Henrik Stenson has earned an invitation to what will be his eighth consecutive Masters, which starts April 11th. Stenson, who dropped in the world rankings to as low as no. 133 eight months ago, finished strong, birdieing four of his last five holes, including the final two to shoot a six-under 66 and ensure a move from no. 53 in the rankings to inside the top 50.
The top 50 in the world rankings as of this week receive spots in the Masters, the season’s first major.
Following his T8 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, Stenson notched his second consecutive top ten. Going into the Shell Houston Open, the Swede wasn’t exactly sure what he needed to do to get into the top 50, but he figured a top 10 — and perhaps even top 15 — would do the trick.
“It’s been there all week a little bit,” said The Stense. “As I told you earlier in the week, it’s all about keeping my head down and doing my business and I know I have a good chance to do it. I put the foundation down at Bay Hill last week, I finished tied for 8th and moved up to 53rd in the world rankings. I knew a top-10 would pretty much make it here.”
(Yes, indeed he did tell me that. He had a rough estimate of the math, but knew a strong showing would be enough because he noted that he was playing poorly at this time the last two years, so he was getting rid of “crap.”)
Stenson did that and even better, he finished at 15-under to tie for runner-up honors.
It looked like he had a chance to get into a playoff when play was suspended due to inclement weather, but D.A. Points drained a clutch 15-footer to save par on 18 and prevail.
Though he had done enough to secure a place in the Masters, it wasn’t until he stiffed his approach to nine feet on the 18th that he felt 100% comfortable.
“I said we’re playing for a green jacket in two weeks’ time,” said Henrik, referring to his reaction after he was safely on the 18th green in two. Before then, on 18 in particular, you pull it left off the tee and rack up a 6 or 7 in no time.
“It’s just been a great turnaround these last two weeks and I played really solid this week.”
Plus, for the first time, he’s feeling good about his game heading into Augusta. In recent years he had struggled at the start of the season.
“I never felt like I went to Augusta playing well,” he said. “If I can keep what I got now, at least I feel like I’m going there hitting some nice shots and the game is in a nice state. Yeah, probably be the most I ever looked forward to going, given how late I got in as well.”
Stenson might be a decent dark horse pick for the Masters — he hits it high and long, which never hurts at Augusta, and can move the ball right-to-left.
Meanwhile, Marcel Siem won the the Hassan Trophy in Morocco, but he felt just short of getting into the top 50 in the world rankings when Russell Henley closed with a 68 to move into a tie for 45th. Siem was just a fraction of a point short of moving into the top 50. He went from no. 72 to no. 51.
Fredrik Jacobson and Richard Sterne didn’t play in Houston or Morocco this week, but they both also secured invitations to the Masters by being in the top 50.
Geoff Ogilvy played the last 10 of 11 weeks in attempt to earn an invitation to the season’s first major. He entered the week at no. 50, but he missed the cut and dropped to no. 55.
(AP Photo/Patric Schneider)