TROON, Scotland — Phil Mickelson has a documented history of runner-up finishes in major championships, having often endured memorable heartbreak on the final day of tournaments. But during the fourth round of this year’s British Open, after a surprising surge during its first three days, Mickelson did not make a bogey and shot a six-under-par 65, the lowest score he has ever posted in the final round of a major.
It was not enough because his playing partner, Henrik Stenson, had a record-setting Sunday, becoming only the second golfer to win a major championship with a final round of 63 in beating Mickelson by three strokes. Stenson’s score of 20 under par for the tournament tied Jason Day’s record for the lowest winning score relative to par in a major. Stenson’s aggregate four-day score of 264 was also a record for a major championship.
With pluck, precision and a steely putting stroke under pressure, Stenson, 40, made 10 birdies on Sunday, to go along with two bogeys, in becoming the first Swede to win a men’s major championship.
J. B. Holmes finished a distant third at six under.
“I felt, and I believed, like it was my time to do this,” Stenson said afterward. “I just had to stay focused on the moment, and I did not waver doing that.”
Phil Mickelson reacted to missing his eagle putt on No. 16. Credit Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Sunday did not start auspiciously for Stenson, who badly missed an 8-foot par putt and bogeyed the first hole. When Mickelson birdied the hole, he eclipsed the one-shot advantage Stenson had held overnight and vaulted into the lead.
Stenson has always been known as a great ball striker, especially with his irons. If he has had a weakness, it has been putting, and specifically putting under pressure. But in Sunday’s final round, Stenson put on an exhibition on the greens.
Mickelson’s eagled the fourth hole, but Stenson kept pace with his third birdie on the first four holes.
The two remained tied until the dicey par-3 eighth hole — known as the Postage Stamp — when Mickelson’s tee shot was considerably inside Stenson’s. But it was Stenson who made his birdie putt; Mickelson missed his.
The pivotal hole of the final round turned out to be the 15th. Stenson’s approach shot missed the green. But from the fringe, Stenson rolled in a 51-foot birdie putt that gave him a two-shot lead he never surrendered.