Before play began at the Tour Championship on Thursday, three men were the betting favorites for winning the Fed-Ex Cup: Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, and Tiger Woods. With 5 wins under his belt this year already, and simply because he is arguably the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger Woods was the expert’s pick. However, Sunday’s competition at the Tour Championship saw no world-famous fist-pump from Tiger. Instead, it was the calm composure of a Swede which won the day.
Henrik Stenson went into Sunday’s round of the Tour Championship with a four-stroke lead. Despite the comfortable lead, all the pressure was on Stenson. Not only was the immediate victory of the Tour on the plate, but also the title of Fed-Ex Cup champ, which came with a $10 million dollar bonus. For a brief moment on Sunday, it appeared that Stenson was not going to be able to withstand the enormity of the situation. However, Stenson had been in a situation of such pressure before.
At the beginning of the 2012 season, Stenson was not even ranked amongst the top 200 players in the world. A slump ten years earlier, caused by poor health and simply poor golf, left Stenson in a position where he had no control over his game. Despite Stenson’s hard work, his career almost hit a brick wall when his financial sponsor, Stanford Financial Group, had its assets seized by the US government for suspicions of running a Ponzi scheme.
Stenson’s rough and tumble career paid off on Sunday, though, as he was able to hold off a surprising charge from 20-year-old Texan, Jordan Spieth. Beginning at the 13th hole, Spieth was able to score 4 birdies in a row, decreasing Stenson’s lead to merely one shot.
The Swede’s nerves of steel and the Texan’s inexperience both showed themselves in the latter-half of the back 9, though. On the 17th hole, Spieth decided to make an aggressive shot to put even more pressure on Stenson, but his shot wound up in the front bunker and Spieth bogeyed. Meanwhile, on the 15th, Stenson hit a nice approach shot on the par-5 15th, allowing him to chip his 3rd shot to within 7 feet of the hole and score a birdie.
Once his lead stretched to 3 with 3 holes left, Stenson was able to play defensively and saved par on the last 3 holes, securing the Tour Championship win and also the Fed-Ex Cup. The win was Stenson’s second in three Cup-playoff matches, and culminated an amazing stretch of golf by the Swede: “Since the Scottish Open, it’s been just an incredible run,” he said. “I’m speechless. It was a tough day out there. To hang in there the way I did, I’m really satisfied. … It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I had to fight hard mentally to keep all this aside, and I managed to do that.”
Tiger Woods and Adam Scott were never in contention for victory, finished 20th and 14th respectively. However, Woods was able to finish 2nd in Fed-Ex Cup standings, with Scott finishing 4th.
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