Big payday for Henrik Stenson in golf's Tour Championship, FedEx Cup
Swede rounds off the best three months of his career with a command performance to win the Tour Championship and also the FedExCup
Henrik Stenson knows better than most players how it feels to go from the depths of a slump to the elite in golf.
He's done it twice now. And the second time was sweeter - and richer - than ever.
Not even among the top 200 players in the world two years ago, Stenson capped off the best three months of his career with a command performance in the Tour Championship. With a birdie to thwart a late charge by Jordan Spieth, followed by three pars from the sand, the 37-year-old Swede closed with a two-under 68 for a three-shot victory to capture the FedEx Cup.
He walked away with US$11.44 million - US$10 million for the FedEx Cup (US$9 million of that in cash) and US$1.44 million for winning the Tour Championship.
"It shows that I never give up," Stenson said, who moved to No 4 in the world. "This is way beyond what I could have imagined."
Even with a four-shot lead, the final round was a battle. There were two trophies on display on the first tee. He knew he could still win the FedEx Cup even if he didn't win the Tour Championship. Ultimately, he figured good golf would take care of everything, and it did.
Stenson became the first player to win the Tour Championship wire-to-wire with no ties since Tom Watson in 1987, the first year of this 30-man showcase.
Spieth made him work for it. The 20-year-old Texan left one last impression on his remarkable rookie season by running off four straight birdies on the back nine at East Lake to pull within one shot after Stenson went well over the 14th green and made his long bogey.
Stenson could hear the cheers and knew what he faced over the last four holes. "I'm not just a pretty face. I can put one-and-one together," the Swede said with his dry humour.
He drilled a 3-wood into the fairway on the par-five 15th that set up an 8-foot birdie. Ahead of him on the 17th, Spieth was between clubs and chose to hammer a 9-iron that he caught heavy enough that it plugged in the front bunker. He made bogey and had to settle for a 64.
"I was just looking up and seeing that I needed more instead of being satisfied with what happened," Spieth said of his four straight birdies.
Spieth wound up No 7 in the FedEx Cup, the highest ever for a rookie. He began the year with no status on any tour and finished at No 10 on the PGA Tour money list, and No 21 in the world.
The last challenge came from Steve Stricker, who rolled in an eagle putt on the 15th hole to get within two. Stricker saved par behind the 16th green, and then missed two birdie chances from about 18 feet on the last two holes for a 65. He tied for second with Spieth.
Stricker didn't realise that making any of those last two putts would have been worth an extra US$1 million for finishing second in the FedEx Cup. He only cared about winning, knowing he needed birdies and for Stenson to make a mistake.
"I knew the putt meant a lot. I didn't know it meant that much," he said with a smile. He finished third in the FedEx Cup and received a US$2 million bonus.
Stenson, who finished at 13-under 267, became the first European to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
His amazing summer began with a tie for third in the Scottish Open. Stenson followed with runner-up at the British Open and the World Golf Championship at Firestone, third at the PGA Championship and a win at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
"Obviously, the work was done before," Stenson said. "It's not like I woke up in the middle of July and played fantastic."
The Tour Championship was his second win in three tournaments of the FedEx Cup play-offs.
Tiger Woods, the No 1 seed going into the Tour Championship, never recovered from his 73-71 start. He closed with a 67 to tie for 22nd, his worst finish ever at East Lake, and wound up second in the FedEx Cup. That still was worth a US$3 million bonus.
Woods wrapped up the PGA of America's points-based award for player of the year, and he captured the PGA Tour money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring title. Next is a vote of the players for PGA Tour player of the year. He is the favourite with five wins this year.