Imperious Henrik Stenson hails his ‘dream season’
Swede becomes first man to win Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup in the same year
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson plays his second to the 18th, which resulted in a tap-in eagle, to finish on a record total of 25 under. Photograph: Getty
A year ago Rory McIlroy marched to a DP World Tour Championship triumph which added gloss to his position as the best golfer in the world. The rankings do not place Henrik Stenson in that position, yet, but a debate is now alive as to just where the Swede’s outstanding run should be placed in the context of the sport’s recent history.
Reality has not quite hit Stenson after he yesterday became the first player in history to win both the FedEx Cup series on the PGA Tour and the European Tour’s money list in the same year. “It has been a dream summer for me,” he said. “It has been the season of my life. I would be lying if I said I saw this coming.”
Nor did many others. “Henrik’s ball striking is as good as I have seen,” acknowledged Luke Donald. “And I include Tiger Woods in his prime.”
Tiger-esque. That lofty praise was also thrown McIlroy’s way last November. In neither case has the term been an exaggeration.
“He is the best player on the planet right now,” said Ian Poulter of Stenson. In reference to a bet between the pair, which could have resulted in Stenson acting as butler to Poulter for a night, the Englishman hailed his close friend by waving a tea towel – and wiping his face – by the 18th green.
Stenson played imperiously to win the DP World Tour Championship, his 25-under-par total leaving the field trailing by six shots. “What is he running on?” asked Poulter. It was a fair question.
Stenson could have claimed the Race to Dubai without victory in its final event, and therefore without a European Tour success all season, but was not of a mind to have that used as a criticism against him. A final round of 64 on the Earth Course did not include a single bogey despite the blustery conditions which hindered the remainder of the field. A wonderful eagle on Stenson’s 72nd hole was a fitting end, as was the appearance of 15 family members to join in the party.
Stenson remains number three in the world but has closed the gap on second-placed Adam Scott. Next on the list, surely, is a tilt at number one. “I am going to keep on trying,” said Stenson of that goal. “I have got to play a lot of good golf to get to number one but someone already said to me that everyone who has won the Race to Dubai has been world No1 at some stage. So I have got to try.”
As Stenson celebrated, he would have been entitled to let his thoughts turn briefly to Allen Stanford, who is serving a 110-year sentence in a Florida jail. Stenson was merely a high-profile victim – to the tune of several million dollars – of the banking fraudster immediately before one of two career slumps for the golfer. Perhaps karma is a reality.
For all Poulter’s claims about chasing down Stenson, the Englishman was left amongst those swatted aside and had the good grace to admit as much. Still, Poulter is due credit for refusing to tone down his pursuit of Stenson at any point yesterday. He left the Emirates with the consolation of second prize in the Race to Dubai, from a year in which Poulter earlier admitted has not generally lived up to his own high standards.
“I have to take my hat off to Henrik,” Poulter said. “He has been unbelievable, he has shown incredible form over the last six months. I just couldn’t get close enough.”
Likewise McIlroy, who signed off with a 67 for 15-under par. Better things will arrive once again for the Northern Irishman in 2014. Luke Donald and Lee Westwood tied McIlroy’s aggregate score.
The Tour has confirmed their Race to Dubai format will continue until 2017. It may be impossible for Stenson to retain his touch until then but, for now, he is in the midst of one of sport’s rare golden spells.