British Open: Phil Mickelson 'close to flawless,' yet falls to Henrik Stenson

Henrik Stenson of Sweden celebrates victory as he walks off the 18th green with Phil Mickelson of the United States after the final round on day four of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon on July 17, 2016 in Troon, Scotland.

The cool Swede closed with an incredible 10 birdies in a record-equalling eight-under-par-63 to finish with an historic 72-hole total of 264, matching Jason Day's all-time major low 20-under at last year's US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

"It was a great match with Phil". I knew I was going to have to battle, but I think there was extra self-belief that made me go all the way this week.

"I really thought I made eagle on 16", Mickelson said. He has finished tied or solo second 11 times in pro golf's biggest four tournaments, more than any golfer except Jack Nicklaus (19). "I really felt the support here even though Phil is a popular Major champion, so I really want to thank the fans who were pushing me".

"I lost a dear friend on Wednesday morning, Mike Gerbich", Stenson said.

Stenson's first major title at the 42nd attempt came after two other thirds in the Open in 2008 and 2010.

Stenson added: "I know playing against Phil he is never going to ease off".

"Wow, this will take a little while to sink in", said Stenson as he held aloft the coveted Claret Jug. I'm really happy for him.

"I was 11 when I started playing but it was Ryder Cup and The Open Championship, those were the big early memories I had, so to sit here and hold this trophy is really fantastic". "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. I am disappointed that it was at my expense".

"It's probably the best I've played and not won", admitted Mickelson.

If Mickelson had not already won a Claret Jug - he captured the British Open in 2013 at Muirfield - then what Stenson did to him in Sunday's riveting final round could have been utterly debilitating for him going forward.

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

"Right now I'm running on adrenaline, but there will be some point when I'll struggle to make it up the stairs when I get back to the house, I'm sure", he said. It was very similar to when Jack and I had our shootout at Turnberry - the Duel in the Sun. Even when Stenson took a two-shot lead by rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt across the 15th green, Mickelson answered with a 3-wood up the narrow front in the green to 30 feet.

Stenson three-putted for bogey from just off the first green, and he three-putted on No. 11 to fall back into a tie for the lead.

It helped Stenson shed the distinction of being the best current golfer without a major title.

"It's going to be massive for Sweden", Stenson said of the win, joining Annika Sorenstam as a Swedish Major champion.

"I had about a 40-, 45-footer on 15 and I'm thinking I've got to make that", Mickelson said. He finished third, 14 shots behind.

The two players were locked in a battle all afternoon, but Stenson denied Mickelson from capturing a sixth major championship at age 46. "He played some incredible golf".

This one followed much the same script. Stenson began the day with a one-stroke lead, a deficit Mickelson erased with a birdie at the very first hole.

"I got beat by 10 birdies".

There was a wobble when he missed a par putt at the hard 11th hole but remarkably he produced three straight birdies from the 14th to put the outcome beyond doubt. Stenson exhaled and then knocked his approach to 20 feet and curled that birdie putt into the hole for good measure.

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