Royal Troon was treated to Royal Golf. What a great week of golf in the third major of the compacted major season. With the Olympics being this month, the British Open (or the Open Championship) was the prelude for a great finish to the majors for 2016. The R&A did a spectacular job with the event. Not worried about the score as much as the USGA, the R&A set up a fair, fun test of golf to identify the best player in the tournament.
After day one it looked like it was going to be a Phil Mickelson runaway. Phil missed making history by half of a cup. He shoots 63 and was a lipout away from 62. Phil was on. Round two, Phil comes out to Royal troon and shoots a 69 and still holds the lead. But watch out for the best iron game player in the field, Henrik Stenson, who opens with a 68 and a 65 through 36 holes. Is a shootout on the horizon? Henrik Stenson had never won a major but has been close on many occasions. His putter is what has been his nemisis, specifically short putts. But this weekend would have a different feel than the past. Henrik would follow up his early round golf with a great 68 to take over the lead from Phil on Saturday, setting up for a great finish on Sunday.
Henrik starts out on Sunday with a 3-putt and now it looks like his putter is going to get between him and his first major. Phil makes birdie at the first hole and the lead has changed. The two would trade birdies back and forth for the next 3 hours. As this was unfolding, I watched with great anticipation. All of a sudden, Henrik’s putter became his best friend. He would make over 150 feet in putts after the first hole and was too much for Phil to handle. Oh by the way, Phil’s putter was almost equal to the challenge that Henrik would offer up to force Phil to play his best. Henrik would not falter. Phil threw everything he could at Henrik and Henrik would answer with another gut shot.
The only chance Phil had to win this event was on the 18th hole when Stenson’s 3-wood off the 18th tee stopped one yard short of the death bunker. It was like the ball had eyes and put on the brakes just before his possible demise. He proceeded to knock it on the green and drain another bomb to secure victory. Phil could not catch Henrik. Interestingly, Phil’s 17 under par would have won 141 of the 145 British Opens. Tough break for a confident Mickelson.
So, the Claret Jug was raised by the best player for the week and a grand champion and great guy, Henrik Stenson. Wow, what a finish. This far surpassed the duel in the Sun between Nicklaus and Watson, some 39 years prior. This may have even been better than the near miss by Tom Watson in 2009. Golf is in a great place and we have one more great champion. The R&A got it right this year and we are set up for an exciting finish to the Major Championship season. Can the Champion Golfer of the Year win the PGA this month? Only time will tell. So far, we have three great major champions, who will join them by taking down the PGA Championship? Stay tuned.
Be sure to tune in to the Bunker to Bunker Golf Show every Saturday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. on ArizonaSports now on 98.7 fm or on the internet at www.arizonasports.com for more tips and updates on all of the week’s golfing news in the Valley and around the world. Join Greg, Jim Hill, and Marty Monaghan for a comprehensive look at the golf world for the week.