Monday Backspin: Stenson's hard work pays off in a big way

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Amanda Balionis recaps Henrik Stenson’s victory from the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.

September 23, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

ATLANTA -- If there was any question about who the best player in golf over the last two months was, it was answered with a pair of trophies Sunday night at East Lake.

Henrik Stenson won twice in four weeks, including the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where the tournament winner also captured the FedExCup for the fourth straight year.

“I'm sure they're going to keep on looking at it, and it might be a tweak here and there, but I think we've got a great system,” Stenson said, one trophy perched on each side of the interview podium. “I could have won it without the win as well, which is pretty logical as well in the grand scheme of things.”

Stenson’s last two months have certainly been pretty grand.

Beginning with The Open Championship, the 37-year-old Swede finished second, second, third, 43rd, first, 33rd, first.

He also has a chance to win the Race to Dubai. Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy won both money titles in the same season, but Stenson would be the first player to win the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai in the same year.

First, though, he’ll get the next few weeks off to let this one sink in.

“It's having these two trophies with my fourth (win) on the PGA TOUR and then to be the FedExCup Champion, that means a whole lot more to me than the money,” Stenson said. “It's just been a great summer. I mean, way beyond what I could imagine. The way that I performed here since mid-July has been incredible.

“It wasn't like you wake up in the middle of July and you start playing fantastic. I put the work in in the spring.”

And he was rewarded for it in September.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Just ran out of gas. … I’m tired. It’s been just a long, long grind.” -- Tiger Woods explaining the collapse at the end of his second round when he played his last five holes in 6 over after playing the first 13 in 5 under. Woods made 16 starts on TOUR this season, his fewest (when not injured) since 2007 when he also made 16.

“They didn’t require math.” -- Dustin Johnson on being mathematically still alive going into the final round at East Lake and whether he took math at Coastal Carolina University.

“It comes pretty much everywhere. I wear it in my hotel room all the time just by myself." -- Adam Scott on his Green Jacket for winning the Masters. Illness plagued Scott Saturday at East Lake and he nearly withdrew despite being in contention.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@SharkGregNorman: So happy for him. He has been to hell & back on many fronts & today he showed he is a true warrior & player. -- Norman on Henrik Stenson, who just two years ago fell to 230 in the world in what was the second major slump of his career.

@GrahamDeLaet: Is there really even an argument about why Tiger shouldn't be POY? Guaranteed that almost every player votes that way. He won The Players +4 -- DeLaet pointing out that Woods won five times while no one else won more than twice.

@LukeDonald: Nice Dufnering @Keegan_Bradley. -- Donald after Bradley holed out for eagle on Sunday then gave his best impression of his playing partner Jason Dufner, sitting down in the middle of the fairway.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Another week, another impressive performance by Jordan Spieth. Not that he’s letting it all sink in just yet. “No, I won't stop until the Presidents Cup,” he said after a runner-up finish at East Lake that included a final-round 64. “There's no need to let everything sink in. I've got to stay focused. Start letting anything sink in about the year, it's maybe not as intense as the next tournament. This next one's the most important one in my life, and I'm very, very excited to be joining Team USA.” Aside from the obvious talent that landed Spieth nine top 10s, including a win and three runner-up finishes, the 20-year-old has a certain “it” factor that transcends the sport. He’s already maybe the most sought after partner for the Presidents Cup, and has quickly become a fan favorite.

2. Tiger Woods didn’t end his season the way he wanted -- without the FedExCup and without a major. He was however “very satisfied” after five wins. "I'm always looking to improve and become more consistent day in and day out," Woods said. "There's certainly some weeks where I was just off. I always wish I could play a little bit more consistent and have a chance each and every time I tee it up. That's the intent. Whether that happens or not, it doesn't always work out that way. But overall at the end of the year, I think it's been a really good year." Though Woods said it has been a long year, it isn’t entirely over for him. After the Presidents Cup, he’ll head to Asia in late October for an exhibition with Rory McIlroy followed by a week of corporate outings and the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open. He’ll wrap up his year in early December at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, which benefits his foundation.

3. Steve Stricker wasn’t quite sure how his season would turn out playing on a limited schedule. The answer? “I played probably the best golf of my life,” said Stricker, who had eight top 10s in 13 starts with six of those finishes in the top 5 and four of them runner-up finishes. Not everyone can afford to play that type of schedule, but Stricker can and can thrive in it. “The more the year went on, the more I got comfortable with what I was doing,” he said. “Both home and on the road, it was a lot of fun this year.”

4. I can’t recall a year when so many players making their first trip to East Lake played so well. Aside from Stenson and Spieth, Billy Horschel and Roberto Castro were both in contention at one point or another and both ended up finishing in the top 10.

5. Voting for Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year began Sunday night and will run through the end of Thursday with the winners being announced on Friday morning. Is there any doubt who will win those awards?

6. Stat of the Week I: There wasn’t a hole in Stenson’s game this week as he ranked first in greens in regulation, third in fairways hit, third in strokes gained-putting and fifth in putts per round. He also ranked first in greens in regulation in all but one Playoffs event.

7. Stat of the Week II: Stenson moved within one win of tying for the most wins by a Swedish player on TOUR behind only Jesper Parnevik and Carl Pettersson, both of whom have five. I think it’s a safe bet he’ll pass them soon.

8. Stat of the Week III: As hard to believe as it might sound, Stenson’s wire-to-wire victory was just the second of the season on TOUR. The other one? Phil Mickelson in Phoenix. It also marked just the third wire-to-wire win in TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola history as he joined Tom Watson (1987) and Curtis Strange (1988).

9. See you next season … in 17 days. That’s then the 2013-14 season will begin as the TOUR transitions to a wrap-around schedule, beginning with the Frys.com Open.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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If Adam Scott had won, would he have been Player of the Year? -- Kris Iona

It’s pretty much a moot point since he didn’t, but he certainly would have garnered a lot of votes. As it is, though, every player I talked to pointed to Tiger Woods’ five wins, which included two World Golf Championships and THE PLAYERS Championship. Even with Stenson’s victory on Sunday and his play over the last two months, it’s hard to argue against what Woods did throughout the entire year.

Was Rory McIlroy’s 2013 debacle mainly because of the change in clubs? Will he bounce back in 2014? -- Pablo Maldanado

It wasn’t just the change in equipment, Pablo. He had a lot going on off the golf course as well. It was a perfect storm for the former world No. 1, who has now dropped to fifth. He’s too talented not to bounce back, however, and I expect he’ll win a couple of times next season. Just how long it takes him to right the ship, however, who knows?

What’s your favorite course not named Augusta National? -- Ronnie Keesler

Much like tournaments I cover, I like different courses for different reasons. I enjoy going back to the little 9-hole course I grew up playing in Connecticut just as much as somewhere like Pebble Beach. There are just so many courses to choose from. But if I had to play one every day for the rest of my life, of the courses I have played, I’d probably lean toward Spyglass Hill.

Have a question for the mailbag? Email it to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com, or tweet it to @pgatour_brianw.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
WebCom-183

With the PGA TOUR season over, the attention turns to the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course, where the top 25 players from the Web.com Tour Finals will secure PGA TOUR cards for next season. Ten of the top 30 players already have cards, so the new bubble is No. 37, which is where Steve Wheatcroft sits. Keep an eye on Spencer Levin, though. He is on the bubble at 34th on the Finals money list but is coming off a seventh-place finish last week in Ohio and last season tied for 15th at THE PLAYERS Championship, which of course is played on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

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