Stenson wins Deutsche Bank in record-tying fashion

By Will GraySeptember 3, 2013, 1:13 am

NORTON, Mass. – For the past few years, Henrik Stenson was viewed as a once-elite player whose game, sadly, had largely deserted him.

Thanks to a torrid stretch of golf this summer that reached a zenith Monday under gray skies at TPC Boston, the Swede has officially ditched that label and once again taken his place among the world’s best.

Closing with a 5-under 66 amid soggy conditions, Stenson cruised to a two-shot victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship for his first PGA Tour title in more than four years, and moved to sixth in the world rankings.

“It feels great to get (a win) here this week,” said Stenson, who finished ahead of Steve Stricker while tying the tournament scoring record of 22-under 262. “There’s never a bad time to win a golf tournament, I know that much.”

Beginning the day two shots behind overnight leader Sergio Garcia, Stenson rebounded from a bogey at the second hole with a string of three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6 to take sole possession of the lead. As the Spaniard continued to struggle, Stenson increased his advantage to three shots with a birdie at No. 8 before rain temporarily stopped play, and would not relinquish his spot atop the leaderboard for the balance of the day.

“It was a tough start for all of us in the final group, we all dropped a couple shots early,” he noted. “I guess I was the one that bounced back the best.”

Deutsche Bank Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Few players have as firm a grasp on both the highs and lows that the game has to offer as does Stenson, who moved to as high as No. 4 in the world following his win at The Players Championship in 2009. After a dry spell across the subsequent two years, though, Stenson slipped to as far as 230th in the rankings and questioned whether he could ever regain his old form.

“2011 was a really poor season by any standards,” explained Stenson, who was ranked 133rd in the world exactly one year ago.

His meteoric rise back up the rankings, however, has surprisingly been faster than his previous decline. Still in need of an invitation to the Masters this past March, the 37-year-old played his way into the top 50 in the world thanks to a runner-up finish at the Shell Houston Open, earning a trip down Magnolia Lane in the process.

Little did he know, that was only a precursor of what was to come.

Stenson fell just short of a playoff at the Scottish Open in July, tying for third behind Phil Mickelson, before again finishing behind Mickelson at the British Open the following week. That success was followed by another runner-up at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which led to a tie for third at last month’s PGA Championship.

Though the late-season stretch has been as taxing as it has been successful for the Swede, he explained after the final round that his string of high results has helped to fuel his game during a period where he has often felt physically drained.

“When you’re up in the hunt, you keep going. It’s the Duracell bunny style,” Stenson quipped. “You just keep on going, and when you have a chance to win you’re going to try your hardest.”

Among the best ball-strikers in the world, Stenson entered this week ranked first on the PGA Tour in GIR percentage – a position that was further bolstered by his effort at TPC Boston, where he reached a career-best 61 of 72 greens in regulation.

Despite his tee-to-green prowess this week, though, the title was essentially clinched on a hole where he failed to give himself a birdie putt.

Bunkered at the par-4 17th with a two-shot lead, Stenson deftly clipped the ball from soft sand and watched it trickle into the hole for an unexpected birdie, his sixth of the day.

“I had a good lie in the bunker; I thought I was going to leave a 4-6 footer for par,” said Stenson, whose two-shot margin of victory was secured despite a three-putt par at the home hole. “That made the walk up 18 a little bit easier.”

After spending the summer trying to chase down many of the world’s best players, Stenson will now head to the BMW Championship as the one being chased. With his first career trip to the Tour Championship secure, he will tee it up at Conway Farms’ in two weeks as the newest leader of the FedEx Cup standings.

According to Stenson, becoming the target of the other 69 players still in the running for the season-long title is a burden he’s more than willing to bear.

“I’ve always been a pretty good front runner; I always liked to think that the other guy is going to have to play better than I do,” added Stenson, whose advantage over world No. 1 Tiger Woods is a slim 14 points. “I’m just going to continue to try to play my best, and that’s gotten me a very long way.”

Despite his consistent appearances on leaderboards this summer, Stenson had previously been unable to hoist a trophy – a fact for which he claimed earlier this week he had no regrets.

That all changed Monday, erasing any lingering sense of disappointment and adding yet another highlight to his already impressive comeback season.

“I’ve been playing really well and they’ve been won by some great players in great ways,” he said of his recent close calls. “Today was my turn.”

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.