TROON, Scotland — Now, Phil Mickelson knows how Jack Nicklaus felt that day at Turnberry.

Sometimes, you’re just not good enough. Even when you play your best.

Mickelson turned in what would normally go down as one of the greatest closing rounds in major championship history – a bogey-free, 6-under 65 at Royal Troon.

He was two shots better than anyone else in the field – except for one player.

Henrik Stenson, in an epic match with Mickelson that rivaled the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in 1977, made 10 birdies on the way to a 63 that gave the Swede the first major title of his career and the lowest score in a major championship.

Mickelson could only shake his head as he pondered how Stenson snatched this one away.

“It’s probably the best I’ve played and not won,” Mickelson said, trying to figure out how he finished three shots behind Stenson with a 17-under 267 total. “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 10 birdies.”

When the final group stepped to the first tee, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time in three days. That was fitting, as it rekindled memories of a sun-splashed day 39 years ago at another course in the British Open rotation, just 25 miles down the Scottish coastline.

In a shot-for-shot showdown between two of the game’s greatest players back in 1977, Tom Watson’s 65 was just good enough to beat Nicklaus’ 66. The next-closest finisher was 10 strokes behind.

“It certainly crossed my mind a little bit out there today, that match when Jack and Tom went head to head there in ’77,” Mickelson said.

“I know that I wanted to be more of Tom in this case than Jack, but I understand how it feels. It’s bittersweet.”

This one followed much the same script.

Stenson began the day with a one-stroke lead, a deficit Mickelson erased with a birdie at the first hole. They went back and forth, pouring in birdie after birdie – and even an eagle from Mickelson at No. 4.

The margin never was more than a single stroke until the 15th hole. That’s where Stenson finally gained the upper hand, rolling in a 50-foot birdie putt from off the green.

Mickelson’s last gasp came at the par-5 16th, where a 30-foot eagle try brushed the left side of the cup and stopped, but didn’t drop in. Stenson made a matching birdie, pulling off a nifty up-and-down from the thick grass left of the green.

At 46, Mickelson knows his window for winning a sixth major title is beginning to close. He would’ve been the second-oldest champion in Open history. No one older than 48 has won a major championship.

“You know, it’s not like I have decades left of opportunities to win majors, so each one means a lot to me,” Mickelson said. “I put in my best performance today. Played close to flawless golf and got beat.”