The Open. Eight of the past 10 Open champions were 35 or older, and five of the past six were 39 or older. It’s the first time any major has seen a run of five champions 39 or older in a six-year stretch.
It was an 11-shot gap from Mickelson in second place back to J.B. Holmes in third. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1958 when the PGA Championship changed from match to stroke play, no major had a larger gap between the runner-up and third-place finisher. It certainly brought back many parallels with the classic "Duel in the Sun" at Turnberry in 1977 between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.
The Tussle at Troon?
Watson shot a 5-under 65 in the final round in 1977 -- Nicklaus shot a 4-under 66. In the final round Sunday at Troon, which is roughly 25 miles from Turnberry, Stenson shot an 8-under 63, while Mickelson shot a 6-under 65.
In 1977, Nicklaus finished 10 shots clear of third-place finisher Hubert Green. Sunday, Mickelson finished 11 shots clear of third-place finisher Holmes.
In 1977, Watson made birdies on 13, 15, 17 and 18 and had two bogeys in the round. Sunday, Stenson made birdies on 14, 15, 16 and 18 and had two bogeys in the round.
In 1977, Watson and Nicklaus set what were the two lowest 72-hole totals in Open history (268 and 269). On Sunday, Stenson and Mickelson set the two lowest 72-hole totals in Open history (264 and Mickelson's 267, which matched Greg Norman’s total of 267 when he won in 1993.
What separated Henrik and Phil?
It ultimately came down to holes 14 through 18. Stenson played the five holes in 9 under with no bogeys. Mickelson was 3 under on those five holes with three bogeys. In the final round alone, Stenson was minus-4 on holes 14 through 18, while Mickelson was minus-1.
Stenson made seven bogeys in the tournament. He made a birdie on the next hole following four of those seven birdies.
A look at the rest
Haas' best major finish
Playing in his 28th career major championship, Bill Haas posted his best career major finish (tied for ninth) -- he had never finished better than tied for 12th (2015 Masters, 2011 PGA Championship). He has made the cut at The Open four times. And he’s a cumulative plus-13 in the final round in those years.
Fan favorite Andrew “Beef” Johnston shot a 73 in the final round and finished alone in eighth place. It's his best finish in a major by far, and it also earns him a place in The Open next year at Royal Birkdale.
So who is Andrew Johnston? The 27-year-old from London ranked 104th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He won the Open de Espana on the European Tour this year (first career win on either European or PGA Tour). He was playing in his third career major championship (only cut was at this year’s U.S. Open, finished tied for 54th).
Day finishes outside the top 20
Jason Day finished outside the top 10 in a major for the first time since finishing tied for 28th at the 2015 Masters. Day finished in a tie for 22nd at plus-1 after shooting an even-par 71 in the final round. He was done in by the back nine this week. He played the front in minus-6 with 11 birdies, but he made just two birdies on the back nine all week -- and they came on 14 and 16 Sunday.
The Open is the only major in which Day hasn’t regularly shot low scores. He has two career rounds in the 60s at The Open, and they both came last year.
McIlroy ends week on a high note
Rory McIlroy posted what at the time was the best round of the day with a 4-under 67, and finished tied for fifth. This was his sixth top-10 finish in the past eight majors. It was also his seventh straight final round in a major in which he broke par. McIlroy really all week with the back nine, shooting 5 over on the back with seven bogeys and a double-bogey.
Spieth finally breaks par in a round
Jordan Spieth saw his streak of 10 straight major championship rounds without breaking par (cumulative plus-18 over those 10 rounds) snapped, as he shot a 3-under 68, which at the time was the best round of the day. His longest previous streak of par/worse rounds in majors was five.
Spieth finished in a tie for 30th with a 2-over 286 on Sunday.
In his remarkable 2015 season, Spieth played 16 rounds in majors, breaking par in 14 of them and breaking 60 in 11 rounds. This year, he has broken par just once, in the opening round of the Masters, and has recorded eight rounds over par in majors after recording just one such round last year.
Spieth mentioned before the tournament began that he’s playing with less confidence tee-to-green this summer than he did in 2015. In the majors, he has hit greens in regulation at a much lower rate than he did in his 2015 season.
Fowler another major flop
Rickie Fowler enjoyed a breakout season in the majors in 2014, posting top-five finishes in all four majors. Since then, he’s failed to record a top-10 finish in any of his six major appearances and has missed the cut in two of his past three starts.
Other player notes
England’s Andy Sullivan posted his best major championship finish (tied for 12th). Sullivan opened with a 67 and closed with a 69.
Adam Scott posted his second major finish outside the top 40 (tied for 44th) after an even-par 71 in the final round. Scott also finished tied for 42nd at the Masters. This was his worst 72-hole finish at The Open since 2001 (tied for 47th). Scott did miss the cut in 2009.
Steve Stricker, 49, finished alone in fourth place, the second-best major finish of his career (was runner-up in the 1998 PGA Championship). His previous best finish at The Open was a tie for seventh in 2008. Stricker made just six bogeys or worse all week (four bogeys, one double-bogey and one quadruple-bogey).
J.B. Holmes now has finished in the top four two of the past three majors after a third-place finish at Royal Troon. Holmes was tied for fourth at the Masters. Those are Holmes' only career major finishes better than 14th. This was Holmes first career major with all four rounds under par.
Sergio Garcia posted his second consecutive fifth-place finish in a major. Garcia now has 12 top-five major finishes in his career.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson finished in the top 10 for the fourth straight major (and for the seventh time in the past nine majors). Johnson shot a final-round 70 and finished tied for ninth.