HENRIK Stenson hailed a “dream season” as he claimed an historic double in fitting fashion by storming to victory in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Stenson became the first man to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour in the same year thanks to a commanding six-shot victory at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
The 37-year-old carded a flawless closing 64, signing off in style with a tap-in eagle on the 18th, to finish with a tournament-record total of 25-under- par, with money-list rival Ian Poulter a valiant second following a 66. France’s Victor Dubuisson was two shots further back in third, with Joost Luiten from the Netherlands fourth and a trio of former world No 1s – Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood – sharing fifth.
“It has been an incredible summer for me, the (autumn) in America was great and now this,” said Stenson, who was second in the Open and third in the US PGA Championship before his FedEx Cup triumph. “It has been a dream season. I played so well this week. I knew the guys would try to catch me, especially Ian who never gives up. I wanted to stay ahead of him and I managed to do that.
“I don’t know how I am going to be able to top this next year but I am going to give my best in the majors and that (becoming the first male Swedish player to win one) would be the icing on the cake.”
Stenson also had the added satisfaction of winning $100 from Poulter after keeping the Englishman behind him on the money list, with Poulter also having to act as his waiter for the evening. “You should stop when you’re ahead so he’s not getting another bet,” joked Stenson. “I can’t stand that much pressure for $100. I haven’t had the money yet but I’ll have a photographer with me when I do.”
Poulter, who was one of the first to congratulate Stenson after waving a white towel in surrender on the 18th, said: “I have to take my hat off to him, unbelievable. I tried to run him down as hard as I could but even with a sore wrist he has pressed on and I just could not get close enough. Henrik has not made a mistake all week and I just had to make sure of second place and some valuable Ryder Cup points. I have thrown a lot at him and given him so much stick, but he is the best player on the planet right now.”
Stenson won his first European Tour title in 2001 but then went through the first of two career slumps, the second coming in 2011 and leaving him 230th in the world rankings at the start of last year. He also lost a reported seven-figure sum in disgraced financier Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme in 2009, just months after the biggest victory of his career to date in the Players Championship at Sawgrass.
Add in some serious health problems – one caused by a parasite infection he contracted while on holiday – and Stenson’s form in 2013 is all the more remarkable, with a share of third place in the Scottish Open followed up by runners-up finishes in the Open and WGC Bridgestone Invitational and third place in the US PGA Championship in a five-week spell.
He then won the second FedEx Cup play-off event, the Deutsche Bank Championship, to move to the top of the standings, and although Tiger Woods regained top spot as Stenson finished 33rd in the BMW Championship in Chicago, as one of the top five heading into Atlanta Stenson’s destiny was firmly in his own hands.
Those hands had snapped his driver on the final hole at Conway Farms in frustration at a closing 74, while he also damaged his locker and was forced to “apologise to the appropriate parties” and pay for the damage according to his agent. But just six days later the popular Swede – who was struggling badly with tendinitis in his wrist earlier in the week – had his hands on two trophies and an eight-figure payday for a wire-to-wire triumph. Two months on and the scenario was repeated, with Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell arriving in Dubai knowing a win would secure the Race to Dubai title.
A second round of 64 gave Stenson a one-shot lead he maintained thanks to a 67 on Saturday, while three birdies in the first five holes of the final round meant the result was never in doubt, despite being on anti-inflammatory tablets all week due to his wrist problem.. “I am in desperate need of some rest,” he admitted. “I don’t want to jeopardise anything long term so I’m going to give it some rest.”
The good news is that a return to the Ryder Cup side for the first time since 2008 next year is already secure, while the long-term goal of becoming world No 1 is firmly on the agenda. “It’s going to take a lot more good golf but I am certainly going to keep on trying,” the world No 3 added. “Everyone who has won the Race to Dubai has been world No 1 at some point (Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Donald and McIlroy) so it would not be fair not to try.”