In one of the most captivating final rounds in golf championship history, Henrik Stenson outlasted Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon on Sunday to win his first major.
“It was unbelievable,” CBS Sports golf correspondent Ann Liguori said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I did not leave the TV set for one second. Normally I’m covering these majors, and I’ll be at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey in a week. But the quality of the jabs, the shots, it was like a classic Ali-versus-Frazier scenario. The punches, the putts, it just made it one of the most entertaining final rounds in the history of golf. Shot for shot, it was just extraordinary.”
Indeed, Mickelson shot an 8-under 63 last Thursday and a 6-under-65 on Sunday – and still lost by three strokes.
“He said it best when he said it’s probably the best golf he’s ever played and not won,” Liguori said. “I mean, who shoots a bogey-free round of 65 in the final round of a major and gets beat? Stenson just played extraordinary. Even with a couple three-putt bogeys, Stenson had 10 birdies and shoots a 63.”
Stenson’s 63 matched Johnny Miller’s 1973 performance at Oakmont for the lowest final-round score by a major champion. He finished the event with a 20-under-264, this after recording top-three finishes in five previous majors.
Now he’s a major champion.
“He’s always been so impressive, but he just hasn’t been able to close out these major championships,” Liguori said. “You always knew that he was eventually going to do it because he’s just so good. But yesterday, he played out of his mind. I just don’t think even he can believe it. To be as flawless as he was – he was draining putts. That 50-footer he drained from off the green on the 15th – who does that in the final round of a major? It’s the hardest back nine, they say, in all the Open Championships. He birdied four of his last five holes on the hardest back nine. Henrik has always had the talent and the skill level to win, but you just have to put it all together.
“That’s what makes Phil Mickelson such a huge champion, having won five majors,” Liguori continued. “But 11 times, Phil has been a runner-up in a major championship. Eleven times. It just shows how good he is. Jack Nicklaus, for the 18 majors that he won, he’s been runner-up 19 times in major championships. So hey, you got to be in it to win it, right? Phil has gotten close so many times, and it just shows how impressive Mickelson is. So it was just a classic confrontation, and it was highly entertaining. It was probably the most compelling showdown I’ve ever watched. It was really special.”