Just a few miles away from Royal Troon, on October 17, 1860, eight professionals assembled at Prestwick for a tournament to determine who would be the Champion golfer. The competitors played three rounds on the then 12-hole links, with Willie Park Sr beating Old Tom Morris by two shots. A year later, Prestwick announced that the tournament “shall be open to all the world.”
With all the world watching, with all the pre-tournament noise, the 146th British Open came down to two men. The rest of the field played this Open like a weekend gathering of golfers that you and I would enjoy.
Just a few miles from Prestwick, where the Open’s time began, two golfers played four rounds of golf for the Ages. One golfer stood on the 18th fairway of Royal Troon, six under par for his day, and was two strokes behind his fellow competitor.
The golf course, the weather and Phil Mickelson threw everything they had at the winner from Sweden, Henrik Stenson. He didn’t just overcame those deterrents, he dominated them, playing better and better each day. On Sunday’s final round, normally a knee knocking, nerve rattling day for anyone in contention, Henrik Stenson fired 1o birdies at the Royal Troon links.
In 2002, Henrik Stenson ranked 336th in the golf world. As late as 2011, Stenson was ranked #211. Watching Stenson play was not a matter of if he would melt down but when. That same year, Stenson had not qualified to play in the PGA Championship, so he opted to play for his club championship at Sweden’s Barseback Golf Club. He lost, finishing second to Henrik Hilford Brander.
2011 is just five years ago, but it is light years away from the man who raised the claret jug this day. How good was Henrik? Let the man who battled him for four days explain. Tell us Phil:
“I thought we played pretty good golf. I hit a lot of good shots and Henrik made 10 birdies. He and I have been friends for quite some time and I really like and respect him. I’m really happy for him, as much as I’m disappointed with the outcome. He’s a class act and he played phenomenal. He hit the ball so solid yesterday and today especially. What a great champion. He just played some incredible golf. I threw as much at him as I could and he didn’t make any mistakes. Just incredible play. What a great champion he is.”
Not only has the weight of not winning a major been lifted off of Stenson’s back but that weight is off the country of Sweden, as well. Sweden delivered major winners in woman’s golf but, until today, never a man.
In one round of golf, Swedish golf is now, itself, a major.