Phil Mickelson congratulated Henrik Stenson on his win at The 145th Open on Sunday.
It was a close race around the course, with the final few holes deciding the winner, but despite leading throughout the competition, Mickelson feels there was little more he could have done to beat Stenson in Sunday’s finale at Royal Troon.
Stenson and Mickelson produced some of the most memorable head-to-head golf in recent memory, effectively turning the tournament into a two-man battle.
Mickelson’s closing total of 17 under would have won an incredible 140 of the previous 144 editions of the championship but when Stenson rolled in yet another putt on the 72nd green he had secured his first major title by what seemed like a comfortable three strokes.
Stenson began the day a shot ahead on 12 under, only to lose the lead by the end of the first hole, as he bogeyed and Mickelson birdied.
Stenson responded by knocking in five birdies in his next seven holes to edge one clear of Mickelson who managed one birdie and eagle.
They were level again when Stenson bogeyed the 11th but he was back in front with a birdie on the 14th and went two clear for first time when he rolled in a 45-foot putt across the 15th green.
A third successive birdie on the 16th was matched by Mickelson and the American then rolled in an excellent par-saving putt on the 17th to stay two adrift going down the last.
But the five-time major winner left his approach to the 18th 30 feet short of the cup while Stenson fired to 15 feet and rolled in to match the 63 Mickelson opened with on Thursday.
“It’s disappointing to come in second, but I’m happy for Henrik. He’s really a great champion. We’ve been friends for some time,” said Mickelson.
“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. I’m happy that he did. I’m disappointed that it was at my expense.
“I don’t remember being in a match like that where we’ve separated ourselves from the field by so many strokes. I don’t think that’s happened that I can remember.
“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won. I think 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. I got beat by 10 birdies. It’s not like other guys were out there doing the same thing. It was a challenging day.
“After six holes, it was pretty obvious it was going to be just us. It was fun to be part of that challenge. It’s just disappointing for me to finish second, but we’ve got a great champ. Henrik’s a really great champion. I’m happy for him.
“I played what I feel was well enough to win this championship by a number of strokes and yet I got beat by three strokes. You know, it’s not like I have decades left of opportunities to win majors, so each one means a lot to me. And I put in my best performance today. Played close to flawless golf and was beat.”