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 in Gullane, Scotland.
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.
He closed with a 70 to finish three shots behind, alone in second place, for his best finish in a major. Stenson twice tied for third in the Open, though he was six shots behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale in 2008, and eight shots behind Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews two years later.
This time, he was a serious contender, one of four players to have at least a share of the lead on Sunday at Muirfield.
“Very happy with the performance,” Stenson said. “We’re getting closer. I’ve got two thirds and now a second. We all know what we’re longing for.”
Stenson, coming off three poor years brought on by illness and injuries since he won The Players Championship in 2009, is certainly headed in the right direction.
He moved up to No. 20 in the world ranking.
“I know it might sound silly, a bit stupid to say that I didn’t feel like I’m that overly confident with some parts of my game,” Stenson said. “But I still managed to keep it together. I’ve played this golf course very good, I think. Even though I made a few mistakes, I haven’t made some big mistakes that kind of put me out of the tournament.”
Tiger Woods remains stuck at 14 majors — four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record and right where it’s been since his last significant triumph at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Woods staggered to the finish with a 74, five shots behind winner Phil Mickelson. Woods’ putter was his nemesis. He needed 33 putts.
“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” Woods said.
He didn’t sound all that impressed with Mickelson’s round, which matched the best score of the week and left him as the only player to break par overall.
“It’s certainly gettable out there. The greens are slower and if you have the feel to hit it far enough up there into the greens, you can get it done,” Woods said. “You can shoot between 3 and 5 under par.”
The British Open drew 142,036 spectators, a 12 percent drop from the 160,595 who attended the last time it was held at Muirfield in 2002.
Officials said the warm weather may have been a factor as Sunday’s attendance on a cooler day was 29,247 was the best of the week. But it was still lower than all four rounds in 2002, which each topped 30,000.
Mickelson was asked if he had any Scottish heritage in his surname. “I don’t know,” Mickelson said, and then said in his best (or worst) Scottish accent, “I don’t know. Maybe a wee bit.” ... England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, shot a 1-over 72 Sunday to finish 10 over, five shots better than Jimmy Mullen to win the silver medal as low amateur.