A birdie on the cool and breezy 18th green of The Open by American Phil Mickelson on Sunday denied British sports fans a hoped-for treble on what had been billed a “Sensational Sunday” of national glory.
After Australia’s tail-end finally succumbed in the dramatic final over on the fourth day of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, Chris Froome rode to glory on the Champs-Elysées in Paris in the 100th Tour de France. He secured a second British win in consecutive years in the world’s toughest cycle race to ensure what was by any standard a memorable day of success.
Sunday had proved a multi-channel feast for armchair sports fans, as they tracked the unfolding events on television, radio and the internet, despite the continuing heatwave outside.
Among those following the drama was the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who tweeted his congratulations to Froome and the England cricket team, hailing them for “continuing a great sporting summer” in the wake of Andy Murray’s historic Wimbledon victory.
Froome was by tradition unchallenged and assured first place in the general classification in the final sprint stage into the French capital. But with England already sitting on an unassailable lead in the cricket, Lee Westwood was always facing the toughest challenge on the tricky links at Muirfield.
In the end he squandered a three-shot lead, remaining in search of his first major title as he was overrun by the American, who produced a scintillating final round to end the day in a tearful hug with his caddie and family before collecting the claret jug and £945,000 in prize money.
For much of the afternoon The Open had looked like being another British-Australian tussle – albeit better balanced than that at Lord’s – pitching Westwood against Adam Scott, who blew his chances with three straight bogeys. Westwood finished the day in joint third with Scott and fellow Briton Ian Poulter. As Mickelson’s name was being etched on to the Claret Jug, England’s bowlers were ruthlessly grinding out a one-sided win and raising the prospect of a whitewash in the Ashes. The mood in the ground at Lord’s on a balmy evening was one of jubilation tinged only with the slightest hint of disappointment at the failure of the Aussies to put up more of a fight. With three more Tests to go between the old rivals this summer, followed by a further five over the winter Down Under, England look set to ram home their superiority with both bat and ball for months to come.
For Froome, victory in Paris saw him match Sir Bradley Wiggins’s feat in 2012 – a success which resulted in his fellow Team Sky cyclist being honoured with a knighthood.
The 28-year-old has worn the coveted yellow jersey for the past 13 stages. But unlike Wiggins, Froome, who was born in Kenya, grew up in South Africa and now lives in Monte Carlo, has faced a barrage of scepticism from observers – despite passing repeated drugs tests. He dominated the mountain stages, entering the final stage with a lead of more than five minutes.