Golf: Stellar Stenson keeps alive hope of first major win

Sweden's Henrik Stenson on the 18th green during his second round 65 on day two of the 2016 British Open.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson on the 18th green during his second round 65 on day two of the 2016 British Open.PHOTO: AFP

TROON, United Kingdom (AFP) - Henrik Stenson put himself into a good position to finally win a major after a superb second round at the British Open on Friday (July 15).

The Swede shot a six-under-par 65, the best score of anyone teeing off their second round in the morning, to move to nine-under overall.

That left the 40-year-old only a shot adrift of clubhouse leader Phil Mickelson and Stenson said he got a little lucky as he racked up the birdies while the rain held off on his front nine.

"I think I timed it quite well. It was quite playable the first five holes before the rain hit the first time, and I managed to pick up three birdies on three, four and five," Stenson said.

In total, he managed seven birdies, including one at the difficult par-four 10th. His only dropped shot had come at the ninth.

"Then the fun really started," he said.

"It was blowing a bit more and starting to rain quite heavily, and I birdied 10 in those conditions. Then I was hanging on for dear life on 11 and 12 really.

"They were playing tough, and I got away with a couple of pars, and then finished up quite tidy with another couple of birdies on the way home."

Stenson's effort followed an opening 68 and it allowed him to equal his lowest round at a major as well as tie the late Payne Stewart's record for the lowest second-round score at Troon.

The Swede has had seven top-four finishes at majors, including in the 2013 Open when he was the runner-up to Mickelson at Muirfield.

He hasn't contended at a major since coming third at the PGA Championship in 2014 and he withdrew from the US Open last month before the end of his second round.

However, a win at the BMW International Open in Germany in late June was a timely reminder of what he can do and maybe now his moment is finally about to come.

"I'm always having good vibes. My goal was to put myself in contention. I've done that halfway through," he said.

"I haven't been in contention for the last six majors and that was a big, big goal of mine to try and be up there and give myself a chance. So far, so good."

Stenson is confident, then, but he is also aware that he may not get too many more opportunities to become the first Swedish major winner.

"I'm not going to play these tournaments forever and ever. I don't have another 50 goes at them. It might be a dozen or 15 in total.

"So I better start putting myself in position and giving myself chances if I want to make it happen. After six tournaments not being there, it's certainly time to get going."