Henrik Stenson capped one of the most intense duels in golf history vs. Phil Mickelson with a final-round 63 that was nothing short of marvelous, capturing his first major championship in the process at 2016’s The Open Championship.
While links golf is revered for many reasons, it does play far differently than many North American courses. So it’s fair to ask: Can we expect this as a launchpad for the Swede in the 2017 Masters?
Stenson has enjoyed limited success at Augusta National Golf Club, with four consecutive top-25 finishes the past four years, with a T-14 in 2014 representing his career best finish. And his game can translate to the States: He has won four other times on the PGA Tour, including two wins in the 2013 FedEx Cup playoffs as he became the first golfer to win both the FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai season-end championships.
However, his success has mostly come abroad, with 11 European Tour wins to his credit. And in the major tournaments, he’s fared best at The Open Championship, with three other top-three finishes preceding his 2016 breakthrough.
Looking at it all, you may be tempted to think the current world No. 5 golfer faces an uphill battle in the pursuit of the Green Jacket. His game has seen more success on links-style courses and on the European Tour.
However, he also boasts four top-six finishes in the PGA Championship, including back-to-back 3rd-place results in the 2013-14 tournaments. And he has been in position to win in Augusta: In 2012, he sat five strokes back of third-round leader Peter Hanson before Bubba Watson outlasted Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff.
Ultimately, the ability to win with different playing styles in radically different conditions is why winning a career Grand Slam is so difficult. One’s playing style may play far better on some courses than others. But with the pressure of turning his consistency in majors into that first victory finally removed, suddenly, everything else may be different.
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Picture of Henrik Stenson originally uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by FrankieF….Picture of Phil Mickelson originally uploaded to Flickr by minds-eye. Both pictures used under Creative Commons licensing.