TROON (Scotland) • At the age of 40, Henrik Stenson is hoping his long-awaited first Major victory at the British Open on Sunday proves to be just the beginning.
Stenson had long been considered one of the best players on the Tour never to have won a Major but he put that right in the most spectacular fashion at Royal Troon on Scotland's west coast.
His Major championship record-equalling low round of 63, featuring 10 birdies, on Sunday saw him beat American Phil Mickelson by three strokes with an overall score of 20 under par, the lowest ever total at The Open.
"We're only just getting started, aren't we? You never know once you open the floodgates what might happen," Stenson said later as he spoke to the media alongside the famous Claret Jug.
The Swede said he had a feeling this would be his turn to win a Major after seven previous top-four finishes, including as the runner-up to Mickelson in the British Open at Muirfield in 2013.
THIS COULD BE JUST THE START
We're only just getting started, aren't we? You never know once you open the floodgates what might happen.
HENRIK STENSON, after victory in his epic tussle with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.
Forty "is the new 30", he told Sky, and there was certainly something about the week for the older guard, with Mickelson, at 46, coming so close to being the oldest Open winner in nearly 150 years.
In contrast, the so-called 'Big Four' of Dustin Johnson, 32, and twenty-somethings Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy never really challenged at Troon, even if the latter ended up in a tie for fifth.
Asked what he put that down to, Stenson replied: "I think the experience and the way links golf plays.
"Experience definitely plays a big part of it. Yeah, it was quite an old leader board for a change, I guess."
It was not just Stenson's long overdue first Major victory, it was also a first for a Swedish men's player after some painful failures in past years.
Jesper Parnevik was the last top player to come out of the Scandinavian country prior to Stenson, but his bogey at the last at Turnberry on the final day in 1994 cost him glory and he blew the lead on the Sunday at Troon three years later.
FINAL LEADER BOARD
4TH RD (USA unless stated, par 71)
264 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 68 65 68 63
267 Phil Mickelson 63 69 70 65
278 J.B. Holmes 70 70 69 69
279 Steve Stricker 67 75 68 69
280 Rory McIlroy (Nir) 69 71 73 67, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 68 70 73 69
282 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 67 68 75 72, Dustin Johnson (USA) 71 69 72 70
285 Jason Day (Aus) 73 70 71 71, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 71 74 69 71, Justin Rose 68 77 70 70
286 Jordan Spieth 71 75 72 68
287 Bubba Watson 70 76 72 70
289 Adam Scott (Aus) 69 73 76 71
291 Danny Willett (Eng) 71 75 74 71
"Very impressive and congrats @henrikstenson, Sweden doesn't have to wait no more!!" Parnevik tweeted on Sunday.
Stenson, meanwhile, gave credit to Mickelson, saying that it was "special" to beat the American.
"We managed to pull away from the rest of the field and we both played some great golf," said the Swede.
"It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil. He's been one of the best to play the game, and certainly in the last 20 years.
"So to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days, it makes it even more special."
Mickelson may have paid the best compliment by claiming that he had never played better without winning, saying: "It's probably the best I've played and not won.
"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. I got beat by 10 birdies."
Despite narrowly missing out on a sixth Major title, Mickelson said he can take some consolation - quite a lot of satisfaction - from how he played.
"I'm very excited with the work that I've put in... the way I was able to hit fairways with ease coming down the stretch and hit my iron shots right on line," he said.
Whether or not he looks back on it with fondness or as the one that got away, he was not certain.
"I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about that," Mickelson said.
"I played what I feel was well enough to win this championship by a number of strokes. And yet I got beat."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE