Henrik Stenson began Sunday with a four shot lead over his nearest competitor and finished the day three shots to the good. He fired a final round 68 which was good enough for 13-under-par and a three-shot victory over young American phenom Jordan Spieth and the ageless Steve Stricker.
For the second year in a row the winner of The TOUR Championship set the “new” tournament low since the change to Miniverde Bermudagrass in 2008 as Stenson lit up East Lake on Thursday, opening with 64 and didn’t let up until he held BOTH trophies on Sunday evening. His 13-under, 267 was three shots lower than Brandt Snedeker’s 270 “low” total from last season. Stenson, who entered the week second on the FedExCup points list, was one of five players who could clinch the BIG PRIZE this week with a victory. He threw the gauntlet down Thursday as he opened with six-under 64 to announce his intentions. So much for the wrist tendinitis that limited his preparation for this ultimate event!
As the week continued, there was no doubt the best player on TOUR since July 1 would win. Stenson led the field (T1) in GIR and was T3 in driving accuracy, his calling card for the much of the 2013 season, but it was his putter that had to be great this week and boy, was it. On the slick greens of East Lake, he finished third in strokes gained-putting and was second in putts per GIR. The combination of precision ball-striking and lights out putting was the simple reason he won both The TOUR Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs. His 20 birdies was second-best and his seven bogeys were T3 for the least carded en route to his runaway victory.
What a run it has been for Stenson this summer. Fantasy players know that he was close at the BMW Chmapionship in Munich, the Scottish Open, The Open Championship, the WGC-BI and the PGA Championship before finally breaking through at the Deutsche Bank Championship. There were plenty of opportunities to cash on him and Yahoo! players who kept feeding him were greatly rewarded. The skeptics were wondering when he would crash back to Earth but the skeptics are still left waiting for that to happen.
Stenson has shown over the years that he’s not a one-hit wonder. He’s won big events such as THE PLAYERS and the World Golf Invitation Match Play Championship but his legacy is now cemented with TWO FedExCup Playoff wins and the FedExCup title. His next goal is surely to become the first Swede to win a major and if he keeps up this form, there’s a very solid chance that could happen in 2014.
With this victory, Stenson collects $1,440,000, the FedExCup championship and moves into the top five in the OWGR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
There have been 40 tournaments this season and the USA has won 31 of them. Australian Adam Scott won the Masters, Englishman Justin Rose won the U.S. Open, American Phil Mickelson won The Open and American Jason Dufner won the PGA Championship. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won the most unofficial money with his victory today.
There were 12, first-time winners this season and after this week, just six players with multiple victories (Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar, Snedeker, Scott and Stenson).
Stenson makes it 17 of the 54-hole leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the 38, full-field, stroke-play events on the season. That’s less than 33% if my poor math is correct. Stenson had a four-shot lead going into the final round and only Scott Stallings at Humana didn’t make a lead of that size hold up.
Premium players win the Playoff events, period. I wrote this week one of the FedExCup Playoffs and that remained true throughout as Stenson entered the week No. 2 and left the week No. 1!
The winners on TOUR (international players in italics) have been Dustin Johnson (28), Russell Henley (24), Brian Gay (41), Tiger Woods FIVE times (37), Phil Mickelson (42) TWICE, Brandt Snedeker (32) TWICE, John Merrick (30) Matt Kuchar TWICE (34), Michael Thompson(27) Scott Brown (29), Kevin Streelman (34), D.A. Points (36), Martin Laird (30), Adam Scott (32) TWICE, Graeme McDowell (33), Billy Horschel (26), Derek Ernst (22), Sang-Moon Bae (26), Boo Weekley (39) Harris English (23), Justin Rose (32), Ken Duke (44) Bill Haas (31), Jonas Blixt (29), Woody Austin (49), Gary Woodland (29), Jason Dufner (36), Patrick Reed (23), Henrik Stenson TWICE (37), Zach Johnson and 19-year old Jordan Spieth. The young folks (30 and younger) now have 14 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 21 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have FIVE wins. Steve Stricker continued his stellar, reduced 2013 season with another podium finish at T2. And how good is Jordan Spieth? He fired 64 on Sunday to claim T2. Not bad for 20 years of age!
Henrik Stenson was in his first appearance at The TOUR Championship.
He also is the eighth player ever to win multiple FedExCup Playoff events as he adds this title to his DBC earlier this month.
He becomes the fifth player to win two events in one FedExCup Playoff series. He joins Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas and Rory McIlroy in this group. He joins Woods and Singh as the only two player to win the FedExCup championship.
A quick look at all 30 players who teed it up in the Grand Finale
Steve Stricker: Yeah, I know that Spieth posted first but I’m taking my hat off to Stricker tonight. His limited schedule had gamers scurrying for answers and insight but I learned that I have to trust the guy calling the shots. His worst finish, in all major events for the most part, was 13th after June 1. If he chooses to play this schedule again next year, count me in, especially in September! #MrSeptember
Jordan Spieth: #ILOVEHIM I don’t care. I fully hopped on board at the JDC and wasn’t getting off and I won’t next season either. He’s completely legit, has a plan and is sticking to it. His 64 on Sunday when the big money was on the table does nothing to change my opinion of this young superstar.
Webb Simpson: As I’ve stated multiple times in this column, he loves flying under the radar. His Sunday-low 63 shows that he can get low everywhere, including Donald Ross courses. I get that he didn’t win this season but many guys don’t the season following their first major championship. He finished the year with 15 top 25s in 25 events. That consistency doesn’t hurt in year-long leagues.
Dustin Johnson: All the talent, all the skills and a great future ahead. We’ll have to see how marriage affects him but there’s no questioning that he has “it”. He was only one of three players this week to fire all four rounds in the 60s.
Justin Rose: With a major championship and two seconds, gamers can’t possibly be disappointed with his 2013 season. He carded two top 10s in the final four events of the season as well. Bravo, Rosey!
Billy Horschel: I thought he was toast this week after a quiet summer but he showed his class as well by finishing T7. This was his first top 10 since his T4 at the U.S. Open but he’ll just get better the more tournaments he plays. No worries at all.
Zach Johnson: His T7 was his seventh top 10 finish in his last eight events since the JDC and taught us all an important lesson: be patient. Form is temporary and class is permanent and he lived up to that mantra for those who waited him out this summer.
Roberto Castro: Another young player that once he found his footing he proved that he belonged out here. His T9 was his sixth top 25 finish in his last seven events and that includes five T15s or better. If his putter can just save him a shot or two per round, he could make THE LEAP next year because his ball-striking is deft.
Jason Dufner: He loves him some Georgia and his 66-65 weekend reaffirmed this theory. Dufner, same as Zach Johnson, rewarded patient season-long gamers who patiently waited until late summer for their player to come good. He finished the year with four top 10s in his last six events which included his first major championship.
Sergio Garcia: The pesky Spaniard had a quiet summer on U.S. soil until the final three events of the FedExCup Playoffs where he finished T4, T18 and T9 in Atlanta. His putting was the difference this year as he finished inside the top 15 in strokes gained-putting; his ball-striking remained the same, TIGHT.
Keegan Bradley: His four rounds summed up his 2013 season as half were really good and half were really, for his standards, average. He hit the top 25 in 15 of 25 events which included two seconds and a third. Sure, there wasn’t the W but gamers don’t have much else to complain about this season.
Phil Mickelson: I saw him miss enough short putts Thursday and Friday to last a season and that didn’t help push him past T12 this week. Mickelson was a bit of all-or-nothing this season but did that really surprise you? It shouldn’t have! He’s the great fantasy mystery and we love/hate him for that!
Jim Furyk: Thanks to dedicated reader Paul H. for making Furyk’s season even MORE interesting to follow in 2013. Yes, there were more downs than ups but when you strip away the emotions; Furyk delivered the fantasy goods, minus wins, in July and August. Courses get longer, balls go further and Furyk still finds a way to matter in when the big money is on the table as he was T9 or better in five of his last seven events.
Jason Day: If there’s ONE, SMALL knock on him it’s that he doesn’t win. Quiet. It’s true. Don’t hate me for pointing it out. The other knock on him is that if it’s not a major or playoff event, you should probably look somewhere else. I like that. It keeps it simple for guys like me. I know when to pile on and when to run like hell! The next step is being a nuisance to gamers week in and week out.
Adam Scott: The Masters champion cemented himself as an AUTOMATIC weekly selection as he, like Day, didn’t miss a cut this season. There’s nothing better than having a guy in your lineup that makes every weekend he tees it up AND can win each time out. He’s a premium player with a premium caddy and will always be in the penthouse of each preview column.
Nick Watney: As I mentioned last year, I have a man-crush on Watney. He really showed some guts late in the season as he dumped swing coach Butch Harmon and went to Todd Anderson. The results were two late season top 10s in the FedExCup Playoffs and a decent T14 this week. His ball-striking has never been in question but if Anderson can refine his short game, look out!
Brendon de Jonge: The Zimbabwean ATM capped a great Playoff run with four finishes of T19 or better. He plays 30 events a season and he cashes at a fantastic clip so he’s a must in season-long fantasy games. His trip to the Presidents Cup will do nothing except fill him full of confidence for next season.
Luke Donald: Gamers who were looking to sneak in the back door with Donald THIS week were one week late to the party, sadly. I would guess Donald would admit his disappointment with the 2013 season as he only hit the top 10 five times in 17 events and had zero firsts or seconds. That’s not what the former world No. 1 considers a successful season. He’s looking for a new swing coach and that decision will be paramount to my projection of him for 2014. Stay tuned.
Brandt Snedeker: I opined that I thought he was spent after the PGA Championship and only one round at the BMW, 63 in round one, argued otherwise. He couldn’t avoid the one big round down the stretch but with two wins, two seconds and a third, it’s hard to argue with the entire body of work. After a nice rest, he should be back and ready to win again in 2014.
Hunter Mahan: He finished the week with three rounds at par or better but couldn’t push his way into the top 10 again at East Lake. His season would rate as down for gamers because he only had five top 10s in 25 events but I’m not sour on him moving forward. His game is too well-rounded plus he has the first kid out of the way! A big 2014 wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
Tiger Woods: In a season with five wins, the scoring title and money title, it felt that Woods didn’t play well. He entered the Playoffs No. 1 and began the final event in that same spot. I’m not sure what else gamers could want except for a victory EVERY week. We learned that he LOVES some courses and he dislikes others. Use this when setting up your 2014 games and lineups!
Gary Woodland: Butch Harmon’s magic worked on Woodland late in 2013 but gamers will be disappointed that his only two top 10s were 21 days apart in late August when they already bailed out. Now that he’s healthy, I’ll be keeping an eye to see if he can return to the 2011 form. #cautiouslyoptimistic
Kevin Streelman: His 2013 was a career-best that saw him collect his first TOUR victory, plus a second and third-place finishes. His best successes were on tight courses where controlling the golf ball was essential. Write that down for 2014.
Bill Haas: He didn’t finish inside the top 20 in his last six events but his nine top 10s in his first 18 events should have grabbed your attention. His record in the majors was concerning as his best finish was T25 at Oak Hill. He looks to be a hot starter so remember that for next year.
Matt Kuchar: Nothing to see here except that he’s a stud, plain and simple. He doesn’t miss cuts and he racks up top 25s. Easy peasy.
D.A. Points: He came in at No. 28 and left at No. 30. He made 14 cuts and missed 13. You let me know the week I should put him in the line up! He won at SHO, he was second at Zurich and sixth at The Barclays and that will put wine on the table!
Graham DeLaet: Everything he accomplished this year will do nothing except improve his confidence and golf game moving forward. It’s not surprising that he ran out of gas after T2 and third in the first two events as he hasn’t reached that stage yet. Heck, he’s never won yet but I wouldn’t bet against him not doing so next season.
Charl Schwartzel: Hitting the top 10 only five times in 19 events qualifies as an off-season for the former Masters champion in fantasy land. On the positive side, he only had two finishes outside of the top 28 on this side on the pond but gamers expect more from a serial putter and former major champion.
Boo Weekley: His last top 10 was his victory on the last weekend of May. Gamers, he seems to play the most difficult courses well where his ball-striking is rewarded. Most of us thought he would check out after his win. Most of us weren’t far off base.
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