Ability to overcome is Stenson's recipe for success

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2013, 12:01 am

ATLANTA – In the last week, Henrik Stenson has broken a driver and a locker at Conway Farms, and flirted, however briefly, with breaking the course record at East Lake.

As an aside, he may have done a bit to break Tiger Woods’ spirits paired with the world No. 1 on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

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Not a bad news cycle for a guy who has played seven out of the last 10 weeks, but such is the dichotomy of the resurgent Swede. Having climbed from 230th in the world ranking in February 2012 to sixth, his resilience is rivaled only by his urbane ability to waffle between old habits and new hope.

On Monday, Stenson shattered his driver on his way to a tie for 33rd at the BMW Championship. He dismantled a locker before bolting town, and awoke Wednesday with so much pain in his left wrist that he couldn’t hold a toothbrush. A day later he found himself smiling atop the East Lake leaderboard following a 64 for the first-round lead at the finale.

“I just needed to realize the world is a good place again,” said Stenson, who was paired with Woods on Day 1 and clipped the FedEx Cup frontrunner by nine strokes. “I’m there now for sure, and I intend to stay there.”

Of course, the obvious follow-up question is how can a player who is two weeks removed from his first PGA Tour title in four seasons slip from the top of the mountain to the mental abyss so quickly.

“I can hear you don't have much experience with Swedes, do you?” he deadpanned.

Fair enough. But that still doesn’t explain an ailing golfer, both physically and mentally, who fixed things on the fly to the tune of 9 of 14 fairways (T-6), 15 of 18 greens in regulation (T-2) and 27 putts (T-1) in the span of three days.

Consider that Stenson spent Wednesday on the range testing a new driver – he went with TaylorMade’s new SLDR model, figuring, “(Breaking the old driver) was a blessing in disguise.” – and nursing a wrist that flared up two weeks ago before heading out onto a golf course he’d never seen in its entirety and going 6 under.

“It's always nice to play them, but it's not the end of the world if you can't,” said Stenson, who played the front nine on Tuesday and walked the inward loop to save his ailing wrist on Wednesday. “I got a good look at them, and a lot of holes seem to be pretty straightforward.”

In a related item, practice rounds across the PGA Tour have been declared overrated.

Stenson’s talent has never been in question. “I played with him a couple of times and thought, ‘How does he not win every week?’” said Paul Goydos.

Nor has his inability to overcome adversity (his current slump-busting run is the second of his career) ever been in doubt. Staying out of mental prisons, however, has proven to be something of a challenge.

“I’ve always been a bit of a hot-head, and it kind of builds up and eventually it goes over the limit,” he admitted. “For me, it comes down to being tired. I played so much golf. I played so well, and I just haven’t been able to get any rest.”

Sleep deprivation and a closing-round 74 at the BMW added up to Monday’s meltdown. In Stenson’s defense, he apologized to the locker-room attendants at Conway Farms before he left the property on Monday and offered to pay for any damages.

Few can close a chapter so quickly and effortlessly, which is perhaps Stenson’s best asset – beyond that nuclear driver and velvety touch on the greens.

The challenge now is avoiding similar burnout down the homestretch, if not East Lake’s rough. Since his runner-up finish at the Open Championship, Stenson has been in contention in all but two of his starts and the pressure, although he’s come by it honestly, is only mounting.

After starting the week second in the FedEx Cup ranking, Stenson is one of five players who are guaranteed to claim the $10 million bonanza with a win on Sunday at East Lake.

After a torrid start on Thursday – he birdied five of his first seven holes and didn’t need to make a putt over 9 ½ feet in that stretch – he cooled on the closing nine. A bogey at the 16th dropped him into a tie with Adam Scott, but Stenson hit his tee shot at the last to 4 feet for birdie to pull back in front.

All in all, an astounding rally considering where he was physically and mentally to begin the week, and a testament to a player prone to extremes but balanced enough to find the middle ground when he needs it the most.

“I’m really delighted with the change I made today,” he smiled before trotting toward the East Lake clubhouse, 54 holes away from breaking the FedEx Cup bank.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.