THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN

I’ve been fol­low­ing pro­fes­sional golf and The Open Cham­pi­onship for as long as I can re­mem­ber, and Hen­rik Sten­son’s per­for­mance was one for the his­tory books

Golf Monthly - - Your View -

en­rik and Phil. Je­sus. We aren’t go­ing to see any­thing like that for a while. For me, it started at the 1st when Phil stiffed it and Hen­rik three-putted. Then he bounced back with three straight birdies, Phil re­sponded with one of the best shots of the cham­pi­onship to set up an ea­gle at the par-5 4th and it was just a ding­dong bat­tle all day. Re­mark­able stuff.

I had to pick my five shots of the cham­pi­onship and Phil’s at 1 and 4 were on the list, as was Hen­rik’s birdie putt on the 15th. After that, I thought to my­self ‘I’m go­ing to look into your eyes’ and he was just so in­cred­i­bly pumped. But amaz­ingly, he got him­self to­gether so quickly in or­der to hit that tee shot off 16. I was lit­er­ally next to him and it re­ally hit home why he has the nick­name ‘The Ice­man’.

Then the up and down on 16 out of that hor­rific lie was out of this world. I hon­estly didn’t think he could ground the club be­cause I thought the ball was go­ing to roll. With Phil close for ea­gle and Hen­rik’s ball sit­ting in what looked like a com­bi­na­tion of Don­ald Trump and Don King’s hair, I thought we might see a two-shot swing. But the Swede just played it so per­fectly and went to the 17th tee with his two-shot lead still in­tact.

Then, how about that shot on 17? He missed the putt, but that doesn’t mat­ter. He showed Mick­el­son in that mo­ment that he was un­beat­able, and Phil knew it. Then, on air, I said he couldn’t reach Greg Nor­man’s fair­way bunker on 18 with a 3-wood. Even with adren­a­line, it was soft and there was a bit of wind into his face. Still, he man­aged to hit the ball 306 yards. If it had been one yard fur­ther, who knows what the re­sult might have been. The rest, as they say, is his­tory. It was just in­cred­i­ble. Truly in­cred­i­ble stuff.

And I also have to say that it couldn’t have hap­pened to a nicer guy. He’s a proper man, he’s a funny guy, he’s one of the lads and he’s one of the most pop­u­lar blokes on tour. He’s loved ev­ery­where he goes. He’s a prac­ti­cal joker, but he works hard and does things the right way. He’s just one of the good guys. Phil Mick­el­son is one of the most pop­u­lar play­ers in the world, but hav­ing walked around with the gallery on that Sun­day, the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple wanted Hen­rik to win. That says it all.

HI was 15 when the fa­mous ‘Duel in the Sun’ took place in 1977. Well, this wasn’t sunny, but I have to say it was golf of a bet­ter stan­dard on bal­ance. Hen­rik’s round was prob­a­bly the best I’ve ever seen given the cir­cum­stances, and I’ve been around this funny old game for a long time. It was al­most sur­real in the re­spect that you looked up at the score­board to see the per­son in third place 11 shots be­hind the per­son in sec­ond place! That’s tak­ing the bis­cuit.

Mick­el­son’s round was one of the best we’ve seen in the fi­nal round of a Ma­jor – a bo­gey-free 65 from the last pair­ing – and he ended up fin­ish­ing three shots be­hind. It’s hard to put into words. But it’s very sim­ple, he was out­played. He could play 100 cham­pi­onships like that and not get beaten, but he just hap­pened to run into Sten­son in the form of his life. I played in nine or ten Open Cham­pi­onships and I have to tell you that the Claret Jug is the most spe­cial thing in golf. It’s the best tour­na­ment.

I gen­uinely think this is the door open­ing for Hen­rik now, at the age of 40. He has at least another 20 Ma­jors to play in and he’s go­ing to be ex­empt in them all un­til he’s at least 45. It’s hard to say he’s not go­ing to win more given how he per­formed at Troon. As for Phil, I hope that’s not the end of his Ma­jor chal­lenges, but there’s a chance it could he. He is 46, after all. He’s won five times and fin­ished run­ner-up on 11 other oc­ca­sions. That’s just out­ra­geous.

Seve do­ing his mata­dor dance at St An­drews in 1984 was a re­ally spe­cial mo­ment, but this Open Cham­pi­onship was the best I’ve ever seen. It was two gun­slingers go­ing at it. It was Muham­mad Ali ver­sus Joe Fra­zier. They were obliv­i­ous to ev­ery­one else in the field. Tellingly, Mick­el­son has never won a WGC-Match Play; Sten­son has.

It was a great week at Troon and Sky thor­oughly en­joyed be­ing part of it. Hope­fully you en­joyed the cov­er­age – we cer­tainly put the hours in! Now, I’m off to meet a friend of mine for a well-earned pint. Fun­nily enough, the man I’m meet­ing is Wayne Grady, who lost out to Mark Cal­cavec­chia in a play-off at Troon all those years ago.

Wayne Riley is a for­mer mem­ber of the Euro­pean Tour and two-time win­ner who is now part of the Sky Sports Golf Team. Wayne writes ex­clu­sively for Golf Monthly

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