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PGA TOUR | FEDEX CUP PLAYOFFS

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HK GOLFER・OCT 2013


How

Swede It Is

Paul Prendergast recounts Henrik Stenson’s amazing comeback that took him from outside the world’s top 200 to FedEx Cup Playoffs success – and a cool US$10 million.

Comeback king: Just two years ago, Henrik Stenson was ranked outside the world’s top 200. With his FedEx Cup success, he’s now number four HK GOLFER・OCT 2013

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For Stenson, his massive earnings might feel like redemption. He reportedly lost US$8 million in one of Texan crook Allen Stanford’s investment schemes.

AFP

Jordan Spieth (above) enjoyed an incredible rookie season and will represent the United States at this month’s Presidents Cup; Tiger Woods (opposite) wasn’t at his best at East Lake, struggling until the final day to finish the Playoffs in second place behind Stenson 78

HK GOLFER・OCT 2013

T

he planet’s hottest male golfer, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, held off mounting exhaustion and all comers to capture the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship by three shots at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, putting the icing on the cake of an incredible three-month form streak that had its origins in Germany way back in June. A tie for 10th at the BMW International Open in Munich opened the floodgates to an amazing run: tied third at the Scottish Open, second at the Open Championship, tied for second at the Bridgestone Invitational, third at the US PGA and then two FedEx Cup Playoff Series wins, culminating with last month’s Atlanta victory. This incredible stretch allowed the 37-year old

to catch and pass Tiger Woods to bag the seasonlong FedEx Cup and the staggering US$10 million top prize from the bonus pool. Stenson said it was the trophies – and not vast amounts of cash – that he was interested in, but for Stenson the earnings might feel like redemption. He reportedly lost US$8 million in one of Texan crook Allen Stanford’s investment schemes. Stenson, who at one point in the tournament held a nine-shot lead, took a four-stroke advantage into the final round only to see that whittled down at one point to just one as the mightily impressive 20-year old Jordan Spieth made a charge on the final day. However, a settling birdie at the 15th and a late Spieth bogey secured the title at his first attempt and the likeable Swede, who had fallen to outside the world’s top 200 just two years ago, was able to complete one of the great modernday comebacks. "This is going to sink in over the coming days," Stenson said while holding both trophies after posting a 13-under total of 267. "What better way to go into a month-long break than this?" HKGOLFER.COM


The victory caps not only a remarkable few months for Stenson but consolidates his return to the upper tier of the world’s elite, after only returning to the top 100 at the end of 2012 when he won the South African Open. Rookie sensation Spieth – who was ranked 810th after missing the cut in his first event of 2013, but has now jumped to 21st – closed with an eight-birdie 64 despite stumbling towards the end of the round and finished in a tie for second with the PGA Tour’s most fashionable parttimer, Steve Stricker, at 10-under. Webb Simpson carded the round of the day with a 63 to locked up fourth place at nine under, a stroke clear of Dustin Johnson. Having been pushed back to second in the FedEx Cup standings by Stenson’s brilliance heading into the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods couldn’t get anything going before closing with a three-under 67 to finish a distant tie for 22nd. The final round would boil down to Stenson and his ability to hold his form and his nerve, with the prospect of an incredible pot of gold at the end of the rainbow looming over him. "That was the hard bit – to put everything aside, as always, and focus on the right things,” said Stenson, who earned US$1.44 million for the win. “I didn't play my best round today, but I was hanging in there, took the right decisions." Stenson’s meteoric rise boils down to the culmination of a lot of hard work on both the physical and mental sides of his game with coach Pete Cowen and sports psychologist Torsten Hansson, after falling from a career-high ranking of fourth following his win at the Players Championship in 2009. Mental lapses and a hot temper had gotten the better of Stenson in recent years – the most graphic example of affliction might have been the cut hand incurred from a snapped shaft during the 2011 US. Open at Congressional, as he and former caddie Fanny Sunneson performed running repairs on a wound oozing blood late in the final round. The fire within was evident as recently as the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, where he slammed his driver into the ground after finding a hazard off the tee on the 72nd hole. The ground won, as it often does, and his caddie didn’t even flinch as his boss retrieved the strewn pieces of the offending weapon before doublebogeying the hole. He then proceeded to take out his continuing frustration on his unfortunate locker, for which he later apologised. He blamed the most recent signs of anguish in part on growing fatigue levels, something the supremely athletic Stenson was not alone in vocalising as an unrelenting schedule throughout the summer months took an increasing toll. HKGOLFER.COM

Stenson’s meteoric rise boils down to the culmination of a lot of hard work on both the physical and mental sides of his game with coach Pete Cowen and sports psychologist Torsten Hansson. However, the physical improvements in his game have been evident all year long and a range of statistical data backs them up. “If you look at Henrik’s stats, he just doesn’t have a weakness,” Cowen said. “He’s now got a lot more control over what he’s doing and his confidence is sky high.” In Atlanta, Stenson ranked first in greens in regulation, third in driving accuracy but most importantly, third in strokes gained on the greens. His dominance over the second half of the season is of no surprise when you examine an array of season stats that are the envy of most – seventh in fairways hit, third in total driving, first in greens in regulation, first in ball striking and fourth in scoring. Cowen added: “If Henrik gets a sniff of winning a tournament then he’ll most likely win it. He could have won two Majors already this year but was only beaten by two players who had better final days. “Now he’s back at the top, he’s confident and HK GOLFER・OCT 2013

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able to handle all the pressure there is.” Through his ball striking and snowballing confidence, the Swede was able to put himself in position more often than most to take advantage of hot putting weeks and his timing has been impeccable, particularly during the Playoff Series where wins are worth significantly more than in the regular season. “It's just been a great summer," said Stenson, "way beyond what I could imagine. The way that I performed here since mid-July has been incredible." Apart from a well-deserved break from the game, a maiden Major Championship for himself

and for Sweden has to be on the agenda for the resurgent Swede, now once again ranked fourth in the world. Barring injury, the number one ranking may also be a part of his destiny before The Masters rolls around in April next year. Stenson plans on playing all European Tour Finals Series events leading up to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai where a continuation of his form could see him close the gap on Woods, the current numero uno. Watching him try – while also keeping an eye on how young Spieth continues – will be worth waiting for.

FedEx Cup Playoffs Points and Payout SWE

4,750 points

US$10,000,000

2 Tiger Woods

USA

2,743

US$3,000,000

3 Steve Stricker

USA

2,650

US$2,000,000

4 Adam Scott

AUS

2,278

US$1,500,000

5 Zach Johnson

USA

2,238

US$1,000,000

6 Matt Kuchar

USA

1,823

US$800,000

7 Jordan Spieth

USA

1,690

US$700,000

8 Graham DeLaet

CAN

1,415

US$600,000

9 Phil Mickelson

USA

1,313

US$550,000

10 Justin Rose

ENG

1,300

US$500,000

AFP

Steve Stricker (above) has played only a parttime schedule on the PGA Tour this year, but that hasn’t stopped the 46-year-old from enjoying a solid season, notching numerous high finishes to place third in the FedEx Cup Cup Playoffs

1 Henrik Stenson

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