Stenson returns to form, $10m US Tour bonus hunt

HENRIK Stenson admits the lows he has suffered are making the current highs all the more enjoyable as he leads the chase for the $10 million on offer to the FedEx Cup winner.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden. Picture: Getty
Henrik Stenson of Sweden. Picture: Getty

Stenson won his first European Tour title in 2001, but then went through the first of two major career slumps, the second coming in 2011 and leaving him 230th in the world rankings at the start of last year.

The Swede also lost a significant amount of money in disgraced financier Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme in 2009, just months after the biggest victory of his career in the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

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Add in some serious health problems and the 37-year-old’s form in 2013 is all the more remarkable, with a share of third place in the Scottish Open followed by runners-up finishes in the Open and WGC Bridgestone Invitational, third place in the US PGA and victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

That win in Boston lifted Stenson to the top of the FedEx Cup standings ahead of this week’s BMW Championship, where the 70-man field will be reduced to the 30 players who will contest the Tour Championship next week.

Although the points standings are then reset, Stenson is guaranteed to be in the top five in Atlanta, meaning he would follow Brandt Snedeker as golf’s 
$10 million man with a win at East Lake.

“I’m excited about these two weeks and I’m obviously going to try my hardest to keep the boys behind me,” said Stenson, who is now ranked sixth in the world, just two places lower than his career-high in 2009.

“Life is ups and downs; stock market, golf, everything kind of goes in cycles. I think definitely when you’re not getting what you want and you have to work hard for it and then you get the reward. Of course, it’s going to feel better than if you get it all the time.

“It’s obviously not great for anyone to be part of the whole Stanford Financial thing. That’s a private issue and we’ll see what the outcome is. I went out and won the biggest win of my career three months afterward, so I wouldn’t put that down as an issue for playing poorly, if I can win Sawgrass three months after that was revealed. I think that one is kind of done and dusted.

“Health issues are a little bit tougher. I finished third at the British Open in 2010 and then straight after I picked up viral pneumonia or something like that, and I didn’t know I had that and came over here to try and play Akron, PGA, and I finished more or less last in both those tournaments. I was struggling and that took some time to get over.

“But then the other part of it, we went on vacation in November 2011 and I picked up a parasite, a waterborne parasite, and that kind of took a while before I figured that one out as well.

“It’s been gradually getting better, but there’s still been tiny little things even probably a year and a half, two years afterwards.” The top 19 in the current standings can expect to qualify for the Tour Championship no matter where they finish this week, but the likes of Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald all have their work cut out to advance.

Westwood is currently in 30th place but will likely need a top-15 finish to be certain of reaching Atlanta, while McIlroy needs to finish eighth or better, McDowell fifth, Poulter fifth and Donald fourth.

Donald does at least have home advantage, however, the former world number one being a member at Conway Farms and having played the course since his days at Chicago’s Northwestern University.

“I guess if there was ever a year to struggle, to come into an event needing a big week, this is a good one to come to,” said the world No 13, who has recently switched coaches in an effort to rediscover his top form.