Stenson burst claims 'fifth major' as Cejka chokes
Monday 11 May 2009
Henrik Stenson's CV may still be minus the major his immense talent deserves but at least it now boasts the next best thing. The Swede became just the third European to win The Players last night as Sawgrass restated its propensity for breaking hearts and making champions.
Stenson was a worthy four-stroke victor, adding the near £1.2m first prize to the jackpots he picked up at the 2007 WGC World Match Play and last year's World Cup. Yet, as ever, there were a few of his peers leaving Jacksonville last night convinced they should have captured the event otherwise known as "the fifth major".
Ian Poulter, for one, might look back at his third-round 75 and always wonder. The Englishman managed to shake off his Saturday disappointment in typically confident fashion to record a 70, which earned him outright second. And regardless of any missed opportunities it was the Englishman's finest display in America to date and after his runner-up placing at last year's Open and his heroics in Europe's Ryder Cup defeat in Kentucky last September, it confirmed Poulter as one of the game's big-time performers. Playing alongside his countryman Brian Davis, who also enjoyed a great week finishing in a tie fifth, Poulter was one of this tournament's shining lights.
If only Alex Cejka could draw such consolation. Nobody felt the sense of anti-climax any more keenly than the German who went out with a five-shot lead, but saw it disappear within one hour of calamity during which he dropped five strokes in his first six holes. He ended with a 79.
The Cejka capitulation was not entirely unexpected; what certainly was not predicted, however, was the failure of his playing partner to take advantage. Tiger Woods's 73 left him in eighth. Once again his immense armoury did not produce the customary firepower and although it is far from action stations Woods obviously has plenty to work on.
With Woods out of the picture, it was left to Stenson to stride out and re-establish himself as a top-five player. The Ryder Cup stalwart was simply brilliant in firing a day's best 66 and fairly blew away the field when negotiating the feared back nine in 32 shots.
*John Daly finished in a tie for second behind Daniel Vancsik at the Italian Open yesterday in just his second tournament in the last four months. The former Open champion received a six-month ban from the US Tour for being thrown in jail to sober up, but proved he has straightened himself out since with a final-round 66 in Turin.
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