Nerveless Stenson defies late charge by Els and Woods - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Nerveless Stenson defies late charge by Els and Woods

Henrik Stenson yesterday joined the exclusive club of European golfers who have put one over on Tiger Woods when emerging as the last golfer left standing on a mouthwatering day in the desert. After this startling success the Swede will never again solely be remembered as the man who holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup.

The action started with a sandstorm and finished with a stampede as player after player put themselves forward to lift the Dubai Classic's prestigious title. There was Ross Fisher, the young Englishman who removed the "unknown" prefix from his name with a showing of guts and class that defied his inexperience; there was Ernie Els, desperate to kick-start his much-publicised three-year quest to return to the top of the world rankings; and then there was the world No 1 himself.

Naturally, Woods' defeat was to have most resonance for the simple fact that he rarely loses when in contention in the final round. Indeed, the statistics prove what a freakish result this was, being the first strokeplay tournament since last June's US Open in which he did not finish in the top two. But the 31-year-old did come third here - two behind Stenson and one behind Els - and that means it is 12 events back to the last time he was not on the podium.

Even in defeat, Woods' legend continues to grow. There is a very good reason for that. With respect to Stenson's gallant 68 for a 19-under-par total, it was the Tiger fightback that added the edge to proceedings. With Roger Federer and Michael Schumacher in attendance - those other two most recent recruits to the sporting pantheon - Woods produced a charge when seemingly lame. It had seemed so unlikely by the side of the 11th green, when Woods inexplicably fluffed his ball into the bunker just three feet in front of him. This second consecutive bogey had removed him four shots from the pace and little was going right.

Then came a birdie on the 13th and a 30-footer brought him another on the par-three 14th. But it was the trademark 20-yard pitch into the cup on the 15th that really raised the temperature and when he zeroed it in to within six feet on the 16th he looked on the brink of sharing the lead. Alas, the putt slipped by, just like so many of Woods' did here and his chance was gone. By the time he skulked off that green, Stenson had gone a further shot clear and effectively set up a straight final-group, final-hole shoot-out between he and Els. Together with Fisher, Woods was left to reflect on what could have been.

If anything, the young Englishman had just held an even bigger shout than his playing partner. After 13 holes, the 26-year-old from Ascot had a one-shot lead and was apparently the competitor striking it with most clarity and conviction. But inevitably the tension got to the golfer ranked 294 in the world and after back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th he had to be satisfied with fifth. But satisfied he was.

"I feel I can walk away from here with my head held high," he said. "I stood toe to toe with Tiger and was actually a couple of shots up on him at one stage. I said on Friday that I felt I belong out here and today I think I've proved myself against the best. I'm well proud."

So, unsurprisingly, was Stenson. The 30-year-old lives in Dubai and spoke of the "joy" of winning his second "home" tournament. To do so, he had to produce a back-nine of 33 that was grandstanded with a nerveless approach to the last. Holding a one-shot lead, but with Els at the back of the par-five green in two, Stenson knew he had to get down from 80 yards in two. The exquisite lob-wedge left him a 10-footer, which was dispatched with remarkable composure by a man who apparently has everything it takes to end Europe's seven-year major void. "Of course, there is great satisfaction in winning a tournament with Tiger Woods in it," said Stenson, who has Nick Faldo's former caddie, Fanny Sunesson, on his bag.

"But it gives me just as much satisfaction to play with Ernie Els in all four rounds and beat him down the stretch. With the wind early on, it was tough out there and I just had to hang on. I had a bit of an upset on the ninth hole, but I was pleased the way I came through."

That particular "upset" involved a row with rules officials who demanded he identify his ball that had bizarrely become lodged on the top of a hospitality tent. That involved clambering on to a marshal's shoulders and from there on to scaffolding. "I felt like a performer on 'cirque de soleil'," said Stenson. If his handling of Tiger is anything to go by, Stenson might consider joining up as a Lion tamer.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen