Superb Stenson thrilled to be back on the big stage

8/11/2013 12:07:00 AM
Henrik Stenson   (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson continued his remarkable recent form to move to within two shots of leader Jim Furyk with one round of the US PGA Championship remaining at Oak Hill.

The Swede, third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and second at both The Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on his last three starts, has a great chance to add a victory to his hot streak and, if he does so, would become the first male Scandinavian Major Champion.

It completes a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the former Ryder Cup star, who found himself outside of the game’s top 200 at the start of last year and in 2011 spent the week of the US PGA playing his club championship after failing to qualify.

“I was up in contention there as well,” joked Stenson. “I didn't win. 

“I was playing at my home course, and I was not in a good period with my golf. I was not playing great, and I ended up finishing second a shot back, so I guess it's not something that will stand out as a highlight on my CV.

“I think I should be at the Majors, rather than my club championship. I'm a bit more pleased with my play here.

“Golf is definitely a whole lot more fun than it was back in 2011; it's more fun to show up at the races with a good gear box and a good set of tires. 

“I've got a great team around me. They have got a big part of my success, my comeback from 2011:  Pete Cowen, Torsten Hansson my sports psychologist, Cornel Driessen my physio, and Gareth Lord, my caddie. I feel like I have a good team around me and they are all helping me go the right direction. 

“I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and the years to come. It's good to be back playing good golf at these big events in the middle of the summer.”

Asked about the possibility of becoming the first Swedish man to win a Major the 37 year old added: “It would be lovely, but we're still a long way away from that. There's no point thinking about tomorrow and thinking ahead of things. 

“It's all about going out and doing the same things. It's going to be a big challenge again tomorrow to keep the mind in the right place, and if I can do that, I hope I can have a chance on the back nine.  

“It's a pretty packed leaderboard and there's going to be a few guys with a good chance, so there's no point thinking about the future. It's about thinking about the shots I'm going to play and how to play them.” 

Furyk leads the way on nine under after a brave clutch putt at the last secured a 68 to take him to nine under, with his fellow American Jason Dufner a shot behind after following his Major record-equalling 63 with a 71.

Stenson will have compatriot Jonas Blixt for company in the final round, Blixt carding a 66 with a birdie on the 18th after his drive finished in a spectator's trouser pocket.

After a string of near misses in 2012, Furyk took a major step towards redemption as the 43 year old gave himself the chance of a second Major title a decade after winning the US Open.

What could have been a brilliant 2012 turned into something of a nightmare for Furyk, who held or shared the lead after 54 holes in four tournaments and failed to win any, as well as bogeying the final two holes to lose his vital singles match to Sergio Garcia at The Ryder Cup.

Furyk bogeyed two of his first three holes but hit back with five birdies, the last coming on the 17th before a crucial par save on the 18th after a woeful tee shot.

"It was big," Furyk said. "The birdie at 17 was great to hit two good shots in there and make the putt and on 18 I made a bad swing, but this week I have not let too much bother me. I was able to wedge it on and make par and it was a nice way to finish the day."

Dufner double bogeyed the fifth after driving into a water hazard, but regrouped to finish eight under, one ahead of Stenson.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood climbed into a share of seventh, six behind Furyk.

McIlroy had been heading for a second consecutive missed cut in Major Championships when he stood five over for 11 holes of his second round on Friday, but the 24 year old birdied four of the next six to finish level par.

He was still level for the tournament after 12 holes on Saturday but birdied the 13th, holed from 50 feet for another on the 17th and then chipped in on the 18th to card a 67 to lie three under.

Westwood's chances of winning a first Major at the 63rd attempt appeared slim when he dropped three shots in the last two holes of his second round 73 to start the day eight off the lead.

But the 40 year old carded three birdies and one bogey to reach the turn in 33 and after dropping a shot at the 11th, birdied the 12th and 14th.

A bogey on the 15th halted his momentum but the former World Number One returned a 68 to join McIlroy in the clubhouse on three under par.