Phil Mickelson admitted that he had never before played so well and lost as he came out on the wrong end of a titanic battle with Henrik Stenson at The 145th Open Championship.
The 46 year old teed off at Royal Troon one shot behind Stenson but he produced a bogey-free 65 in a performance that would have been good enough to claim many a Major Championship.
A two-shot swing on the first moved the American into the lead and he was level with five holes to play before Stenson birdied the 14th, 15th, 16th and last to sign for a record-equalling 63 and a record-breaking 20 under total of 264.
It was the 11th time Mickelson has finished second in a Major - he is second in that unwanted category to only Jack Nicklaus - but he admitted there was little he could do in the face of Stenson's relentless finish.
"It's probably the best I've played and not won," he said. "I think that's probably why it's disappointing in that I don't have a point where I can look back and say, 'I should have done that or had I only done this'.
"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 beat. I got beat by ten birdies. It's not like other guys were out there doing the same thing. It was a challenging day.
"I'm proud of the way I played. 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.
"It's 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.
I knew that he would ultimately come through and win. I'm happy that he did. I'm disappointed that it was at my expense - Phil Mickelson
"It's disappointing to come in second, but I'm happy for Henrik. He's really a great champion. We've been friends for some time.
"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."
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