April 5 2012
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, GA. -- Henrik Stenson would love to have the tee shot at the 18th hole back, the one that veered left into the trees.
And in retrospect, given the lie he had in the pine straw when Stenson attempted his third shot from 240 yards, perhaps throttling back to a 7-iron rather than the 4-iron he chose might have been the better play.
But that's what happens over and over again at Augusta National. One bad shot leads to another and before you can say "Bobby Jones," things are spinning out of control.
That's what happened to Stenson, who came to the 18th hole leading the 76th Masters at 5 under before signing for a disappointing 1-under 71.
"You make a little mistake and then you compound it with another one and it keeps on snowballing," Stenson said as he set his sunglasses on his cap. "And I got the snowman in there."
Not much of a birthday present for the man who turned 36 today.
Stenson's 8 matched six others, most recently Camilo Villegas in 2007, as the highest on the 18th hole -- one that he had played in a cumulative even par in 18 previous rounds. It's his second 8 in competition at the Masters, though; the Swede also made a snowman at the par-3 fourth in the first round last year.
Stenson, who had never broken 70 in six previous Masters, had made the turn in a red-hot 31 after posting a pair of eagles, both on putts in the 15-foot range, on the front nine. Still, things weren't all that "stable," he acknowledged, and after the 11th hole, Stenson didn't hit another fairway.
Eventually, the 2009 PLAYERS champ paid the price.
"If you can't get the ball in play off the tee, you're going to drop shots," Stenson said with a shrug. "... Playing out of the forest most of the back nine, it's going to cost a little bit sooner or later. Disappointing that it cost that much."
Stenson's troubles at the 18th began when a low hook found the bushes. The ball was playable, although Stenson was unable to get it through the gap and back out to the fairway. He had a difficult lie in the pine needles and asked for a ruling, as he had in a similar spot at No. 15, but there he got relief from trailer tracks as opposed to the footprints at the 18th.
Stenson then fired a 4-iron up the fairway and hit a wedge from 136 yards over the green. His fifth shot was a foot from being stiff, Stenson estimated, but stopped in the collar of the green. From there, he three-putted for the 8.
"Small margins, and obviously with hacking a few earlier, that just made it worse," Stenson said. "Finishing with an 8, I don't think I've ever done that."
Had he chosen the aforementioned 7-iron instead of the 4 and played for a pitch short of the green, Stenson figured he would have made no worse than a 6.
"But I guess that's the difficult part here, accepting your mistakes and even play for a double bogey, and you're still going for the better one," Stenson said. "That's when this course really bites back. Alvaro (Quiros) did it on 7, had a wedge and had to walk away with a triple. It can really grab you, and I sure got my bit of it on 18."
Stenson did take out some frustration on the pine straw after he hit his third shot. All in all, though, he was remarkably composed after leaving the scoring area and making the rounds of TV and print interviews.
"Well, I've got a temper, but it's almost like I got past that stage," Stenson said. "It's easier to walk away with just changing the bag, no full length clubs anymore or just forget about it, and I need my clubs tomorrow, so I choose that part."