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September 18 2013

2:59 PM

'Rookie' has learning curve at East Lake

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Henrik Stenson is ranked second in the FedExCup.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ATLANTA -- Henrik Stenson thought he'd just slept awkwardly on his left wrist when he woke up in a fair amount of pain on Saturday morning.

The diagnosis was tendinitis, and it's gotten worse, not better, over the last four days. The wrist even hurt when Stenson was brushing his teeth on Wednesday.

"It's painful but I'll be able to play through it," the Swede said.

After all, there's a lot to be gained this week as Stenson makes his debut at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Stenson, who won the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago, enters the finale to the FedExCup Playoffs ranked second in the standings.

So that means he can win the $10 million bonus if he wins the TOUR Championship. In fact, he can finish as low as a two-way tie for sixth and still mathematically have a shot at the game's biggest prize.

The possibilities have definitely gotten Stenson's attention.

"If you want to do well in the overall FedExCup, you've got to play well here," Stenson said. "... And hopefully, when we sum it all up at the end of the week, we're in there with a chance. That's all I can ask.
   
"I'm in a good spot, but I still need a lot of good things to happen to be able to pull off the win."

Complicating things for Stenson was the Monday finish at the BMW Championship in Chicago. He didn't his first look at East Lake until Tuesday afternoon, when he played the front nine. He walked the back on Wednesday, trying to preserve his wrist.

"It hasn't really been affecting my shots that much, but it's gradually getting more and more painful kind of overnight before I get going in the morning," Stenson said. "So I'll try to rest it a little bit today and probably come out earlier tomorrow and do a bit more."

From what he's seen of East Lake, which was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and freshened up by Rees Jones 85 years later, Stenson thinks the course could be right down his alley. He didn't grow up on Bermudagrass and hasn't played it lately, though, so chipping could be problematic and hitting greens a key.

"So far this year, part of my success has been hitting a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, and I think that's going to pay off if I can do that out here," Stenson said. "It's got some real long holes, some tough holes. The greens are really slick if you're coming down the hill.  So it's key to keep the ball underneath the hole. So good approach play is going to pay off for sure."

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