Misunderstood Stenson chasing second straight major

By Rex HoggardJuly 29, 2016, 9:54 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – It’s one of the game’s great ironies, right there alongside comprehensive pace-of-play policies and a simplified Rules of Golf.

Henrik Stenson is neither stoic nor aloof, be it on or off the golf course, yet was long ago saddled with the wildly inaccurate sobriquet Iceman.

It’s a nickname one would normally associate with a person who is remote and guarded, and yet the Swede and newly minted major champion is neither.

On a bad day at the golf course he can be downright volcanic, although in fairness those heated episodes have become the exception in recent years. On any day off the golf course he can be brilliantly subtle, like on Friday at Baltusrol after a second-round 67 temporarily lifted him into the lead at the PGA Championship.

Asked how different he feels this week after having won his first major championship two weeks ago at Royal Troon: “I’m 6-foot-2 normally, but I guess I feel 6-foot-3 walking around out there,” he smiled.

Quizzed if his status as a major champion could impact those trying to catch him on Sunday: “I don’t know if I can scare anyone except myself,” he shrugged.

And, the clever coup de grâce, if he planned to approach the final round any differently than he did earlier this month at Royal Troon: “I think a 63 on Sunday would work pretty well here, too,” he laughed, “Sixty-four I can guarantee, but no 63.”

If the game has appeared easy for Stenson of late he’s come by his swagger honestly, having played his last seven major championship rounds to a 66.71 scoring average and hitting 81 percent of his greens in regulation during that span.

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For a guy who played his first 41 majors looking like a teenager struggling with algebra, the answers seemed to come so easily at Royal Troon, where he outdueled Phil Mickelson coming down the stretch in what was an instant classic.

Technically, Stenson will tell you that his turnaround at The Open was the byproduct of better ball-striking, more confidence in his driver and one of the best putting weeks of his career. Of course he would say that, because anything deeper would require a level of self-examination that he’s probably not entirely comfortable with.

“It’s all about the melon, isn’t it?” Stenson’s longtime swing coach Pete Cowen said in Scotland. “If it’s a dark gray, he’s fine. But if it’s a dark green, he’s in trouble.”

For two days at Baltusrol he’s been the picture of calm, unfazed by a rain delay early Friday morning that pushed tee times back 45 minutes and the kind of start that in the past might have led to a broken golf club.

But after starting his round with two bogeys through his first four holes, he rebounded with an eagle at the par-5 18th (he started his round on No. 10) and added two birdies at Nos. 1 and 3. By the time he was finished he’d eased his way to his second consecutive 67.

Easy, right?

“It might not feel as easy as it sometimes looks, if it does look easy,” he admitted. “It's always a question for me to work hard at what I need to do and focusing on the right things. But it definitely helps a lot when the mind is clear on what you're doing.”

What he is doing is impressive. With his “old trusty” 3-wood he’s tied for 17th in fairways hit, fourth in greens in regulation and 10th in proximity to the hole at the PGA. He could improve his putting with just four putts converted from outside of 10 feet for the week, but that’s always the case and he’s proven his ball-striking can mitigate any damage caused by his putter.

Although winning back-to-back majors is uncharted territory for Stenson, he’s not entirely unfamiliar with the concept of riding momentum.

In 2013, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship to claim the FedEx Cup and finished with a victory at the DP World Tour Championship to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai all within a two-month span.

“I think I'm a hard worker,” he said. “I work a lot on my game, and I think when I get it in good order, I have been able to keep it going for quite some time and have some long stretches where I've been playing well.”

Earlier on Friday, Martin Kaymer talked about the importance of keeping the voices in his head positive when the conditions are difficult like they were at Baltusrol to start a wet and windy day; but beyond this week’s Grand Slam finale that’s the story of Stenson’s career.

“If there were any voices, I guess I managed to get rid of them,” he smiled.

Despite the misplaced nickname, the voices in Stenson’s head are always there, the difference this week is they are telling him to make the most of his current form.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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