Sports

A Swede major

Stenson had a special feeling going into the Open at Troon, but never this spectacular

He had that feeling, that sense, that this was his time.

After years of slumps and close calls and perseverance and resilience, Henrik Stenson knew he was finally ready to reach that pinnacle.

And he did, after seeing off Phil Mickelson in a thrilling climax at the British Open on Sunday.

Although even he would not have foreseen almost fantasy-like golf.

"It's not something you want to run around and shout, but I felt like this was going to be my turn," said the Swede, whose Open record overall score of 20 under par at Royal Troon gave him a three-stroke winning margin over Mickelson.

"I just played some great golf.

"For some reason, I felt like this is my time - and it was."

With those rocketlike drives and brilliant iron shots and seemingly magnetised putts that so often went directly into the heart of the cups, Stenson made it all look so easy over the four days.

"I knew I was going to have to battle back if it wasn't, but that was the extra self-belief that made me go all the way this week," said the 40-year-old, who became the first Swedish man to win a Major.

Stenson started the final round on 12 under, a shot clear of Mickelson, but dropped a stroke at the first to lose his lead.

However, he promptly fought back with a remarkable 10 birdies en route to a Major championship record-equalling low round of 63 to seal the deal in style.

HATS OFF TO PHIL

He shot the lowest total score in a Major (264). He posted a final-round 63 to win a Major, only the second player in history to do so.

And he defeated the great Mickelson, who must still be wondering how he shot rounds of 63, 69, 70 and a Sunday 65 - and still lost by three shots.

"It was a great match," said the Swede, who paid tribute to the 46-year-old American star, who was going for his sixth Major triumph and second Open win.

"I knew he wasn't going to back down at any point and that made it easier. I knew I had to keep on pushing.

"It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil.

"He has been one of the best to play the game in the last 20 years, so to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days is amazing.

"He told me earlier in the season I was deserving of a Major championship and I said to him, 'You'll probably not like it if you are on the end of it', but I want to thank him for a great couple of days."

Stenson had seven times finished in the top five of a Major without managing to break through.

He's now got the monkey off his back and is now the world No. 5.

"Right now I'm running on adrenalin, but there will be some point when I'll struggle to make it up the stairs when I get back to the house," he smiled.

- Wire Services.

golfHenrik StensonPhil Mickelsonbritish openROYAL TROON