Phil did his best to answer every birdie thrown at him.... Aside from two errant shots, of which he recovered with terrific par-saving putts, his swing has never looked more in control. His putting was exceptional. But after Henrik rolled in that 50 footer on the 15th, leaving a must-make from 30 feet for Phil, you could sense that that exchange there on that green was the backbreaker. His last real glimmer of hope fell about an inch shy with the eagle attempt on 16... it is indeed a game of inches.
But Stenson knew better than anyone precisely what Mickelson is fully capable of. He witnessed firsthand Lefty's closing-stretch heroics that essentially snatched the Claret Jug away from him back in 2013 at Muirfield... so there could be no assuming that a par-par finish would safely deliver him his first major. That 4-iron tee shot to the 220-yd par3 17th... was of the same quality as that of Dustin Johnson's approach shot to the 72nd hole at Oakmont just a few weeks ago. Henrik understood the likelihood of Phil capitalizing on a mistake, and to his credit he continued playing focused and aggressive, as was evidenced by that swing. I was shocked really that he missed the ensuing birdie attempt, as it was one of the easier birdie putts he had all day.
I was certainly pulling for Phil, always have and always will. But there was a small part of me that wanted to see Stenson get the monkey off of his back, to become the first Swede in history to hoist the Jug afterward. To perform the way he performed, carrying the weight of his country on his shoulders all the way, and to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure being hurled at him by a legend who couldn't have possibly played better golf, under those circumstances no less?
You can't not be happy for the guy. And if you're a Mickelson fan, like me, you can't help but be proud of the effort he gave and the grace with which he lost.
You capsulize all those things and you have everything needed for one of the greatest final-round battles in the history of the game, and I'm lucky I decided to take the day off from golf and watch it unfold live as it happened. To have chanced someone spoiling that degree of enjoyment that awaited 5 hours later through DVR replay would've been quite the downer!