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10.06.2019 09:44
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TROON, Scotland -- Grasping the enormity of it all remained elusive, just as trying to keep pace with Henrik Stenson proved to be for Phil Mickelson on an action-packed day of golf where neither player deserved to walk away without the storied hardware.That reality became clear for Mickelson at Royal Troon during the prize-giving ceremony Sunday on the 18th green, where Stenson hoisted the Claret Jug as Lefty received consolation honors, left to rue having played the round of a lifetime, only to be beaten by a better one at the 145th Open Championship.Instead of celebrating with family and friends as he did three years ago at Muirfield, Mickelson made the trek across the putting green toward the media center, still in a bit of a daze, but recognizing a couple of golf writers for whom he provided a quick quip: That little s--- made 10 birdies!It was said in fun at a time when Mickelson was undoubtedly hurting inside. He offered up sincere accolades and respect for Stenson, who at age 40 won his first major championship in epic fashion, shooting a final-round 63 to put his name alongside Johnny Miller -- who did it 43 years ago at the U.S. Open --- as the only players to shoot that score in the final round of a major and win.Mickelson shot a bogey-free 65 -- a score he would undoubtedly have taken on the first tee and headed to the clubhouse -- and lost. By three! It wasnt until the end that the margin increased to that deficit, a back-and-forth battle conjuring images of the famed Duel in the Sun between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus just 20 miles down the coast at Turnberry in 1977.It certainly crossed my mind a little bit out there today, Mickelson said. I was certainly thinking about that. I know that I wanted to be more of a Tom in that case than Jack, but unfortunately -- I understand how it feels. Its bittersweet I guess.Watson shot 65-65 on the weekend that year to claim the Claret Jug from the Golden Bear, who shot 65-66. The closest player was Hubert Green, who finished 10 strokes back of Nicklaus and famously said: I won the golf tournament. I dont know what game those other two guys were playing.Named the Duel in the Sun because of unusual warm, sunny conditions, it remains one of golfs all-time classics. Will Sundays drama join it in such regard? Quite possibly. The golf was scintillating, the shot-making amazing. The few mistakes made were by fractions, not egregious errors. Mickelson twice got up and down seemingly from the Firth of Clyde to make remarkable pars, only to be outdone by Stenson, who made an Ayrshire Coasts worth of putts.Duel Without The Sun might work, but almost on cue, as the two combatants made clear this tournament was only about them, the sun peaked through the clouds to shine some light on what will undoubtedly go down as one of the games great encounters.It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil, said Stenson, who at sixth in the world was the highest-ranked player without a major, having five times finished in the top-3. Hes been one of the best to play the game, 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.Stenson shot four rounds in the 60s, finished at 264 -- the lowest aggregate total for any major championship -- and at 20 under par, which matches the record in relation to par set by Jason Day at last years PGA Championship.With the big four of Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy unable to get into contention -- McIlroy was the closest in a tie for fifth, but 16 shots back -- it was left to a couple of aging stars, including Hall of Famer Mickelson, who would have been the fourth-oldest major winner in history at age 46.It was an honor to be out there; it was cool, said Jim Bones Mackay, Mickelsons long-time caddie who has been on the bag for all but one of his 42 PGA Tour victories, including all five majors. But I feel bad for Phil. He had an amazing tournament, and to play the way he did and somehow finish second ... I feel bad for him.Henrik was just magical. He was making those putts. Three or four times he made putts from outside of Phil. For a guy who is known as a world-class ball-striker, he was the best putter in the game, at least today. Im happy for him, but feel bad for Phil.How could you not? For all of his success, Mickelson has now finished second 11 times in major championships. That passed Arnold Palmer for the second-most all time to Nicklaus, who had an amazing 19 runner-ups to go with his 18 victories.Despite his little joke to a couple of media guys, Mickelson was clearly hurting, acknowledging that his great play was small solace.He narrowly missed a major championship record 62 Thursday when his birdie putt on the last hole lipped out; he made just four bogeys in 72 holes, almost unheard of for Phil, including none in the first and last rounds; and he went shot for shot with Stenson for most of the day, making four birdies and an eagle.And it wasnt enough?Mickelson has had some heartbreaking defeats -- U.S. Open losses at Merion, Winged Foot and Pinehurst come immediately to mind, as does a similar loss to David Toms at the 2001 PGA Championship, where Mickelsons 72-hole total would have won every other PGA to that point.This tournament dates to 1860 and Mickelson would have won all but three of the previous 144 with the kind of numbers he put up here.Im not sure how Im going to feel about that, he said. Im proud of the way I played. I dont look back on anything and say I should have done this differently or that. I played what I feel was well enough to win this championship by a number of strokes and yet I got beat by three strokes.Its not like I have decades left of opportunities to win majors, so each one means a lot to me. And I put in my best performance today. Played close to flawless golf and was beat.So it kind of goes both ways. Im happy with the way I played, but even more disappointed that it wasnt enough because you look back and say, what do I need to do?Nicklaus wondered the same thing at Turnberry 39 years ago when Watson clipped him by a stroke. Years later, Jack would say: Thats the best tournament I played and lost.On Sunday, Phil said: Its probably the best Ive played and not won.Like Nicklaus, Mickelson will have to settle for being part of a historic battle. Only one man was able to celebrate the joys of a momentous victory. And its a shame another had to lose. 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Monday, Ian Fitzsimmons and Max Bretos welcome ESPN NBA Insider Marc Stein (1:30 p.m. ET), ESPN 1000 in Chicagos Tom Waddle (2:00) and NBC Sports Rowdy Gaines (3:15).Todays main topics:? Rio Olympics? Lane Johnsons potential suspensionText us at 73776 (msg&data rates maay apply) or tweet us at twitter.ddddddddddddcom/RussilloShow -- well be with you from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET on ESPN Radio and ' ' '

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