Sweden getting closer to first major title

Stenson finishes second

GULLANE, Scotland — Even after he made back-to-back bogeys to fall out of a tie for the lead, Henrik Stenson never thought he was out of the British Open.

Ian Poulter had posted a 1-over 285, and Stenson was 1 over with five holes to play.

He just had no idea Phil Mickelson in the group ahead of him was piling up so many birdies down the stretch Sunday at Muirfield.

“All of a sudden, I saw he was 2 under and I was three back with only two holes to go,” Stenson said. “So I said to my caddie when I made the birdie on 17, ‘Maybe I can hole the second shot on 18 and get into a playoff.’”

Wishful thinking. Stenson could hear the crowd roar for another Mickelson birdie on the 18th that put Lefty at 3-under 281. The Swede with the slick sense of humor turned to his caddie again and told him, “A hole-in-one is pushing it, I think.”

Stenson finished strong with a par, and his consolation prize was a silver medal.

III

ATTENDANCE DOWN: Get this, the R&A believes the weather might have actually been too sunny and warm for the British Open.

Looking to put a favorable spin on a nearly 12-percent drop in attendance compared with the last Open at Muirfield in 2002, tournament organizers said advance sales were strong but not as many fans bought tickets at the gate. The weeklong tournament drew 142,036, compared with a turnout of 160,595 the last time it was held at this course near Edinburgh.

“We are pleased with this attendance,” the R&A said in a statement. “We believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay-at-the-gate customers. That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather than we did on Friday, which is normally the busiest day.

The weather was sunny most of the week, with temperatures generally in the 70s. It was overcast Sunday, with highs only reaching the 60s.

Attendance for the final round was the highest of the week — 29,247. But that was still lower than all four rounds in 2002, when crowds exceeded 30,000 each day.

Organizers also noted two other major sporting events may have hurt attendance — the Tour de France, won by Chris Froome in the second straight triumph for a British rider, as well as the Ashes cricket test between England and Australia.

III

VALUABLE LESSON: Matthew Fitzpatrick figures golf can only get easier from here on out.

After winning the silver medal as top amateur at the British Open, the 18-year-old Brit said, “I can’t imagine any other amateur event ever being as hard as the course we’ve played this week.”

Fitzpatrick shot a 1-over 72 at Muirfield on Sunday to finish 10 over, five shots better than fellow amateur Jimmy Mullen.

Now he’ll head to Northwestern University in Chicago to play college golf.

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