The 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland turned out to be a two-horse race as Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson were far ahead of the rest of the pack when all was said and done.
The 46-year-old Mickelson was seeking his seventh major championship and his second at the Open Championship. The 40-year-old Stenson was seeking his first major title and, in fact, was looking to become the first man from his home country of Sweden to win any golf major.
Despite their age, the two men put on one of the most impressive golf duels in recent memories as they left their younger competition in the dust.
Entering the 13th hole, the two golfers were tied at 16-under, but it was Stenson who pulled away, birdieing four of his last five holes to beat Mickelson by three strokes.
The win was an impressive one for Stenson, who shot a combined 264 over the four rounds of the major. This broke the record for lowest score in a major which previously held by David Toms who shot a 265 in the 2001 PGA Championship.
Stenson is now the fourth man in the last six years to win the Open Championship in his 40s, joining a list which actually includes Mickelson who did it in 2013.
However, what will likely overshadow Stenson’s win is Mickelson’s loss. At 46 years old, Mickelson is likely nearing the end of his run atop the golfing world and this may have been his last chance to walk away with a major.
While Mickelson has been a major champion an impressive six times, he has finished as the runner-up in majors even more than that. The 2016 Open Championship was his tenth second-place finish in a major for his career including six such finishes at the U.S. Open.
Incredibly, in the history of golf majors, the 267 Mickelson shot for the weekend would have been good enough to win all but four of those majors.
Mickelson is revered by fans of the sport and he will likely go down as one of the greatest professional golfers ever, but he is also a man defined by his losses and near-misses as much as he is by his victories.
The 2016 Open Championship is just the latest in a long line of narrow misses which will be talked about when discussing Mickelson’s career alongside his consistency and his successes.