December 6, 2013
Inside Henrik Stenson’s head
When Spike Milligan quipped that money can’t buy happiness but brings a more pleasant form of misery he wasn’t talking about professional golf. The shoe however is a perfect fit, Henrik Stenson prime witness.
Known for his dry wit and often-fiery temper, on Sunday the 37-year old Swede became the first player to win the Tour Championship wire-to-wire clear since Tom Watson in 1987 in the inaugural playing of this top-30 showdown format.
He also became the first European to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, which meant in total a whopping 11.44 m. dollar payday.
By every measure this has been a stellar year for the Swede who now lives in Orlando, Florida. Early in the season he tied 2nd at the Shell Houston Open and T-5 at the Players then from mid-summer he went on a rip, T-3 Scottish Open, 2nd at the Open championship, T-2 at the Bridgestone WGC, 3rd at the PGA, winner at the Deutsche Bank leg of the Playoffs, these alone adding up to bank-manager pleasing 4.7m.
But it was Stenson’s ire after the rain-delayed Monday finish in the BMW Championship that was mostly in focus before he let his clubs do the talking at East Lake. At Conway Farms first he angrily beheaded his driver on the 18th tee then headed indoors and demolished his locker.
Yet here’s the reason everybody likes and respects the man who twice lost his way in golf and at one low point could hardly keep the ball anywhere in the park, far less where he was aiming it. At the Wednesday pre-championship press conference he was straightforward, indeed downright funny, when speaking about both incidents.
First a questioner asked if using a new driver at East Lake had been in his mind when he “got rid of the old one.” Stenson: “Yeah, absolutely. That was the main focus. Get something with a little bit less spin. Let’s finish the old one off right here and now, in front of everybody on 18. Perfect!” That dry humour set the tone and continued in the same self-deprecating manner when asked about the locker incident, for which he apologized to all parties, including the locker attendants. The questioner said a lot of people might wonder how someone can go from the elation of winning a tournament to a not such a good place so quickly.
Stenson, fast as any stage comedian, replied: “I can hear you don’t have much experience with Swedes, do you?” then said: “I’ll tell you. I’ve always been a bit of a hot-head, and it kind of builds up, and eventually it goes over the limit. It comes down to being tired. I played so much golf. I played so well, and I just haven’t been able to get any rest and I pushed myself over the edge there.”
A polished response from an almost perfect gentleman, now headed to the final seven events of the European Tour as leader in the “Race to Dubai.”