NORTON, Mass. – OK, the Big Three won’t be a factor Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but this isn’t some undercard TPC Boston is offering up in the final pairing in the final round.
At their best, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler are human fireworks shows.
They’ve proven they can light up final rounds with some bold, entertaining shot making.
Stenson took the lead Sunday with a bogey-free, 6-under-par 65, moving him down a path that ought to feel so familiar. At 13-under overall, he’s one shot ahead of Fowler (67) and two ahead of Sean O’Hair (67) and Matt Jones (68).
Two years ago, Stenson grabbed golf’s postseason by the throat. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship and then went on to win the Tour Championship and take the FedEx Cup. He wasn’t done there. He headed over to the European Tour and won its Race to Dubai to become the first player to win both postseason series in the same year.
“It's a good time to start playing well, and of course it's a big event and lots to play for,” Stenson said.
Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day aren’t going to be factors in Monday’s finish. McIlroy is 15 shots back, Day is nine shots back and Spieth isn’t even on the property after missing the cut Saturday.
It opens a door for Stenson and Fowler to remind everyone there’s more star power waiting in the wings.
Fowler, 26, was spectacular winning The Players Championship in May. He played the final 10 holes of that event, including the playoff, in 8 under. He also won the Scottish Open this summer. He didn’t play the major championships as well as he hoped, but he would love to add a FedEx Cup Playoff title to his two triumphs. He would love to join McIlroy, Spieth and Day to make it a Big Four conversation.
“It's definitely been motivation to go out and get to the same level or be on the same level as those guys,” Fowler said. “Those three have kind of distanced themselves a bit. They're playing some great golf. But those are the guys that I want to go head-to-head against, and come out on top.”
Stenson and Fowler are dynamic players in their own right with distinctly different styles.
Stenson, 39, is the blacksmith. He can practically make sparks fly with his shot making. He is dominating the ball-striking statistics on the PGA Tour this year. He’s No. 1 in ball striking, No. 1 in total driving and No. 1 in greens in regulation.
Fowler’s more the artist, creating shots where you don’t always see them.
Sunday was a good example. Fowler was all over the place with his driver. While Stenson hit 12 of 14 fairways, Fowler hit just four. And yet like Stenson, he still produced a bogey-free round. Fowler got up and down for par all six times he missed greens.
Stenson is building some early momentum again in these playoffs. He finished second to Day last week at The Barclays. He’s fourth in the FedEx Cup Playoffs standings and looking comfortable in this format again. Stenson said he was emboldened after Barclays knowing he assured himself a spot at East Lake for the Tour Championship.
“Because I know I can win around there,” he said.
And that means another shot at the FedEx Cup and the $10 million jackpot that goes with it.
“If I'm in position, I can make it happen once more,” Stenson said. “Exciting weeks ahead, and again we've got one more day here, and I'd like to focus on tomorrow, rather than looking at what's ahead. But, yeah, I'm in good shape, and I'm trying to put myself in position to win golf tournaments, and I'm certainly up there now.”
Fowler’s looking forward to matching up against Stenson, who appears to be nearing the top of his game again.
“We're good buddies,” Fowler said. “We're going to enjoy being in the final group together. We'll have a good time.
“He's a strong, powerful player. He's a very good iron player. And, obviously, he's playing well this week, to be in the position he's in. I'm looking forward to the two of us playing well, going head-to-head and seeing if one of us will be the one to come out on top.”