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Published: 18:17 | 17/7/16

Stenson wins The Open

Swede records three-stroke win

Henrik Stenson is the champion golfer of the year after he carded a sensational 63 to finish three strokes clear of Phil Mickelson at the 145th Open at Royal Troon.

The Swede held a one-shot advantage over Mickelson heading into the final round but there was a two-shot swing at the opening hole when the American tapped in for birdie as his playing partner left his second short of the green on his way to a bogey.

After Mickelson hit the second pin, Stenson rolled in for birdie to join the five-time major winner at the top of the leaderboard.

While Mickelson missed his birdie putt at the third, Stenson rolled in from 12 feet to move to 13-under and the outright lead but they were level again after the fourth when Mickelson eagled before Stenson got a birdie of his own.

It was developing into a titanic battle and they showed no signs of letting up with birdies at the par-five sixth to leave them level heading to the Postage Stamp. They both produced strong tee shots at the par-three but it was Stenson who made a gain on the hole, rolling in his 15-footer for birdie to take a one-stroke lead at the turn.

He added another birdie a the tenth, which was matched by Mickelson's, before his second bogey of the day saw him drop back into a share of the lead.

As Mickelson parred the next five holes, Stenson took control with three successive birdies starting on the 14th and he arrived on the 18th with a two-stroke advantage. After Mickelson rolled in for par, Stenson was left with two putts to win the Open, but he only needed one as he picked up a tenth birdie for a sensational final round 63 to leave him 20-under for the tournament, three clear of Mickelson.

"It was a great match," Stenson said of his battle with Mickelson. "I knew he wasn't going to back down at any point and that made it easier. I knew I had to keep on pushing.

"It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil.

"He has been one of the best to play the game in the last 20 years, so to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days is amazing.

"He told me earlier in the season I was deserving of a major championship and I said to him, 'You'll probably not like it if you are on the end of it' but I want to thank him for a great couple of days."

While disappointed to finish second, Mickelson paid tribute to Stenson, saying: "I'm happy for Henrik. He's really a great champion.

"We've been friends for some time. I've always thought that he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game and that major championships are perfectly suited for him.

"I knew that he would ultimately come through and win and I'm happy that he did.

"I'm just disappointed that it was at my expense. It's probably the best I've played and not won."

"I don't remember being in a match like that, where we've separated ourselves from the field by so many strokes," Mickelson added.

"That's probably why it's disappointing in that I don't have a point where I can look back and say, 'I should have done that or had I only done this.'

"I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major - usually that's good enough to do it, and I got beat."

Such was their dominance that third-placed JB Holmes finished 14 shots behind Stenson with Steve Stricker fourth, a further shot back.

Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Hatton Tyrrell finished in a share of fifth on four-under.

McIlroy's hopes of winning the Claret Jug were all but ended on Friday afternoon when he was caught in the worst of the weather at Royal Troon, but he mounted a strong challenge on the final day, carding a 67 to move to four-under for the championship.

Despite missing out on a second Claret Jug, the world number four was pleased with how he battled on ahead of next month's USPGA Championship.

"After the second day I was never going to win this golf tournament. Look what the guys have done - there was no chance of me getting to that score," McIlroy said.

"So to finish as high up as I could, that was the goal. I was going out there today with the goal of trying to get world ranking points, Race to Dubai points, FedEx Cup points.

"I sort of forgot about the Claret Jug and just tried to focus on finishing as high as I could, and felt like I did that pretty well.

"I can be positive about my game going into the last major of the year."

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