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
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