Henrik Stenson spoke of the inner belief that he would win the 145th Open Championship, with the Swede dedicating the Claret Jug to a late friend after claiming his first major in stunning fashion.
During his victory speech, Stenson paid tribute to Mike Gerbich, who passed away in Arizona. The pair had become friends when Stenson lived in Dubai.
“I lost a dear friend on Wednesday and I feel like he has been with me all week,” Stenson said. “He had been battling cancer for many years. Mike, this one’s for you.”
Later, Stenson said: “He was one of the real good guys back in Dubai. I’d known him for many, many years, and he was a very keen golfer and a great man.
“I had news on Tuesday that the end was near and unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday morning over in the US. So he’s always been there as a big supporter of mine. In good days and bad days he always sent me messages and been out at some events. This one is dedicated to him, for sure.”
Stenson’s four-round aggregate of 264 is a major record in its own right. The 40-year-old has thereby become Sweden’s first major championship winner.
“I felt like it was my time,” Stenson said. “You can’t guarantee it by any means and I had to play some great golf to get there but I believed in myself and did a great job out there.
“It’s not something that you run around and shout about but I felt this was my turn. I knew I was going to have to battle back if it wasn’t but I think the extra self-belief made me go all the way this week.
“It makes it even better that I beat a competitor like Phil. He is one of the best ever to play this game.
“I feel very privileged to be the one with this trophy. So many great Swedish players have tried and there have been so many close calls. This is going to be massive for golf in Sweden.”
Stenson will rise to No5 when the world rankings are published on Monday. “We’re only just getting started, aren’t we?” he said with a smile when asked as to what achievements may come next. “You never know once you open the floodgates what might happen. It’s going to be a while to have all of this sink in.
“We have a big schedule to get through this summer, with the US PGA Championship and the Olympics to come.”
Mickelson now has 11 runners-up placings in major tournaments, alongside five victories. His 17-under-par total would have been sufficient for at least a play-off spot in 141 of the 145 Opens played throughout history. After rounds of 63, 69, 70 and 65 the American admitted to having bittersweet emotions.
“That is the best I have ever played and not won,” Mickelson said. “I don’t ever remember a match like that. Usually a bogey-free 65 in the final round is good enough to get the job done. I threw everything at him that I could.
“I was hoping for something in the mid-60s. I thought anything in the mid-60s would be a good round. In the end, I was having to make 30 and 40 foot putts just to keep pace with Henrik.
“I am happy for Henrik. He is 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. I’m happy that he did. I’m disappointed that it was at my expense.”
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