|The Open 2016 final leaderboard|
|-20 H Stenson (Swe); -17 P Mickelson (US); -6 JB Holmes (US); -5 S Stricker (US); -4 R McIlroy (NI), T Hatton (Eng), S Garcia (Spa)|
|Selected others: -3 A Johnston (Eng); -2 D Johnson; -1 M Southgate (Eng), A Sullivan (Eng), Z Johnson (Eng); +1 L Westwood (Eng), J Rose (Eng); +2 J Spieth (US); +4 B Watson (US); +7 D Willett (Eng)|
Open champion Henrik Stenson says it was the fighting quality of beaten opponent Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon that helped him win his first major.
Stenson, 40, hit an eight-under-par 63 – the lowest final-day Open-winning round – to record a tournament record 20-under total and win by three shots.
“It was a great match,” said the Swede, runner-up to Mickelson in 2013.
“I knew he wasn’t going to back down at any point and that made it easier. I knew I had to keep on pushing.”
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Stenson, who has had one runner-up finish and four third places in majors, added: “It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil.
“He has been one of the best to play the game in the last 20 years, so to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days is amazing.
“He told me earlier in the season I was deserving of a major championship and I said to him, ‘You’ll probably not like it if you are on the end of it’ but I want to thank him for a great couple of days.”
Stenson, who will climb a place to fifth in the world rankings, had most recently challenged at a major when he finished third behind Rory McIlroy and Mickelson at the 2014 US PGA Championship.
While success in majors may have previously eluded Stenson, in 2013 – the year Mickelson beat him to The Open title at Muirfield – he became the first man to top the money list on both the American and European orders of merit.
“My previous record in majors is not something you want to keep on hearing, but I just felt like this was going to be my turn,” added the man from Gothenburg, who now lives in Florida.
The American was not surprised to see Stenson lift the Claret Jug. “I’m happy for Henrik,” said the 46-year-old. “He’s really 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 and I’m happy that he did.
“I’m just disappointed that it was at my expense. It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won.”
The quality of the battle between Stenson and Mickelson, who dropped just four shots all week, was emphasised by the fact, as runner-up, he finished 11 shots better off than third-placed JB Holmes.
That was a margin wider even than the 10 shots that separated second-placed Jack Nicklaus, following his famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ defeat by Tom Watson, from third-placed Hubie Green just down the Ayrshire coast at Turnberry in 1977.
“I don’t remember being in a match like that, where we’ve separated ourselves from the field by so many strokes,” said Mickelson.
“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.”