By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
For the last three months or so Henrik Stenson has been a virtuoso. A slew of top-five finishes in big events and a victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship propelled him up the FedExCup rankings. He arrived in Atlanta with a legitimate chance to lift the coveted FedExCup trophy. That feat would take a special performance, though, and the affable Swede delivered and then some.
Paired with Tiger Woods (ranked No. 1 at the time in the FedExCup standings) in the first round, Stenson ran off a string of early birdies that moved him into contention and eventually the lead, which he would never relinquish. His play was nothing short of superhuman and at one stage he built up an 8-stroke lead in the third round.
His ballstriking was equally notable. Stenson hit 78-percent of greens in regulation – good for first in the field. Further evidence of his precision iron play was the fact that he led the field in par-3 scoring. Stenson, however, was not only precise on approach, he was long and straight off the tee, ranking T3 in driving accuracy.
It all added up to a 3-shot victory, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola title and the FedExCup trophy. Incredible stuff from an incredible golfer – a golfer from whom we can learn a lot.
A champion’s mindset: Stenson has twice come back from huge slumps in his game. His most recent return to the upper echelons of the game has seen him come back from a world ranking of 230th to fourth. This indicates various character traits that are inherent to champions: incredible resilience, a hardy resolve, a fantastic work ethic and a healthy understanding of perspective. The good news for all of us is that each of these traits can be developed. Just as you would work on your swing so you should work on renewing and improving your attitude and mindset every day. This is as important as developing the physical elements of your game. Consider Walter Hagen’s sage advice: "You don’t have the game you played last year or last week. You only have today’s game. It may be far from your best, but it’s all you have got. Harden your heart and make the most of it."
The power 3-metal: Stenson has always been a powerhouse off the tee (thanks in large part to a strong physique and a sound golf swing) but his fairway-metal approach to putting the ball in play off the tee (he was T3 in driving accuracy at East Lake) is something that every golfer can employ. Stenson sometimes hits this 3-metal tee shot off the deck, and I would not necessarily recommend this unless you are really comfortable and confident. Do realize, though, that this ball position promotes a really shallow and accurate arc which aids in accuracy. I would recommend teeing the ball quite low, and moving it back in the stance (slightly forward of center). From there, widen your stance slightly to promote stability. As you swing back and through, strive to pivot around a stable and tight spine angle. Finally, width of the swing arc is important, so sweep the club away from the ball in a low and smooth fashion. Retain that wide arc by not folding the arms too much in the backswing. Then as you swing through make that swing arc as wide as possible and follow that clubhead through to balanced finish.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.