Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson put on a duel for the ages in the shadow of historic Royal Troon where Stenson eventually came out victorious.
Like a title fight in boxing, two golf heavyweights went toe to toe, drilling putt after putt. Mickelson, a hall-of-famer wasn’t able to handle to deadeye ball striking of Stenson, who is one of the game’s most dangerous iron players.
Eventually, Stenson would hit the biggest putt of his life on the 15th hole. A massive, 51-foot putt that shook the golf world and did all but win him the Claret Jug.
To top that off, he hit another beautiful putt to finish the tournament and give him his first major championship. It was also Sweden’s first male major victory.
So, where does this Open Championship rank as one of the all-time greats? When you have two very popular players playing the best golf of their life on arguably the game’s biggest stage, it’s certainly a valid debate.
Mickelson is one of the greatest short game players that golf has ever seen. Meanwhile, as mentioned, Stenson is a streaky ball striker who will nail greens at will.
Ultimately, that’s what Stenson did, and his putter lid up at the most critical time. Stenson’s play is a huge reason why we love sports.
We love to see athletes do the most incredible things before our eyes. Stenson’s incredible play with his irons and his putter certainly dropped some jaws.
Even if Mickelson and Stenson weren’t the top two guys running away with it and if it were two less popular golfers, it would have still been an incredible performance. I say this as a simple reminder that you don’t need the juggernaut names to enjoy a historic performance.
Stenson for years has been in the group of “best golfer never to win a major” and amazingly, he and Dustin Johnson both broke that shackle this year. Johnson won the U.S. Open at Oakmont last month, despite a controversial call by the USGA.
Danny Willett, although not as popular with Americans, was 12th ranked in the world when he won the Masters back in April. This helped prove to many that he deserved to be a top 15 player in the world.
After those two performances by Willett and Johnson in golf’s first two majors, Stenson laid the hammer down at The Open. This tournament also has show us once again why The Open very well may be golf’s best major, even better than the Masters.
Zach Johnson had hit some huge shots to go into the playoff at St. Andrews last year, where he’d eventually win it in unfavorable weather conditions. Now, this year, we see one of the greatest ball striking and putting shows we may ever see in major golf.
With Mickelson’s and Stenson’s play, The Open continues to win more hearts with fans everywhere. It’s already a great tournament If you love history and links style golf courses.
And to witness the play of Stenson and Mickelson has made golf’s oldest major that much more enjoyable. The most impressive thing about the tourney this year was that these guys were so dominant, that J.B. Holmes who was in third place, finished 11 shots behind Mickelson, 14 behind Stenson.
This type of dominance is one those moments that you will look back on many years down the road. It will be played during highlight reels of many Open Championships in later years.
Another thing that made the Open great is the presence of Harold Varner III, the first African American golfer to get his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour. Varner III ended up finishing in a tie for 66th place but despite this, the PGA Tour rookie made the cut in tough Royal Troon conditions.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Varner III has stated that he’s “not a role model” but one can’t help but appreciate the young golfer’s play this year. As a rookie, he has four top 10 finishes and now has made a cut in his second major appearance, first as a Tour pro.
If Varner III can continue to play well, even if quietly, he can have a lasting impact on the game. It’s not to put pressure on him as his attitude is phenomenal but leading by example could help bring a new interest in the game.
Varner III slowly keeps showing that he truly belongs on the PGA Tour. He’s currently one of the longest drivers on Tour.
Andrew “Beef” Johnston also continues to grow in popularity. After hitting his second shot on 18, and after approaching the green, he received a reception as if he won the tournament, even though he was 17 shots back of Stenson.
Johnston became an instant fan favorite for his quote after winning the Open de Espana on the European Tour for his first professional victory. Johnston said he was going to get “hammered” and stood by his words as he indeed partied hard.
He’s also popular for his fun and friendly nature as well as his large beard. So his solid play at The Open has made him catch even more hearts of golf fans everywhere.
But, with a historic performance, one we may not see for quite some time, was the star moment of this particular Open. Stenson is already a beloved figure in golf for his humorous nature and dashing ball striking abilities and his first major win has truly proven that he’s one of the best golfers on the planet.
NBC’s first Open Championship coverage was also highly anticipated. Little did the broadcasters know that they’d be covering one of the best duels in golf history.
No doubt that NBC will look forward to covering their second Open which will be held at Royal Birkdale in 2017 in hopes at more historic moments. They look to build off the success they with the U.S. Open coverage that they had for many years and so far, it’s been a great start.
Stenson has 17 combined PGA and European Tour victories including a major.
Overall, the 2016 Open Championship was incredible, and Royal Troon proved to be a tough test of golf as expected.
Stenson took the stage, put on a show, and took his bow in the most dramatic way possible.
Bring on the PGA Championship.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio!
Colin GP Mieczkowski
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