With his victory at the Wyndham Championship Sunday Henrik Stenson returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since claiming The Open Championship last year and made a bold statement for the upcoming FedEx Cup.
In the field in part to ensure he fulfilled the minimum 15 event requirement to maintain his Tour status, the man known as the Iceman lived up to the moniker with a nerveless performance on the back nine at Sedgefield Country Club, emerging victorious over 24-year-old rising star Ollie Schniederjans by a solitary stroke.
Stenson began the final day with a one-shot lead over Kevin Na, Webb Simpson and Schniederjans, and at one stage during the back nine found himself in a four-way tie for the lead before piling on four birdies in the final six holes to close with a 6-under 64 and 22-under par total. Breaking the 72-hole scoring record at the Donald Ross-designed course set by his compatriot Carl Pettersson in 2008 and matched by last year’s champion Si Woo Kim.
RIGHT: Henrik Stenson made significant gains in the FedEx Cup standings with this victory. PHOTO: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.
“If you want to win golf tournaments you got to put yourself in the mix and I'm just very happy with the way I closed out this week, really had to keep on producing, making birdies because Ollie was surely no backing down and there were a few other guys pushing me as well,” Stenson said after the final round.
The 41-year-old looked comfortable all week on a course where he had never made a cut let alone tasted prior success, thanks to a consistent game plan that saw him leave his driver in his locker in search of position rather than power from the tee. But Stenson assured the media after claiming the win that the unique club strategy was a onetime deal.
“I don't think my Epic Driver is delighted. Been standing in the shadows in my locker all week. He's a little anxious to get out and start getting some air time I think next week already.”
Arriving at the par-5 15th locked with Schniederjans at 19-under Stenson left his eagle putt short, but secured his second birdie of the back nine, which the Swede quickly followed with two more at 16 and 17.
Playing in front of Stenson, Schniederjans poured in his own long birdie putt at the 17th before hitting his approach tight into the final hole making another birdie to post 21-under-par and hope for a playoff.
“When I stuffed it I thought, you know, that's probably going to be a playoff,” Schniederjans lamented after the final round.
Believing he had a two shot lead as he teed off at the 72nd hole, Stenson’s approach finished just over the back of the green. After realising his lead was only one, the 2013 FedEx Cup champion comfortably rolled his putt from the fringe to within a few feet after burning the edge of the hole to secure a par 4 and his 6th victory on the PGA Tour on the eve of the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs.
“It's certainly a good time to start firing. We know the kind of damage you can do during the Playoffs when the points are up to four times the normal season,” he said.
Stenson’s victory has catapulted him up 52 places to No.30 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Cameron Smith was the best of the Australians closing with a 7-under 63 to claim a share of 7th place, while Geoff Ogilvy’s tie for 16th ensured the Victorian’s season will continue for at least another week, raising him to 116th on the FedEx Cup points list after beginning the week in the final playoff exempt position of 125th.