Steady Stenson a worthy FedEx Cup, Tour champion

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2013, 12:01 am

ATLANTA – In retrospect, it was a quintessential playoff push by any measure.

For all the hand-wringing over the volatility of the current FedEx Cup playoff system, few could argue with a format that delivered the title late Sunday to Henrik Stenson, ostensibly the most consistent player in the game.

It would be easy to dub the Swede this year’s Mr. September, with his victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship a fortnight ago followed by his walk-off 68 at East Lake, but that would be a disservice to his entire body of work.

On his way to the Tour Championship title and the FedEx Cup, Stenson has finished outside the top three in just two of his last eight global starts and has rocketed to No. 4 in the world ranking.

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If the only thing harder than FedEx Cup math is Atlanta traffic, Stenson delivered a dollop of clarity that defied projections and algorithms. He started the week inside the top five in points – assuring a victory in the tournament proper would also net the cup – took the lead with an opening-round 64 and never let up.

Through a wrist injury, a broken 4-wood and Saturday’s showers, the Iceman was perfectly relentless in his quest to complete his journey from a competitive abyss that saw him swoon to 230th in the world less than 24 months ago.

“I kind of knew, well, even if I don't win today, I could still win the FedEx Cup,” said Stenson, who is also first on the European Tour’s Race for Dubai list and could become the first player to complete the transatlantic double. “That was the hard bit to put everything aside, as always, and focus on the right things. I didn't play my best round today, but I was hanging in there, took the right decisions.”

From the outset, it was super Sunday FedEx Cup style, with the 30-man mad dash to $11.4 million in cash and deferred prizes quickly turning into an intimate three-ball as the supporting cast fell away.

Rookie sensation Jordan Spieth added to his legacy, birdieing four consecutive holes starting at the 13th on Sunday to briefly cut a lead that had climbed to as many as nine strokes on Saturday to a single digit.

But Stenson never seemed fazed, per his modus operandi.

When asked his man’s state of mind coming down the stretch, Stenson’s caddie Gareth Bryn Lord mimicked a flat line with his hands.

“Fantastic,” Lord smiled.

Not bad for a player who less than a week ago dismantled his driver in anger at the BMW Championship and worked over one of Conway Farms’ lockers before departing for the finale.

“He’s not one to bottle things up,” Lord said. “He had to get it out of his system and he felt like he’s playing so well and you finish 30th (T-33, actually) and he’s like, ‘agh.’”

So when Stenson airmailed the green at No. 14 and made bogey, the first vestiges of intrigue crept into the proceedings and were just as quickly washed away when the champion made a bounce-back birdie at the par-5 15th and arrived at the 17th tee a field goal clear of the pack.

When Stenson pushed his drive into a fairway bunker at the penultimate hole, Spieth – watching the action after signing for his 64 – sat up and took notice. The 8-iron approach shot, however, never left the flag and rolled out to 18 feet for a stress-free par.

“Wow, what a golf shot,” Spieth smiled. “That just won him $11.4 million.”

Officially, Stenson still had a few more shots to play, tee ball into the right bunker at the 18th, a blast to 4 feet, a putt that never left the cup, but give the 20-year-old credit for recognizing the significance of a clutch performance.

Stenson’s 13-under total left him three clear of Spieth and the game’s most prolific part-time player since Bobby Jones – Steve Stricker, who was the last man standing who could have challenged Stenson for both trophies but could only manage pars over his final three holes.

Stricker, who traded a week chasing elk in Colorado with his buddies for four days chasing a Swede for a bundle, settled for a closing 65 and his seventh top-10 finish in an abbreviated season despite missing half as many putts from 4 to 5 feet (four) in four days as he had all season (eight).

Seems both Stricker and his putting protégé Tiger Woods will need to tighten things up on the greens before next week’s Presidents Cup. The world No. 1 shot himself out of the FedEx Cup equation with opening rounds of 73-71 and seemed to wrap up his state of mind on Friday.

“I’m tired. It’s been a long, long grind,” he said then, a day removed from just his seventh round on Tour without a birdie.

Woods tied for 22nd following a closing 67, but likely wrapped up the consolation prize of winning his 11th Player of the Year award when primary challengers Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott failed to give voters something to think about at the finale.

Scott, derailed by illness on Saturday that may go down as the most expensive 24-hour bug in the history of golf, tied for 14th after playing his final 36 holes in 6 under; while Mickelson showed flashes of solid play but started the weekend too far back and tied for 12th. When asked about the Player of the Year vote, Lefty had no easy answer.

“That's a tough one. If I could have done well this week, I thought I had a really good chance. But as it stands now, I'm not sure,” said Mickelson, the only player to finish in the top 15 in the final FedEx Cup standings every year.

It was small consolation, however, considering Stenson’s command performance. On perhaps the best course in the Tour lineup to play defense, Stenson did his best Nick Faldo impersonation. It was a hearts-and-minds deal – give them nothing to think about and their hearts wouldn’t be in it.

“He wanted to win the tournament, not just the FedEx Cup,” Lord said. “The last 15, 20 minutes he was brilliant.”

The last two months haven’t been too shabby, either.

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Watch: Tiger throws dart, pours in birdie at 8

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 7:31 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which we walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

(More coming...)

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

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Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.