Weather slows Stenson in Round 3 but the sun could shine on him again Sunday

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Stenson interview after Round 3

Following a third-round 69, Henrik Stenson reflects on his play in the 2013 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with Mark Carnavale from PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM and SiriusXM.

September 21, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

ATLANTA -- No one on the planet has played better golf over the last two months than Henrik Stenson, so why should this week be any different?

In his last six starts, Stenson has finished outside the top 3 just twice.

Through 54 holes at East Lake, he leads by four and is in position to win his first FedExCup in his first appearance at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.

The rest of the field can thank Mother Nature the deficit isn’t larger.

Through Stenson’s first nine holes, he led by a whopping nine strokes and appeared headed toward a runaway victory. Then the rains came, and so did the bogeys.

Stenson bogeyed four of his final nine holes, including the 18th, where he lipped out a long birdie try from across the green and missed a 5-footer coming back on the par 3.

“It definitely would have been a comfier ride coming back in if it hadn't started raining,” said Stenson, who shot a 1-under 69. “It was tough to finish, and I hit a couple of bad shots, and it's hard to find your rhythm again when you're out in conditions like these.”

So instead of taking a victory lap around East Lake on Sunday, Stenson will have to try to hold off Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker or perhaps someone else not just for the tournament but the FedExCup, too.

Should Stricker win, for instance, he would win the FedExCup -- even if Stenson finishes second.

If Johnson were to win, then Tiger Woods, who came into the week No. 1 in the standings but is well down the leaderboard, could potentially win his third FedExCup -- depending what he and others do in the last round of the season finale.

Stenson isn’t concerned with the various scenarios, though, because winning would take care of everything.

 “I know if one of the guys within the top five would win it, they'll win it straightaway,” said the Swede, who came into the week second in FedExCup points. “I would have a chance to win it even without winning tomorrow, but I don't know where I need to finish.”

He’s probably better off not thinking about it. After all, that has worked well for Johnson.

A week ago, Johnson failed to break par in any of his four rounds in Chicago. But he nabbed the 30th and final spot in the field here when, among other things, Luke Donald finished fourth at Conway Farms.

Johnson left Chicago frustrated but had nothing to lose this week and has played like it. He shot 67 Saturday and could now play the spoiler -- if he can catch Stenson, that is.

That could prove to be a difficult task.

Aside from a comfortable lead, Stenson has been dominant on the front nine at East Lake, where he is a collective 13 under for the week.

Saturday, he was near flawless with five birdies and no bogeys over his first nine holes.

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“I've just been quick out of the blocks, I guess,” he said, trying to explain the difference between his play on the two sides of the golf course. “I don't know if there's anything that's different on the front nine compared to the back nine."

Not bad when you consider Stenson didn't even play the back nine during his practice rounds because of tendonitis in his left wrist, an injury he sustained midway through last week’s BMW Championship.

“It's kind of hard to say it only comes down to me not playing the back nine on Wednesday," he said. "But I'm sure someone would go down that road.”

The road to this point has been a long one for Stenson, and everyone else here. The Swede is making his 25th start this year between the PGA TOUR and European Tour, but compared to two major slumps he has endured in his career this is nothing.

The second of those slumps came just two years ago, when Stenson tumbled all the way to 230th in the world. He also lost much of his savings in a Ponzi scheme around the same time.

Though the 37-year-old is plenty secure financially, the $11.44 million he’d earn for winning the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and the FedExCup would be gratifying and a handsome payout for a season well played.

He's just trying not to think that far ahead.

 “Of course I want to win two,” Stenson said of the trophies. “If I can't win two, I'll be very pleased to win one. If I'm winning nothing, it will probably be not so sweet. But I didn't have anything when I came here, so we'll see what we'll leave with.”

Potentially, a lot, and no one deserves it more than Stenson.

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