Open champion Henrik Stenson fulfilled a boyhood dream in lifting the Claret Jug at Royal Troon.
Ever since the Swede started playing as an 11-year-old it was footage of the Open, and also the Ryder Cup, which inspired him in his goal to become a professional golfer.
A final round of 63, outscoring rival Phil Mickelson by two as the pair played some brilliant golf, saw the 40-year-old become only the second player to finish a major on 20 under par, equalling the record set by Jason Day in last year’s US PGA Championship, beating the Open record of 19 under set by Tiger Woods in 2000.
He became only the second man to shoot 63 in the final round of a major, matching the feat of eventual winner Johnny Miller at the 1973 US Open at Oakmont, and his 72-hole total of 264 also beat the best in any major set by David Toms in the 2001 US PGA and was three lower than the previous Open record set by Greg Norman at Sandwich in 1993.
“It’s a dream come true as a young kid – well, not that young,” said Stenson, who became the first male Swede to win a major and ranked the occasion as only behind the birth of his three children.
“I was 11 when I started playing, but it was Ryder Cup and the Open Championship, those were the big early memories I had, so to sit here and hold this trophy is really amazing.
“I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy.
“There’s been many great players from my country tried in past years and decades and there’s been a couple of really close calls.
“Jesper (Parnevik) in particular twice so he sent me a message, ‘Go out and finish what I didn’t manage to finish’ and I’m really proud to have done that.
“It’s going to be massive for golf in Sweden with this win.”
Stenson has come up short on a couple of occasions, most notably three years ago when Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes to pip him at Muirfield, but this time around he felt it was his destiny.
It was more than just reward for a player who has gone through two career slumps, the last as recently as 2011 when he dropped to 230th in the world rankings.
“The second slump in my career was nothing compared to the one I had in the early 2000s,” he added.
“I managed to put my game together with a lot of hard work and a lot of help from my team and support from my family and friends and everyone else.
“It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil.
“He’s 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 makes it even more special.”
Mickelson has long been a popular figure on this side of the Atlantic but there was a lot of support for Stenson, whose nice-guy, easy-going image is backed up with a wickedly dry sense of humour.
“I guess I’m a third Scottish now aren’t I?” he said.
“I’ve really felt the support here as well, even though Phil is a very popular major champion and a very popular player.
“There was a lot of encouragement for Phil, but also for myself out there so I really want to thank the fans for doing their part
“They were really pushing me on.”
Mickelson claimed he had never played better and lost after being edged out by Stenson.
The American said: “It’s disappointing to come in second but I’m happy for Henrik. He’s really a great champion.
“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won. 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 beaten.
“I was just trying to birdie every hole, but it seemed like he was. I was just trying to keep pace.
“I had to make 30- or 40-footers just to try to keep pace with him, and wasn’t able to do it there in the end.”
The pair were well clear of the rest of the field with third-placed JB Holmes finishing some 11 strokes back on six under.
The nature of the battle between Stenson and Mickelson, who also jostled for the lead throughout Saturday, drew comparisons with the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ in 1977 in which Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus.
Mickelson was aware of the parallels with one of the game’s classics.
He said: “It certainly crossed my mind a little bit out there (yesterday), that match when Jack and Tom went head-to-head there in ’77. I was certainly thinking about that.
“I know that I wanted to be more of Tom in that case than Jack.
“But unfortunately (not). I understand how it feels (to lose). It’s bitter-sweet, I guess.”
Mickelson paid tribute to Stenson, whose triumph was his first in a major championship.
The 46-year-old, a five-time major winner, said: “I’ve always thought that he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game and that major championships are perfectly suited for him.
“I knew that he would ultimately come through and win (one). I’m happy that he did but I’m disappointed that it was at my expense.”