Heading into the final round of the PGA Championship, the last major of the year, Jim Furyk (-9) and Jason Dufner (-8) are sitting 1-2 on the leaderboard, which means the two Americans are playing together in the final pairing.
With Phil Mickelson (who will already be halfway home to San Diego) and Tiger Woods so far out of the mix, Furyk and Dufner are sharing the big, bright spotlight in what will (hopefully) be a high-drama finale. But, I’m here to tell you, the golf fans, why you should be rooting for Henrik Stenson.
I know what you’re thinking. WTF? The weird Swedish guy? He’s not an exciting winner! Nor even close to the most deserving! WRONG.
Sure, Furyk was the one who had his heart shattered at last year’s U.S. Open when he crumbled coming down the stretch. Then, less than two months later, the 43-year-old American was in full control of the WGC-Bridgestone for 71 holes until Keegan Bradley snatched it away on the 72nd hole. Oh, but it gets worse. Furyk called his “lowest point” after losing to Sergio Garcia in Sunday Singles at the Ryder Cup.
What about Dufner? Well, sure, he’s a cult hero and even became an internet meme with the birth of #dufnering. He’s also seeking redemption for his collapse at the 2011 PGA Championship when he led by FIVE SHOTS with four to play and squandered it away and then lose in a playoff to Keegan Bradley — that spoiler!
But if we’re going to continue with that whole hackneyed REDEMPTION narrative, Furyk and Dufner have got *nothing* compared to Stenson — and not just because he went through that awful slump a few years back or that his last three finishes have been: T3 (Scottish Open), 2 (Open Championship) and T2 (WGC-Bridgestone).
Here are the top 10 reasons why Stenson deserves to win the Wanamaker Trophy:
1.) Henrik Stenson joins Henrik Stenson for a revealing sit-down interview (which I urge you to watch here). I kid you not. Stenson asked himself questions and then answered them. And most important, he actually pulls it off, which is something very few people would be able to achieve successfully and humorously.
When I asked him about it (back in 2011 at Bay Hill), he said he initially wanted to stage the interview in the car.
“I was going to drive and have myself in the backseat answering questions,” said Stenson. “We didn’t want to take the risk of crashing the car with me in the back seat, so let’s just do it at the table.”
Then, I put him on the spot a little and asked him, “What would you ask yourself and how would you answer it right now?”
The Stense paused for a moment and then said, “Are you ready to let out those reins and get going? Like we are reaching in the home stretch now, we better start putting some pace on. At the races, time to let the speed up a little bit and get it going again.”
With a big smile, Henrik barked, “Yes sir!”
3.) He stripped down to his skivvies to hit a shot out of the water at Doral in 2009… Because he didn’t want to dirty his white trousers.
“I was wearing a light yellow shirt and white trousers,” he explained. “Trousers and shoes had to go and then I thought I might as well save the shirt since I’m already saving the pants. I didn’t have any rain gear because we were in Miami, so it’s too hot to have any rain gear on.”
4.) He’s a fan of banana cases. In this “In the Bag” video, he provided an inside look at what he carries in his golf bag, like these banana cases he found in a supermarket in Japan. “They keep the bananas from being squashed, he explained. “I don’t want to use it for anything else, I promise you.”
5.) He’s battled the driver yips during his slump when he fell from 4th in the world rankings in 2009 to as low as 230th in 2012. At the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational, I noticed he had two drivers in his bag and I half-jokingly remarked that I thought he didn’t hit that club.
“Oh no, I’m hitting driver now,” he said. “I’m ripping it.”
So, it’s going — what, like 400 yards?
“No, it’s a soft 390,” he deadpanned.
Oh, right, my bad.
6.) Stenson was a victim of the Stanford Group’s Ponzi scheme. He is thought to have lost millions in 2009 through his investments the scandal-ridden financial company. Via the Guardian:
“[It is] not all my money. But I have quite a big part of my own savings and investments with them,” he said. “I don’t know anything more than I read in the papers. So it’s obviously not a happy situation for a whole lot of people.” As with every other investor in Stanford’s businesses, the Swede has had his accounts frozen. “It’s a very unfortunate situation. I’m a victim as everybody else in that big thing. So we just have to see how bad it is. Everybody has got to sit tight and see what comes out of it, but it’s obviously hard to be too positive about it at the moment,” he said.
7.) He finds unique ways to break clubs.
Visibly frustrated after hitting a wayward approach shot, the Swede thinks about taking a really spirited swipe with the offending iron before halting his swing mid-arc. The sudden loss of forward momentum breaks the shaft at the point where his right hand is making contact with the metal and– hey, presto!– medical emergency.
8.) This is what he calls “a regular Friday night.” Via Facebook:
9.) He lost his club championship in 2011, which was held the same week as the PGA Championship, because he saw it as a “kind gesture to give the other guys a confidence boost.”
“I was up in contention there, as well,” he said when asked about the Barseback club championship. ”I didn’t win. I was playing at my home course, and I was not in a good period with my golf. I was not playing great, and I ended up finishing second a shot back. So I guess it’s not something that will stand out as a highlight on my C.V.
“But it’s nice to be here. I think I should be at the majors, rather than my club championship. Yeah, I’m a bit more pleased with my play here.
“I got grief on television, McCord and Faldo had to come in and defend the plus 12 that we shot. It’s a pretty tricky golf course and there was a bit of wind, but it wasn’t the kind of golf that I produced here, because I think I would have won then.”
10.) His post-victory press conference will not put you to sleep. Some snippets from yesterday’s:
Q. Even though this would be the first men’s major for Sweden, obviously Annika Sorenstam would object to not being on that list. For you as a young player, what did Annika’s success influence you?
HENRIK STENSON: I guess my looks are a bit deceiving. I’m 37; I don’t know how many years older Annika is than I am. Yeah, she’s been a great role model for the golfers in Sweden. I mean, when I grew up, I was obviously more looking towards the male place and Jesper and Anders Forsbrand and the guys who were out there in the early days for Sweden.
All in all, for a small country, we have produced a lot of good players and had some great success, and obviously Annika’s career has been phenomenal and she’s been the one that everybody’s looked at in terms of her success.
Yeah, whether it’s influenced me that much since we are more or less the same age she’s got a few years on me I guess. But no, she’s had a great career and a fantastic player.
Q. We were talking the other day about musculature, weight and things; what do you weigh now, and what did you weigh three years ago or when you were significantly lighter?
HENRIK STENSON: Are you saying I’m fat? (Laughter).
Yeah, I put a couple of kilos of muscles on. I don’t know, I mean, I haven’t kept track of that really. I’m just trying to stay in good shape and I’ve got a sweet tooth, so these two weeks, I’ve stayed off the sweets, which is good. Pants fit a little bit better.
But just in general, I’ve worked hard on balancing my body up and putting some more muscles on in the areas where I wasn’t as strong as in others. Yeah, I’m probably a few kilos heavier.
But if you want to know, I think I’m 201 pounds or something. Don’t tell anyone, though.