The obscenity of attaching $11.4m (£7.1m) to victory in sport is softened to a degree when the recipient is Henrik Stenson. Somehow it did not seem that bad watching a fellow who lost his fortune to the crooked dealings of financier Allen Stanford trouser that monumental cheque courtesy of his success at the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup on Sunday.
Stenson was never bettered all week in Atlanta, winning by three strokes. The greatest threat was boredom, so serene was his progress for all but the closing nine holes, when American turbo rookie Jordan Spieth and veteran Steve Stricker both had a nibble.
Stenson’s stunning triumph capped the best year of his career and co-incided with the 12-month countdown to the Ryder Cup, which began with a ceremonial appearance at Gleneagles on Monday of the respective captains of Europe and the United States, Paul McGinley and Tom Watson.
The Swede has not represented Europe since the defeat at Valhalla in 2008 but will not require a captain’s pick next year if this form continues. The captains arrived at Gleneagles by steam train, which again provided a nice link with Stenson since he finished the season like one.
He leads the Race to Dubai money list by a mile, and is topped in the States only by Tiger Woods. Here’s why. After finishing third at the Scottish Open in July, Stenson was second a week later at the Open, second at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, third at the PGA Championship and twice a winner in the past three weeks in the FedEx Cup play-offs.
That’s some turn around for a golfer who, after losing a reported $8m in the financial crash of 2008 and later contracting pneumonia had by the end of 2011 fallen to 230 in the world rankings from fifth. Today he is at a career-high fourth.
“Since the Scottish Open it’s just been an incredible run and I don’t know what to say. I am speechless. The results I have produced and to hang in there, I’m really satisfied,” Stenson said. “To win both these trophies feels unbelievable.
“It’s just been a great summer, way beyond what I could imagine. It’s obviously the work that I’d done before. It wasn’t like you wake up in the middle of July and you start playing fantastic. I put the work in in the spring. To be the FedEx Cup champion, that means a whole lot more to me than the money.
“It just shows one should never give up and always keep on trying harder. I managed to come back out of some bad slumps twice and that just shows always hang in there and try your best and good things will come your way eventually.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I had to fight hard mentally to keep all this aside and go out there and do my job and I managed to do that. This is going to feel better and better as the week moves on, I am pretty sure about that.”
Following his maiden win in his 11th European Tour start at the B&H international in 2001, Stenson faced his first crisis after succumbing to the tinkering impulse that afflicts many young professionals. It took three years before he won again in the Heritage at Woburn.
There was a fund of good will accompanying this victory, which not only underpinned Stenson’s popularity in the game but also reinforced the big idea that drives it, in effect that hard work conquers all. Here’s Steve Stricker, who closed out the season third in Atlanta, and offered Stenson as his tip to claim the much-cherished PGA Tour Player of the Season award.
“Hats off to him. He played great. He won two of these events. He deserves to be the champion. It’s very rare when a player doesn’t go through some sort of struggles,” Stricker said. “Henrik had a little blip on his screen there for a while, much like everybody.
“It’s nice to see that he’s put in the work and the energy and the time to get it back and to reach, really, the ultimate thing in our sport, to win the FedEx Cup.”