Sunday’s duel was one for the ages

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Well, I don’t suppose I could have been more wrong about Rickie Fowler being the clear winner of the Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Course in Scotland.

But at least we got one heck of a show out of the one who did win.

Henrik Stenson shot 8-under on Sunday, carding a 63 and a 20-under for the tournament. Second place was Phil Mickelson, who lost to Stenson by three strokes. But Phil shouldn’t be too beat up. He was one half of one of the greatest golf duels I’ve seen to date.

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Every time Phil hit a shot, Stenson one-upped him and was that much closer to the hole. When Phil putted inches from the cup, Henrik would come and next and sink one. The two combined for an eagle, 14 birdies and two bogeys in the final pairing (one of them being Stenson’s first hole; talk about a quick recovery from what could have been the start of a disastrous round).

I felt like a Looney Tunes character, shaking my face and rubbing my eyes to check if what I was watching was even real. This was golf at the highest level, two men pushing each other to do better. Stenson’s final 20-foot putt for birdie to win the Claret Jug was majestic. Well-deserved, and bravo.

And just like that, we’re already looking to the PGA Championship in less than two weeks. How will the Big Three—Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy—fair at Baltrusol Golf Club after lackluster performances last weekend?

Spieth said he plans on using the momentum from his 68 Sunday going into the final major. Anyone who says he isn’t suffering from a Master’s hangover is denying the facts—which probably includes even Spieth himself. Sunday was the first time in 10 rounds he carded a score under par. As uncharacteristic as that stat is for the young two-time major winner, the reality is something is going on inside his head.

As for Day, he’ll be looking to defend his title. What started as a hot season quietly turned mediocre, and that mess up he had at the World Golf Championship a few weekends ago was hard to watch.

Meanwhile, McIlory is still fighting for relevance despite his No. 4 world ranking. He wants to win just to prove he still can.