TROON, UNITED KINGDOM // Henrik Stenson spoke of his pride at becoming the first male Swedish player to win a major after his record-breaking victory in the British Open.
Stenson carded a closing 63 at Royal Troon to become only the second player to finish a major on 20-under par, equalling the record set by Jason Day in last year's US PGA Championship.
The 40-year-old Swede had conceded time was running out to match compatriots Annika Sorenstam, Liselotte Neumann and Anna Nordqvist in winning a major after seven top-four finishes, but fired 10 birdies and two bogeys to finish three ahead of Phil Mickelson after a thrilling duel.
“We had it back before Padraig [Harrington] won at Carnoustie, ‘When are we going to have a European major winner?’” Stenson said. “Then he managed to do that, and then there’s always another question.
“It’s been there a long time. I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy. 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.
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“He sent me a message, ‘Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish,’ and I’m really proud to have done that. It’s going to be massive for golf in Sweden with this win.”
As well as equalling the lowest score recorded in any major, which Mickelson had also done in the first round, Stenson’s 63 was only the second recorded in the final round of a major by the eventual winner after Johnny Miller in the 1973 US Open.
Stenson’s 72-hole total of 264 also eclipsed the previous best in a major set by David Toms in the 2001 US PGA and was three lower than the previous Open record set by Greg Norman at Sandwich in 1993.
“I felt like it was my time,” Stenson added. “It’s not something you want to run around and shout but I felt like this was going to be my turn. That was the extra self-belief that made me go all the way this week.
“It’s a dream come true. The Ryder Cup and the Open Championship were the big early memories I had so to sit here with this trophy is pretty amazing.”
Mickelson, who had beaten Stenson into second place to lift the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013, found the positions reversed despite a flawless 65 to finish 17-under, with fellow American JB Holmes an amazing 11 shots further adrift in third.
“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won,” said the 46-year-old American, who would have been the fourth oldest major champion in history.
“I think that’s probably why it’s disappointing in that I don’t have a point where I can look back and say, I should have done that or had I only done this. I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major, usually that’s good enough to do it, and I got beat.”
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