Henrik Stenson likes to do things in style. We saw that when he became Open champion at Royal Troon earlier this year and similarly now with a second Race to Dubai title triumph.
“If you’re going to be Europe’s No 1, you don’t want to finish with a 75, even if you can afford it,” said the Swede, smiling, after signing off with seven-under-par 65 - the day’s joint-best effort along with playing partner Rory McIlroy and also Jorge Campillo - to sneak into the top 10 in the £5.4 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
While long-time leader and Masters champion Danny Willett might think otherwise, the 40-year-old Swede was a worthy winner as he repeated a 2013 success in topping the European Tour’s Order of Merit. That Claret Jug success in Ayrshire and a silver medal-winning performance in the Olympics were among 11 top 10s on his home circuit.
“It’s been a great year,” admitted Stenson after ending it with a bigger pay-day than winner Matthew Fitzpatrick as he picked up a £929,831 bonus in addition to the £139,475 for his week’s work in the UAE.
“After 2013 (when he topped the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic), I didn’t think I would be able to improve on that. But, if you laid them out next to each other, this is the best season in my career.
“I maybe played better golf over a period of time in 2013, but there’s been a lot of solid play in strong tournaments.”
Stenson ended up more than 400,000 points ahead of second-placed Willett, with Scottish Open champion Alex Noren around 300,000 points further back in third. McIlroy, the other player in with a chance of claiming the money-list title at the start of the week, albeit needing almost a miracle, ended up fifth after he was leapfrogged at the death by Tyrrell Hatton following his runner-up finish.
“I was roughly 500,000 behind Danny when I headed into the last four events,” pointed out Stenson. “It was the week I had in Shanghai (finishing joint-second in the WGC-HSBC Champions) that really made the difference.
“It gave me a bit of a cushion and the other guys couldn’t quite catch me as I produced two somewhat solid weeks to hold them off.”
Stenson’s final event in 2016 will be in the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in a fortnight’s time before launching the defence of his Race to Dubai title in the ABU Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
“I didn’t think I could top ‘13 and might not be able to top ‘16, but we’ll keep going, that’s for sure,” he declared.
In a sparkling display of golf, Stenson and McIlroy, the defending champion, shared an eagle and 15 birdies on the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
It left the pair in a share of ninth spot, with McIlroy admitting he had been pleased with his final outing this year.
“I really got it going around the end of the front nine there and thought there could have been something really special on,” said the world No 2 of going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to reach the turn in 30.
“It wasn’t quite meant to be as I just didn’t quite keep that momentum going, but it’s still a good 65 to finish.”
He admitted that he’d been left to “rue” an opening 75 - his worst score in 32 rounds at this venue. “Even if I had shot something around level-par or one-under, I would have been right in the tournament,” he added.
“But these things happen and I played well for the remaining three days and at least redeemed myself a little bit.”
* Turkish Airlines fly daily five times per week in the winter from Edinburgh to Dubai via Istanbul with no charge for golf clubs. Check out www.turkishairlines.com for flights and prices