Sweden’s Henrik Stenson broke through in the Labor Day finale of the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship, finally breaking the 4-year winless streak that stretched back to his last win, at the 2009 Players Championship, while 54-hole leader Sergio Garcia fell from grace, and a 2-stroke lead, blowing up to a final-round 73 and a T-4 finish.
After a multi-year slump that saw him fall as far as 230th in the Official World Golf Rankings in 2011, Stenson’s play was showing tremendous improvement in 2013. The tall Swede seemed on the verge of a breakthrough after five Top 5 performances this year, including a third-place at the PGA Championship, and a second-place finish at the Open Championship – with a performance that would have won the tournament any other year, stoppered only by the transcendent play that saw Phil Mickelson finally grasp the third rung of the majors ladder.
Trailing Spain’s Sergio Garcia by two strokes going into the final round, Stenson appeared to stumble slightly with a bogey six at the par-5 second hole, which he had played in par-birdie-birdie in the previous three rounds, but he recovered, a look of steely determination hidden behind his sleek, dark sunglasses, and tore off a string of four birdies in the next six holes.
Stenson stayed steady to the end, even when Steve Stricker moved to within two strokes late in the round. Stricker, playing one hole ahead of Stenson’s group, was facing a long eagle putt on 18 at the same time that Stenson was standing in a greenside bunker on 17 looking at a flag position that was a little close for comfort – “Not much green to work with…”, as the TV commentators like to say. The possibility of a two-shot swing and a tie game loomed – until Stenson put a textbook swing on his bunker shot, popping the ball up onto the green to the perfect distance with the perfect amount of check and release, holing out for birdie and settling the matter for good and all.
After a commanding run of 64-65-64 for a 19-under 194 and a 2-stroke lead through three rounds, Garcia’s final round was marred by loose tee shots and scrambling bogeys – five in thirteen holes – that saw him limping home to a 2-over 73 for a total of 267 and a T-4 finish – a sad denouement to a storyline that through three rounds looked for all the world like it would be “Sergio Ascendant!”
NorCal’s Chappell and Watney advance to the next round
The last two Northern California golfers in the Fedex Cup race, Fresno’s Kevin Chappell and Sacramento-area native Nick Watney, both survived the Labor Day weekend at TPC Boston to advance to the penultimate step in the race for the FedEx Cup, the BMW Championship, coming up in two weeks, September 12-15, at Chicago’s Conway Farms Golf Club.
Chappell posted an 11-under total of 273 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, good for a T-22 finish, and more importantly, a big step up the FedEx Cup points board, from #43 to #33. With the Top 30 advancing from Conway Farms to the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta September 19-22, players want to be within the Top 30, or at least within striking distance of that group heading to Chicago.
Watney was derailed a bit by a 1-over 72 in the third round at the DeutscheBank, but managed a 9-under, T-35 finish that moved him up from #35 to #34 on the FedEx Cup points list, just behind Chappell.