Henrik Stenson Picks Up First Title of 2017 at Wyndham Championship
Henrik Stenson only entered the Wyndham Championship because he was concerned about his ranking heading into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He walked off the 18th green after a final round of 64 and a 22-under-par winning total to beat Ollie Schniederjans by a single shot. It was the Swede's first victory since The Open Championship at Royal Troon last year and he now heads to the Northern Trust Open, the first of the four tournaments that define the season, with his confidence sky high.
The Swede played wonderful golf all week but Schniederjans gave him one heck of a fright. He birdied three of his final four holes in a round of 64 but it wasn't quite good enough. On a dramatic final day, Rory Sabbatini and Martin Flores did enough to retain their playing privileges for 2018 by sneaking into the top 125 who now go forward to the Northern Trust Open. Harold Varner III finished on 14 under, which was enough to get him to 122nd place. JJ Henry claimed the final place on the list.
Stenson shot rounds of 62, 66, 66 and 64 for a 72-hole total of 258. He birdied the first, third, fifth and seventh but also dropped shots at the second and sixth holes to open the door for Schniederjans. However, when the chips were down, Stenson dug deep. He birdied the 13th as well as the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to pip the young American.
"The week turned out beautifully for me. I started with a birdie at the first and that got me going," Stenson said. "But it was on the back nine that things really got going for me. I played a great shot to the 16th and made birdie and holed a terrific putt on the 17th for another birdie. I knew that I had to par the final hole and, thankfully, I was able to do it."
"I have had a fantastic career, better than I could ever have dreamt of. I felt like I turned a chapter when I gave the Claret Jug back, and I would love to win the FedEx Cup again."
Stenson's victory lifts him from 75th to 23rd place in the rankings. He left his driver in the boot of his car all week and depended on his three wood. And it paid off in spades for the Swede.
Webb Simpson was third on 18 under.
So here is the problem with matchplay tournaments - you don't always get the finalists you expect. The Dell World Matchplay seemed like a brilliant idea. Still does. Until you look at the names of some of the men who have won it - Kevin Sutherland, Jeff Maggert, Geoff Ogilvy, David Toms. The problem is that you can be playing the best golf of your life but run into a guy who just has one of those days and, wham, you are on the next plane home.
Players and fans alike complain that there simply isn't enough matchplay golf on the European Tour, so the powers-that-be must be commended for supporting the Saltire Paul Lawrie Matchplay, which has been played out in Germany these past few days. It is a great idea - bring together some of the best golfers in Europe, seed half the field and set them off to go head to head.
No offence to the individuals concerned, but there is a risk that you end up with a quarter-final draw that looks a lot like this: Marcel Siem v Robert Rock, Johan Carlsson v Anthony Wall, Alejandro Canizares v Chris Paisley, and Alexander Knappe v Adrian Otaegui. Fine players one and all, but hardly likely to set the pulses racing. On the plus side, the home fans had two Germans to cheer on. Sadly, Knappe failed to make it through to the semi-finals, played just before the 18-hole championship match, but at least there was Marcel Siem.
And it got better when Siem battled his way through to the final to take on Otaegui, a rapidly-improving young Spanish golfer. Siem, who started the week in 125th place in the Race to Dubai, beat Carlsson, of Sweden, 3&2 in the semi-finals, while Otaegui thrashed his fellow Spaniard Canizares 6&5. It should have surprised nobody that Otaegui reached the final as he arrived at the Beckenbauer Course having recorded four successive top-20 finishes. Siem was looking for his fifth European Tour title and was attempting to become only the third German after Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer to win on home soil.
Siem was cruising in the final, three up at the turn and two up with five holes to play, but Otaegui produced an astonishing fightback to win 2&1. Otaegui parred every hole on the front nine as Siem birdied the first, fourth and eighth holes but won six of the eight holes after the turn – including the final four – making five more birdies in the process while staying bogey free.
Carlsson beat Canizares 3&2 – with the help of three eagles – in the earlier match to decide third and fourth place.
He eagled the third, with a par enough to take him two up on the fourth, before Canizares won the sixth and seventh with pars and birdied the ninth to lead at the turn. But Carlsson came roaring back, eagling the par five 12th, birdieing the 14th and 15th and then eagling the par four 16th for the second time on Sunday after achieving the feat in his semi-final against Siem.
Otaegui was thrilled to win his first European Tour title. "It's very, very special to have my first European Tour victory here at the Paul Lawrie. I'm so happy," he said. “I didn’t start very well at the beginning. I was very quickly two down. Marcel was playing very good golf, he was hitting very good iron shots into the greens. He holed some good putts, which I didn’t. I didn’t hole any putts on the front nine.
“I was a bit worried at some points. Then suddenly it clicked and I made a few birdies on the back nine. I just wanted to keep fighting until the end. I came from the 16th one up which was the first time I was up in the game. It was 160 into the wind. I hit a good six iron, I just wanted to play just right of the pin.
“I got solid contact and it was a good shot just five, six metres right of the pin and we were pretty much the same distance Marcel and I. It was me to putt first and I made a great putt, and holed it straight in the middle. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
“Naturally, Siem was disappointed. "I was totally in control, I just had to keep making birdies and pars. He didn’t make any mistakes all day. I’m really upset, it’s really disappointing. It was right there on a silver plate for me today. There’s nothing better than having a tournament win under your belt, having an exemption for next year. A lot of things I thought about last night I should have thought about on the back nine. Having an exemption under my belt, I would have had a chance to play in every tournament. I’m still in there, but with an exemption going into 2018 it’s a bit easier to schedule everything and try to get into the team. I totally forgot about that on the back nine to be honest. That was my motivation.”
Respect ???? pic.twitter.com/5qao3bQdAJ— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) August 20, 2017
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Jason Norris, of Australia, shot a final round of 67 to win the Fiji International, a tournament sanctioned by the European Tour. He played the front nine in superb fashion and was able to come back in level par to finish the week on 14 under par - good enough to win by four shots.
Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond finished in a tie for second place alongside Australians David McKenzie and James Marchesani after producing a course-record 64 which featured an eagle and six birdies.
Norris began the day one shot behind overnight leader Wade Ormsby after posting a 70 on Saturday. But he quickly caught Ormsby with a birdie at the first to move to ten under par. And Norris took the outright lead when he rolled in a ten-foot birdie putt at the third to get to 11 under before picking up another at the next.
Norris dropped his first shot of the day at the fifth but then reeled of three birdies from the seventh to reach 14 under and open up a four-shot lead. And that was how he finished.
"I think it was just our week," said Norris. "Everything aligned and putts dropped and some good shots came, it was amazing. "I said a couple of years ago when I was about to quit that I didn't want to give it away until I had won a big tournament because I know I can. I just tried to stay switched on and not think about the future, things come into your head, you try to block them out. I was really happy with our process today."
Janewattananond started the day eight shots off the lead but made four birdies on the front nine. He picked up two more at the 11th and 16th, and then holed an astonishing 66-foot eagle putt at the par-five 17th to get to ten under. McKenzie also made an eagle on the 17th in his closing 67, rolling in from 25 feet.
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