Professional / PGA Tour

Nick Faldo rates Stenson vs. Mickelson as ‘links perfection’ that might eclipse ‘Duel in the Sun’

Henrik Stenson is congratulated on his victory by Phil Mickelson (left) on the 18th green during the final round of the British Open. (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson is congratulated on his victory by Phil Mickelson (left) on the 18th green during the final round of the British Open. (Getty Images)

TROON, Scotland — Three times he has raised the Claret Jug. Another time he shot a second-round 63, only to lose on the final day when Greg Norman passed him with a 64.

Been there, done that? Meet Nick Faldo, who watched the festivities at the 145th British Open at Royal Troon Golf Club and found himself swept up in the action like everyone else.

“I’ve never seen perfection like that,” Faldo said from behind the 18th green not 20 minutes after Henrik Stenson had set records and stunned Phil Mickelson for the Swede’s first major championship.

“For them to match each other like that, that was links perfection. Never seen anything like that.”

Faldo could commiserate with Mickelson. In 1993 at Royal St. George’s, Faldo posted a second-round 63. But just like Mickelson, who shot a first-round 63 this year, Faldo didn’t win. Norman closed with 64 to beat him, not unlike Stenson besting Mickelson with a 63.

“The only good thing is, he didn’t lose it,” said Faldo, a six-time major winner. “You’re going to lose majors, but Phil will look back and say, ‘I did everything I could.’ There’s no discredit in that at all. He’s not going to be scarred by that loss.

“One man won it. The other man didn’t lose.”

Faldo was a young man in 1977 at Turnberry, playing in his second British Open. In a share 62nd place at day’s end, he was done way before Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus concluded their “Duel in the Sun,” but Faldo agrees that Stenson-Mickelson rates right with it.

Maybe surpasses it.

“This is another jewel like Jack and Tom,” Faldo said, “but (Stenson and Mickelson) took it up a couple of notches with the scoring. That was crazy, wasn’t it?”

How crazy? Mickelson shot 267, which would match the low 72-score in British Open history — if not for Stenson being in the mix this week. But instead of a second Claret Jug, Mickelson watched Stenson hoist his first.

Tough viewing for Lefty, but great theater for fans.

“The treat that they gave us today . . . that golf was incredible,” Faldo said.

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