Henrik Stenson: Best Player on the Planet Right Now

Henrik Stenson took no prisoners at the European Tour Championship in Dubai. With Ian Poulter good-naturedly taunting him for a couple of weeks now about catching him at the wire, Stenson put his foot down, shot a final-round 8-under 64 and won by six shots. Poulter had nothing but great things to say about his friend:

Yeah, I have to take my hat off to him.  Unbelievable.  I’ve tried to run him down as hard as I possibly could.  He’s been in incredible form the last six months, and even with a sore wrist, he’s managed to continue to press on and even today in the wind, he kept his head down and pressed on through.  I just couldn’t get close enough.

You’re witnessing the best player on the planet at the minute for sure.  I don’t think there’s anybody to go up against him.  A few guys threw a lot at him obviously the last couple of weeks and he just managed to keep himself motivated and concentrated enough where he can obviously put in a big finish. 

Stenson was understandably pleased with his “double-double,” winning the U.S. Tour Championship and FedExCup and now the European Tour Championship and Race to Dubai. He’s the first player to have won all four of those year-end titles. Luke Donald and Rory McIroy won both money titles simultaneously, but not the Cup and the Race.

Well, it takes a little time to have that sink in, same as with the FedEx, it just kept on feeling better and better as time goes on and I’m sure this will be the same.  I have managed to achieve something very special here this week in winning both in America and The Race to Dubai.

So you know, to get the double‑double sort of, winning the Tour Championship on both the tours and the total on both tours, that’s going to take some beating I guess in the future.

It was made all the sweeter by the irrepressible pressure the chasers were putting on him, they seemed like an incessant pack of jackals:

Just very, very pleased with the way I played.  I knew it was going to be a tough week.  Knew the guys were going to keep on charging trying to catch me, especially Ian [Poulter] and Justin [Rose] and a few others.

So just very, very happy with the way I managed my way around the course these four days and the way I played and what a final round and final hole‑‑ yeah, just very nice (laughs).

One of the hurdles winners have to overcome is playing with a big lead. You get caught between continuing to play aggressively and playing defensively:

Yeah, still, you can’t let your mind slip too much.  It’s tough when you’ve got like a six-shot lead, five-, six-shot lead with only two or three holes to go.  You probably would have to break a leg to mess that up, I would imagine. But you’ve still got to keep on going and focus on the right things and try and play simple.

It’s pretty tough conditions out there at times.  It was blowing pretty hard with a lot of sand in the air on the back nine, and it’s all about for me making — trying to hit fairways and greens, making pars coming in.

But there does come a time somewhere in the round when you know you have it locked up pretty much for sure:

I think when I hit that 5‑iron to about a foot and a half on 12, that kind of — I was quite a few clear at that point.  And then definitely felt like it would be mine to lose from there on.  It would be hard for any of the other guys to make, unless they made four or five birdies in the last four or five holes.  It would be mine to lose from there, so I just tried to play simple and keep playing the way I’ve done all week.

And he did all of this in the face of not knowing if his injured wrist was going to hold up from shot to shot. Somehow he managed to play without exacerbating the problem:

Yeah, we managed to do that.  I’ve been on anti‑inflammatories all week to keep that down and it needs some rest and I’m going to give it some rest, as well.

So far, so good.  I’m in desperate need of some rest and I don’t want to jeopardize any long‑term things by keep on playing.  So we’re going to give it a bit of rest.

After this victory, Stenson finds himself at No. 3 in the world. Needless to say, he now has his eye set on being No. 1:

Yeah, I’m certainly going to keep on trying.  You know, it’s going to take a lot of good golfing from where I am to reach No. 1.  But I’m going to keep on trying.  Like someone said, everyone that’s won The Race to Dubai managed to be world No. 1 at some stage, so it wouldn’t be fair not to try then, would it?

So I’m going to keep on trying, just keep on getting better and keep on practicing.  Got a lot of big events coming up next year, as well, that we want to play well in, so just keep on trying.  We’ll see.  It’s all about how many points you can accumulate and we’ll see if we can get there one day.

And his coach and the teacher-of-choice by so many European Tour players, Pete Cowan, said that Stenson has only reached 70% of his potential.

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