The rise and rise of sizzling Stenson

9/3/2013 2:06:00 PM
Henrik Stenson  (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)

By Will Pearson,

Undoubtedly one of the hottest properties in the world of golf this year, renaissance man Henrik Stenson is running the rule on both sides of the Atlantic following his first win on the US PGA Tour in more than four years.

The 37 year old Swede, who holds a commanding lead in The Race to Dubai thanks to a stunning run of performances stretching back through early summer, ascended to the peak of the PGA Tour’s Fed-Ex Cup Play-Off series with victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday.

His success in Boston, Massachusetts, not only sees Stenson leading the way on both American and European shores but also propels the Gothenburg native to Number Six in the Official World Golf Ranking – his highest position in almost four years.

Stenson is also now top of the World Points List in the embryonic Ryder Cup qualification campaign as last week’s other winner, ISPS Handa Wales Open champion Gregory Bourdy, leads the line on the European front.

All in all, quite a turnaround for a man who was labouring down at 230th in the World Ranking less than two years ago following a barren, morale-sapping slump in form.

Stenson won his first European Tour title in five years at the 2012 SA Open Championship last November, holding off a spirited final day charge from home favourite George Coetzee, in what proved a turning point in the fortunes of the affable Swede.

It was earlier this summer, however, when his remarkable run and irrepressible rise truly kicked on as a tied third place finish at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in July helped Stenson back into the top 30 of the world for the first time since August 2010.

The following week, the two-time Ryder Cup star completed his best finish in a Major Championship with a second place at The Open Championship at Muirfield behind Phil Mickelson before an equally impressive stateside double-header.

Stenson overhauled Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose to assume the Number One spot in The Race to Dubai by finishing runner-up – albeit to a runaway Tiger Woods – at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August before a third place finish at the following week’s US PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club drove him back into the top ten in the world for the first time in more than four years.

“I think mentally I've been as good as I've ever been throughout this summer and that started in my preparations for the US Open,” said Stenson following his win at TPC Boston.  “You've got to be able to take the hits there and keep on going and I did that pretty good that week. 

“But I knew I could be better.  I’ve jumped up a notch in that department and just kept at it all summer.  That’s the big reason why I've been able to have so many good weeks in big tournaments.”

More than €400,000 clear of McDowell in The Race to Dubai as the season reaches boiling point, there is a general feeling that Stenson is back where he belongs amongst the sport’s leading lights, having spent more than 100 weeks in the top ten during a career which has yielded seven European Tour titles and 14 worldwide.

Always resolute in his belief that he would again scale the heights that saw him climb as high as fourth in the World Ranking, even in the midst of his dip in form, Stenson’s rejuvenation has been an inspirational story of graft and grit.

“It was frustrating times, of course,” he reflected. “But I never questioned my ability to play good golf and compete with the best.  I've always had that. 

“But there was still a lot of hard work and I've had to dig in deep to get back into good shape.  I have a great team around me: everything from caddie, physio, my coach, swing coach.  They are a big part of this and I have great family and friends who provide amazing support.”

More than anything it has been Stenson’s unfailing good humour that has seen him traverse the darkest period of his career and come out the other side a stronger man and, indeed, a better golfer.

Asked how long he expected this incredible run of form to continue, Stenson – indisputably one of golf’s great characters – replied with a smile and a familiar glint in his eyes.

“Forever and ever, of course.”