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May 11 2013

9:20 PM

Stenson prospers on front nine

Henrik Stenson birdies the sixth hole at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Henrik Stenson wouldn't mind having that 4-wood he hit at the 11th hole back. Ditto for the approach at the 15th hole on Saturday.

But overall the Swede couldn't be too disappointed with his position after completing 52 holes of THE PLAYERS Championship. The 2009 champion will return to TPC Sawgrass to complete his third round, trailing his countryman, David Lingmerth, who has one hole to play, by just two strokes.

Stenson is tied with Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods, who have yet to complete the 15th hole, at 10 under. All three are former PLAYERS champions, with Stenson's win coming in 2009 when he closed with a 66 to beat Ian Poulter by four strokes.

"It's a course I've always enjoyed playing," said Stenson, who also tied for third the first time he played the Stadium. "It's a tough golf course, and if you do the right things you get the reward, and otherwise you've got to have a short game, and I just like this golf course."

He likes the front nine better than the back this year, though. Stenson is 11 under on the first nine holes but 1 over through 25 on the back. 

True to form, Stenson again was near-flawless on the front nine Saturday, making birdie putts of 3, 17 and 21 feet to grab the lead alone and then to share it. But errant approaches at Nos. 11 and 15 proved costly with his first two bogeys since Stenson made the turn in the second round.

What happened at the 11th was particularly frustrating as he thought about the wedge that ran back off the small elevated green at the par 5.

"I hit a great drive, hit a great 4-wood and just goes a little bit long and left, and you're left with a very difficult shot, come up a foot or two short and you're back down to your feet again," Stenson said. "Yeah, it does that to you. There was one or two decisions there on 11 and 15 that I might ...   would have liked to do different in the future. 

"But still at the races and playing all right."

Stenson preserved his share of second with a clutch par at the 16th hole, despite having to play away from the pin on the par 5 when his 7-iron plugged in the right corner of the pot bunker short of the green. His third shot landed on the green but he was "stymied," Stenson said, since he would have had to putt through the fringe to get to the hole.

"I had to flight it over the corner and got it up to about four feet and made that for par," Stenson said. "So I was pretty happy."

The key for Sunday? 
 
"It's more down to me doing my stuff and staying mentally where I need to be and then committed to the shots, and it's always like that when you come into the back nine," Stenson said. "That's when it's going to be decided, and you might need to push a little bit or you're hopefully in a good position already."

 

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