Henrik Stenson is targeting a fast start to the Turkish Airlines Open having seen his lead cut at the top of the Race to Dubai in China last week. Stenson’s nearest rivals Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter all finished in the top five the WGC-HSBC Champions to make up ground on the Swede, who shared 31st position after recovering from a sluggish start with a superb closing round of 65. It was a similar scenario at the BMW Masters the previous week, when Stenson’s closing 65 at Lake Malaren Golf Club only promoted him to tied 34th after he struggled initially with a wrist injury picked up in practice. He is now hoping to kick-start his Final Series in Turkey and pull clear of the chasing pack once again, with his lead over McDowell standing at 6145,865. “I’ve had eight rounds now competitive in the last two weeks, and three of them have been really, really good,” he said. “It was just the putting the first two days last week that really let me down and I played well at the weekend. “I put one good round together the first week in China, two the second, so hopefully three here and four next week in Dubai. I hope I’m heading in the right direction. Hopefully I can be a bit quicker out of the blocks this time and have a good week.” Having already won the FedEx Cup on the US PGA Tour, Stenson can claim a historic double should he remain on top of The Race to Duabi after next week’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. Stenson is expecting the outcome of the Final Series to go right to the wire. “I always felt like it was going to be a tight race,” he said.
How much did golf need High Troon, or the Duel in the Dreich, the most compelling finish to an Open Championship one can recall? If you’ve been reading this column in recent weeks, you’ll know what I think; it needed something like Sunday’s epic contest between Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson desperately. This was really the best way to “grow the game”, to get people engaged in golf again. To see it in its best possible light, a contest that transcended even the sacred icon of the Open, 1977’s Duel in the Sun. Don’t take my word for that, both protagonists at Turnberry agreed Stenson-Mickelson was the superior conbtest. It would be even better, yes, if it had been seen live on the BBC rather than restricted to Sky’s 300,000 subscribers, but that option, as we’ve discussed before in T2G, was never on the table; it was the BBC who effectively withdrew from live coverage of the Open. I imagine the Beeb beancounter who thought it was a great idea to pull out of live coverage a year early feels like an proper idiot now. The corporation missed one of the greatest sporting spectacles of the age. But never mind, they can afford another 20 series of Homes Under The Hammer. Henrik: where did that come from? Was Stenson deserving of a major title? Unquestionably, he’s been a elite player on the verge for some time and one of the very best ball-strikers in the game. But hold on, this was something much more than that, possibly the single greatest one-day performance of any player in history (I’m still giving Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach and St Andrews in 2000 the award for greatest tournament performance). Stenson shot 63 - only the second time the low major score has been achieved in the final round to win - when the scoring average was nearly 73. When his rival was chasing him with a 65 with no bogeys. To win on 20-under when third was 14 shots behind. Why this witty, self-effacing Swede? Why not Rory or Jordan or Jason or Phil? Not even Tiger or Jack or Hogan or Bobby Jones did this. At 40, there’s a reasonable possibility that this could even be Henrik’s high water mark. He’s had a habit of career slumps which have ensured that one of Europe’s most talented players has just three Ryder Cup caps. It just proves that in this maddening game, sometimes the stars align, sometimes a player is so inspired he becomes a giant. Stenson is a great player, but now even if he doesn’t strike another ball in his life he’s a legend. Only golf among sports can do this. Phil remains a contender With his great rival Woods - six years his junior - still hors de combat and unlikely to play again this year, Mickelson obliterated the widely-held assumption that he too was spent as a force. He’s unquestionably the unluckiest loser in major championship history. “I played flawless golf and got beat” he said afterwards, and it’s hard to disagree. But he goes on to Baltusrol for the PGA Championship next week - he’s the last winner at that venue - re-energised and surely flush with confidence. Staying competitive right up until his 50th year and beyond? “That’s the plan,” he said, and who can doubt him? The R&A play a blinder Yes, you read that right. I mean, there’s lots wrong with the game, and the R&A are responsible for a good number of the ills, but they hardly put a foot wrong here. I’m sure they weren’t really trying to embarrass the USGA after the fiasco that was Oakmont, but it seemed at every turn there was a glaring example. Stenson’s score of -20 won’t freak the R&A, and neither it should. Take out the top two and the lead score was 7-under, and the course was plenty tough; it just gave opportunities for scoring. The Postage Stamp, one of the very greatest holes in world golf, shone like a beacon. Just 100 yards long on the weekend, yet much more devilish and troublesome than Oakmont’s ridiculous “short” hole three times a long. No wonder the crowds flocked to watch out there. The official attendance was 173,000; about right for Troon. Some were cynical about that figure when it was announced on Sunday but there’s no hard evidence to say it was inaccurate. Furthermore the R&A learned from recent mistakes. Not cutting or rolling the greens on Friday ensured there was no repeat of the disaster of Saturday last year. Some players complained of the green speed, but those who did missed the point as much as they did the 11th fairway. This is links golf, and slower greens are part of the challenge; this is not Florida or San Diego and the stimp seen there is unsustainable on the seaside if you want to play. So adjust. And as the R&A engage the battle against slow play with greater vigour, we saw the duo in the epic Sunday duel go round in just over four hours. Well done. Now rein in the bloody ball.
Jesper Parnevik admitted Henrik Stenson’s Open triumph “tugged at his heart” but he’s still flushed with pride at his countryman’s outstanding victory at Royal Troon. Parnevik himself came agonisingly close to the Claret Jug on two occasions, at Turnberry in 1994 when he lost to fast-finishing Nick Price and Royal Troon in 1997 when he was overhauled down the stretch by Justin Leonard. Now preparing to play in the Senior Open at Carnoustie this week, the previous most popular player out of Sweden ran from his flight at Heathrow to a bar in the terminal so that he could see Sunday's finale. “I’d booked an early flight so I could get here to watch the whole thing only for it to be cancelled. “So I had to get another flight and ran from the gate to a pub after it arrived in Heathrow so that I could watch the last hole.” The effect for Swedish golf will be enormous, he believes. "This was a big thing as we have waited a long time for it,” he said. “I had a lot of close calls and the Swedish females have spoiled us in the majors. "If you look at the way Henrik has played over the last five years, it was only a matter of time, really. The cool thing was the way he did it as he played unbelievably over the last two days in particular. “We had a dinner last night and Tom Watson stood up and said he thought it was better than the "Duel in the Sun"; that says it all, really." Parnevik had sent a message on Twitter to Stenson prior to his final round hoping he could “go out and do what I was unable to do”. " I wanted him not to be burdened by the heavy weight of trying to become the first Swede to win a men's major, so I felt I needed to acknowledge what he was bidding to achieve,” he said. “It was unfortunate that I had been in that position myself at Troon but couldn't finish it off. It tugged my heart but it seemed to give him a boost, which was fantastic." Parnevik admitted that he hadn’t immediately seen the potential in Stenson when they first met. “He was actually struggling when our paths crossed, he was just starting out and I was leaving for America. I remember watching him at a Scottish Open, I think, and he couldn't hit a fairway with any club in the bag. "He's actually talked about how he almost quit the game during the first of two slumps in his career and that makes what he has achieved all the more impressive. "He's always had a strong game but on the last two days at Troon…I don't think I've ever seen Henrik have a short game - putting in particular - like that. “That was the big difference and if he can keep that going, who knows what he's going to do over the next few years. Based on the way he played last week, I can certainly see more majors in him.” Sadly, Jesper’s not at all confident of adding the Senior Open to Stenson’s Open and Alex Noren’s Scottish Open for a Swedish treble. “That would be fantastic, but I can't say that I'm in great form. I've not played since the Senior Players' Championship in mid-June and I've only hit off mats a couple of times in preparation for this. "But I love playing this kind of golf and Carnoustie is one of the best courses we play. “There's not an easy hole out there and even on a beautiful day like Tuesday you were standing over tee shots and second shots I was worrying how I could get it to the green because there's danger everywhere out there."
Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...
Justin Rose didn’t pack his Olympic Gold Medal in his bag for Hazeltine – not even to annoy the man he beat in Rio, his sometime foursomes partner Henrik Stenson. “It would be a way to do that,” he laughed. “But it isn’t about what we’ve done this year. “It’s nice that you know your team mates can stand up to pressure and deliver on a big stage, of course. But Danny (Willett) hasn’t brought the Green Jacket, Rory didn’t bring the FedEx Cup, Henrik hasn’t got the Claret Jug. “This is all about that little gold trophy, and it’s enough for us all this week.” Rio did however make Rose think about the similarities of the Games to these games this week. “At Rio it really hit me that I was part of something bigger than my individual sport, being part of Team GB and the wider goal of the team medal tally,” he said. “It’s very similar this week, you have 11 other guys, the captain and vice-captains you want to give 100 per cent for. “In team golf, you become a better version of yourself. When you’re trying to honour a bunch of other guys you have more responsibility to give your all, make sure you tick as many boxes in terms of recovery and preparation as you can.” He and Stenson were a stand-out team at Gleneagles, where Rose assumed the role of a team leader going unbeaten and winning four points out of a possible five. “I’ve been blessed with good partners, Ian Poulter and Henrik. We have very similar golf games and his shots look familiar to me, and we can work with each other from a clubbing point of view. “My caddie and his are good friends, and we’re a team of four out there who feel comfortable together.” Stenson’s knee injury which saw him struggle in late season is not a problem, he stated, and he feels ready to play all five sessions if required. “Potentially it could have been a question of how much I play and nothing is for certain, but I feel ready for a lot of golf and unless the knee tells me otherwise, that’s how I’m approaching it,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt me when I play, it’s the walking that has been a bit of an issue, but it feels good at the moment.” A break from the tournament grind after a thrilling summer has recharged the batteries, he added. “I definitely needed it, I was pretty drained after the Open, the PGA and the Olympics. It’s been a fantastic summer, and I’ll be fresh on Friday when we go again.”
Having lost to Spieth and Reed in the morning play, Europe’s lead pairing of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose got immediate revenge to end the young Texans’ own unbeaten record as a partnership with a crushing 5 and 4 win in the fourballs. Struggling to make a single putt in the morning, Stenson in particular found his range and the pace in the afternoon, Rose came in with four birdies of his own while both Spieth and Reed looked to be running on fumes a little as the afternoon progressed. That wouldn’t be surprising given the emotional energy they had expended in the morning, but Spieth in particular seemed to be slightly losing his swing as the long day progressed and unlike in the latter part of the foursomes, Reed was unable to pick up the slack. “It makes it sweeter to beat the guys who beat you in the morning, that’s for sure,” said Stenson. “It’s one thing to lose if you lose pretty badly but we were pretty happy with our morning performance. The only thing to do was go out and do everything better.” Rose agreed that finding birdies in the afternoon was the key to turning it around. “This morning was a match we played well enough to be more competitive in,” he said. “This afternoon we got it running and dovetailed really well again.” The Americans did get out to an immediate lead at the first thanks to Reed but losing the short fourth to a par brought them back to all-square, and the Europeans responded to that with a volley of four successive birdies, three in a row from the Open champion, which lifted them to two-up. The US effort finally wilted for good at the 12th, when Spieth tugged his approach into the water hazard near the green and Reed missed for a four from the edge of the green, meaning Stenson’s par was good enough to go three-up. Stenson won the 13th in birdie and Rose followed with the duo’s ninth of the afternoon to close it out at the next hole and at 4.40 pm, Europe finally had their first point.
The epic battle for the 145th Open was truly historic - two men playing at the very peak of their powers, so far ahead of the rest of the field it was if they were engaged in a different sport. Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson played at a transcendental level, considering what was at stake – it’s hard to believe that any player has played better on any given day than the Swede did yesterday on the South Ayrshire coast. Yet at the start it appeared he might be ready to crumble. Maybe the golfing gods that had so betrayed Mickelson on the verge of his 62 on the first day – although they’d made up a fair bit to him since – recognised what was afoot when the sun broke through the clouds for the first time in three days just as the duellists emerged. Mickelson, ever the showman, bounded on to the first tee, kissed his fingertips and then touched the Claret Jug posted at the side of the tee box. If it was a statement of his relaxed state of mind, it upstaged Stenson immediately. The Swede, having taken a text from countryman Jesper Parnevik urging him to “do what I was unable to do” at Troon in 1997, looked a touch nervy and was tentative on his first two shots, following them with a three-putt. Mickelson, in contrast, struck his approach stiff and it was the third two-shot swing in the last seven holes of this two-day duel, the first of them in Phil’s favour. Yet it seemed to settle Stenson and he rolled in two 15-footers at the next two greens to seize the lead again, Mickelson missing from five feet at the third after watching his rival snake a double-breaker into the hole. The counter-punching continued on the long fourth, Mickelson smashing a 234-yard long iron in to eight feet and making the pout for eagle, Stenson following him in for birdie. A “half” in par threes at the short fifth was almost a welcome relief – tied at 14-under, Beef Johnston the nearest to them seven shots in arrears. At the long sixth, both had pitches of 80 yards to the flag but although Stenson spun his closer with Mickelson-esque “sauce” to four feet, both players made their birdie putts: 15-under. The seventh passed, remarkably, without a birdie from either man, Stenson’s six foot chance uphill being the better opportunity. But at the Postage Stamp, which Stenson had bogeyed from a bunker on Saturday, the Swede grabbed the lead again in an absolute atypical matchplay scenario; holing for 15 feet for birdie as Mickelson missed from eight. Although both passed up birdie chances at nine, they both made them at ten – Mickelson following Stenson in this time from 14 feet – as they continued to apparently play a different golf course than the other 81 players left in the field. The leader was now a staggering ten shots ahead of third place. But not for long. On the feared 11, Stenson was short with his approach and three-putted from 60 feet, his par attempt curling out of the hole. Mickelson made his par from the back of the green, and we were all square again. On the 12th Mickelson’s luck with missing the fairway ran out as he found some high hay on the left, and then turned his second over into some equally knotted stuff on the right. But with Stenson making a solid four, Phil got it out to manageable length on the green, and rolled in a 20 footer to save par. Phil had done the exact same on Saturday, and followed it by birdieing 13, but this time his putt was off-line and it was another “half” in pars. 24 hours earlier Phil had then suffered the first of those two-shot swings at the short 14th, and Stenson did as he’d done on Saturday – birdie from 15 feet away, back to -17, one shot lead. And at 15, Stenson finally opened up a cushion. He blocked his second shot slightly right, but with Mickelson 25 feet away, the Swede rolled a 40 foot putt across the green dead weight into the cup, and when the American couldn’t follow, the lead was two. Mickelson’s last chance, surely, was to eagle the 16th and he came desperately close with a 30 foot putt that died at the edge of the hole. Henrik had been wide left of the green close to the boundary wall of Blackrock House, the house in the middle of the course, but he chipped to five feet and made it to match Phil’s birdie, preserving his advantage. Phil’s brave par save at 17 kept it to two strokes – Stenson finally missed a birdie chance to finish it off, and his drive at 18 flirted with the edge of the bunker that had snared Greg Norman in 1989. That was the last bit of tension Henrik would have to endure. He had a clear stance and found the centre of the green, and there was nothing more that Mickelson could do. The Swede's final putt from 20 feet stopped at the edge and droppe ind, his tenth birdie of the day, a fitting end to one of golf's greatest spectacles.
Henrik Stenson hailed a “dream season” as he claimed a 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 Holland’s Joost Luiten fourth and a trio of former world number ones 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. 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, 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. Scott Jamieson was the leading Scot after a 69 saw him finish six under for the tournament four head of Stephen Gallacher, who carded a closing round of 68. Craig Lee left disappointed after his 75 saw him end on one over, three shots ahead of fellow Scot Marc Warren.
Jordan Spieth capped an unforgettable season in fitting style with victory in the Tour Championship to secure the FedEx Cup title and a massive payday in Atlanta. Spieth carded a 69 at East Lake to finish nine under par, four shots clear of Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Lee. The first prize of £977,000 and bonus of £6.5 million took Spieth’s earnings for the season to more than £14 million, and with Jason Day finishing joint 10th, it also took the 22-year-old above the Australian and Rory McIlroy to the top of the world rankings. England’s Justin Rose was within two of the lead when his fourth birdie of the day took him out in 31, but hooked his tee shot out of bounds on the 10th. Rose finished with a 66 for a total of five under, alongside Danny Lee. Masters and US Open champion Spieth took a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson into the final round. He three-putted for a bogey on the sixth, but quickly regained his composure and holed from 20 feet on the eighth. It looked as though Stenson would cut the gap to a shot after leaving himself a tap-in for birdie on the par-five ninth, only for Spieth to hole from 18 feet. The Swede paid for a shank on the 17th, costing him a double bogey, and could only manage a 72 to finish tied for second with Rose and Lee. Paul Casey suffered a bogey on the 16th after birdies on the previous three holes had moved him into joint second. His final round of 70 left him tied at four under with Dustin Johnson, who shot a fine 64, and Bubba Watson. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy came to grief with a triple bogey seven on the 17th, finishing tied 16th.
Henrik Stenson seized the advantage over Phil Mickelson in a memorable man-to-man duel to lead the 145th Open into the final day and leave the rest of the field floundering in their wake. Stenson took advantage of a pair of two-shot swings on Royal Troon’s back nine short holes to overhaul Mickelson. The Swede birdied both the par three 14th and 17th holes while Mickelson’s rare mistakes at the same holes cost him bogeys. The Swede, seeking the first men's major championship for his country, had once led and twice pulled level only to drop behind again during a cut and thrust third round in strong winds and punctuated by rainfall. It was more Duel in the Dreich than Duel in the Sun but the two are detached from the field every bit as clearly as Watson and Nicklaus in 1977. Bill Haas is alone in third five shots back of Mickelson after a 69, while the colourful Englishman Andrew “Beef” Johnston is fourth on five-under after a 70. Stenson's 68 was the equal best of the third round, Mickelson's 70 one of only a handful under par in the tough conditions. The Swede agreed it had been like a matchplay duel between the two, and was happy to "get in a couple of big punches" at the short holes on the back nine. "We've played a lot together, Phil's one of the top players of the last 15 years for sure and it's an inspiration to play against him," he said. "Phil had the edge at times but I got in my blows when they counted." He doesn't feel the pressure of leading going into the final round seeking his first major, he added. "I still feel I pretty much have nothing to lose," he said. "I'd rather be ahead because I know Phil will have to play better than me tomorrow to win. "Obviously I'd like to be looking at something at the end of tomorrow but I don't want to think about outcomes just yet. There's another long and tough day ahead tomorrow. "At the end of the day whatever happens the sun will still come up on Monday - just maybe not here in Scotland!" A shot behind after 36 holes, Stenson wasted no time in drawing level after a 15 foot birdie putt from the front edge of the first green. The Swede then birdied three and four for good measure to take the lead on the American, who started solidly with just the one birdie after nearly driving the third green. However Stenson had problems at the long sixth, dropping a stroke there and then found the front bunker at the Postage Stamp, shortened to exactly 100 yards for the day. He failed to get up and down and Mickelson had the lead again. Both negotiated the turn without further damage but Mickelson had a clear bit of luck on the 12th, when he carved his drive left and his ball went perilously close to the gorse, rebounding off a branch so he could get a club on it. He duly capitalised by getting another par and then rolled in a 25-footer on the 13th to stretch his lead to two. However at the 14th Stenson hit in to eight feet for birdie and Mickelson, so steady at holing out all week, made his first error when a three foot putt kicked off the edge. Stenson’s two to his rival’s four meant the pair were tied again. Stenson had to get up and down from a greenside bunker as Mickelson birdied the long 16th, but the American pulled his tee shot at 17 wide left while Stenson rattled in a birdie putt of 25 feet. Mickelson’s short game briefly betrayed him with a poor chip and he missed an 18 foot par putt. The pair both got up and down from left of the final green for their pars, leaving Stenson one ahead going into the last round. Meanwhile there was no magic from Rory McIlroy and a three wood in bad need of repair after frustration got the best of him on the long 16th during his two-over 73. Rory, at two-under starting the day, wanted to go to the turn in 32 or 33 to put pressure on those ahead but instead it was 37 and he overboiled throwing his three wood on his second shot to the long hole on the back nine, the head coming off.” “The club head came loose on it earlier on the week,” he said sheepishly. “I had to get the head re-glued, so it was probably partly to do with that and partly the throw as well. “The truck's here, so I'll have it reshafted, and all will be well in the morning. I let one go the same way with a three-iron on the previous hole; no-one likes to make the same mistake twice, and that’s what happened.” Colin Montgomerie's last action at his home club of Royal Troon in an Open will be with a marker at the head of the field after a 79 left him in last place.