AUGUSTA, Ga. – Henrik Stenson was cruising during the first round of the Masters. He was 5 under after 17 holes, had made two eagles, and had the outright lead. Then he came unraveled on the 18th hole and made quadruple-bogey 8 to shoot 71.
Stenson’s meltdown came right from the tee shot. He blew it left into some pine straw, then barely advanced the ball on the second shot, causing him to slam his club into the ground in disgust. His third was only 100 yards up the fairway, the fourth was over the back of the green. He hit a chunky chip onto the fringe, then did not get up and down. The attempt for triple bogey was only 3 feet.
'That was a trainwreck finish at the last,' Stenson said. 'I seem to be rolling up snowmans here now and again.
'But it was one bad hole. Other than that, it was a good day.'
Stenson, 36, now has the dubious distinction of joining Arnold Palmer and Jumbo Ozaki as the only players holding, or sharing, the worst score on two different holes at Augusta National. The 8 on 18 is a tie for the worst score there in tournament history. Stenson also made quintuple-bogey 8 at the par-3 fourth hole last year.
The tall, long-bombing Swede has never played particularly well at Augusta National. In six previous starts Stenson has made three cuts, hasn’t finished better than 17th place and missed the cut in each of the last two years. He has never shot lower than 70 at the Masters and only twice had he shot below par. Wednesday’s 71 marks the third time.
If you weren’t surprised to see Stenson at the top of the leaderboard for most of the day, you should’ve been.
If you weren’t surprised it’s likely because you remember him winning The Players Championship three years ago, or because you remember him as a European Ryder Cup stalwart.
Truth is Stenson hasn’t done much to speak of the past three years. He’s missed numerous cuts – 19 over the past 24 months to be precise – and he’s dropped to No. 171 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
This year has seen Stenson play better on the PGA Tour. He has made the cut in all four events he’s played. A third-place tie in Puerto Rico last month has given him confidence to believe he can again compete in golf’s biggest spotlights.