Henrik Stenson came into The Open on the hunt for a maiden major title, and on Sunday he finally ended his major drought.
Stenson, who became the first male Swedish golfer to win a major, was in a tough battle with veteran Phil Mickelson for much of the tournament, trailing the American for the first two rounds before eking out a one-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round. It was on last nine holes of the tournament that he pulled away to secure the win and nearly write his name in the record books.
The Swede fired an eight-under-par 63 on Sunday and narrowly missed out on becoming the first golfer to card a 62. Despite just missing out on etching his name in the record books, Stenson was over the moon at having final won his first major.
“I felt like it was my time,” he told reporters. “I think the win in Germany I had a couple weeks ago was huge to get one over the finish line.
“You feel the pressure coming in and with not having won for a while, that always kind of builds up. It was great to get that win there. That definitely helped this week, and I felt that extra confidence was going to be huge for me coming into this week. I just played some great golf. For some reason, I felt like this is my time, and it was.
“It’s a dream come true. The Ryder Cup and the Open Championship were the big early memories I had so to sit here with this trophy is pretty amazing.”
The 40-year-old admitted that his four-foot birdie putt at the par-five 16th was the pivotal point in the tournament as Mickelson had squandered an opportunity to register an eagle.
“The putt on 16 was huge. I mean, Phil missed his eagle putt, so it looked like it was going to go in, and I expect him to make every putt; you have to. And it just snuck by and I’m standing over a five-footer down the hill to keep it to a head. That was a very important putt to make,” he said.
Stenson admitted that he was disappointed to have missed out on recording a 62 in the final round, but that he was more than pleased with his overall performance.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet but I’m very happy,” he said. “I’m very proud of the way I played. It was a great match with Phil. I knew he wasn’t going to back down at any point, and in a way that makes it easier for myself.
“I knew I had to keep on pushing, keep on giving myself birdie chances and he wasn’t going to give it to me, so I had to pull away. I’m just delighted I managed to do that with a couple of birdies at the right time on the final stretch.”
Meanwhile, Stenson dedicated his victory at The Open to close friend Mike Gerbich, who passed away on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.
“I lost a dear friend on Wednesday and I feel like he has been with me all week,” Stenson said. “He had been battling cancer for many years. Mike, this one’s for you.
“He was one of the real good guys back in Dubai. I’d known him for many, many years, and he was a very keen golfer and a great man.
“I had news on Tuesday that the end was near and unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday morning over in the US. So he’s always been there as a big supporter of mine. In good days and bad days he always sent me messages and been out at some events. This one is dedicated to him, for sure.”