Wrap Up: Jackpot Joy for Superb Stenson
Last week, the year-long race for the FedEx Cup drew to a close in exciting fashion as the European Tour produced yet another drama-fuelled affair.
On the PGA Tour, the world's most in-form golfer kept calm under immense pressure to secure the biggest prize of a tumultuous career.
In Italy, a talented Frenchman came through the final-round melee to record a second European Tour title in as many years.
Jackpot Joy for Superb Stenson
Henrik Stenson shot a final-round 68 to post a 13-under-par 72 hole total and win the Tour Championship by three shots from Jordan Spieth at East Lake Golf Club in Georgia.
The Swede - winner of the Deutsche Bank Championship three weeks ago - also claimed an additional $10m for reigning supreme in the year-long race for the FedEx Cup.
Stenson flew out of the blocks on Thursday, producing a number of exceptional long-iron shots en route to an opening 64.
He continued his fine play on Friday, mixing five birdies with a solitary bogey to open up a four-shot lead at the halfway stage.
Midway through the third round, it looked as if the tournament had already been put to bed.
Stenson - demonstrating immense skill, steely determination and unwavering focus - turned in four under to open up a nine-stroke lead with just 27 holes remaining.
But inclement weather swept in as he made the turn from home, and the 2009 Players champion could only muster a three-over-par back nine for an 11-under-par 54-hole total.
He entered the final round five clear of Dustin Johnson and six ahead of Steve Stricker, with the chasing pack knowing only an exceptional score would give them any chance of victory.
One of those players was 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. The youngster played his first six holes in level par, but seven birdies in his next 10 holes left him just two back of Stenson, who was in trouble at 14.
But Spieth made a costly bogey at 17, and Stenson played his last four holes in one-under-par to finish three clear of the rookie and PGA Tour veteran Steve Stricker, who fired a closing 65.
FedEx Cup glory
In the six-year history of the FedEx Cup, no one has been more deserving of success than Henrik Stenson. Before the start of the Tour Championship, there was a spring in Stenson's step and an air of resilience in his demeanour. Despite all his achievements in 2013, you sensed Stenson felt victory on the grandest stage of all was the only way to signify his fully-fledged return into the upper echelons of the world game. At the season-finale, he stormed out of the blocks and looked utterly unflappable in his quest for ultimate glory. Even during a nerve-shredding final round and a scintillating run from a 20-year-old sensation, you always felt fate would play into Stenson's hands.
But it's unfair to cite factors outside of the Swede's control, because he was utterly magnificent throughout the course of the week. He played flawless golf in the most testing of circumstances and grabbed his chance with both hands, earning hoards of new fans and huge amounts of admiration along the way. He may have lost vast sums of money in previous ill-fated investments, but Stenson now has $11.5m to play with. It's an absurd sum of money, but I'm genuinely thrilled that it's found its way into Stenson's pocket.
Stenson will win the Player of the Year award, and rightly so, but it's been a truly magnificent season for young Jordan Spieth. He started the year without PGA Tour status, but showed huge character, skill and strength of conviction to play his way into the FedEx Cup play-offs. He may only be 20 years old, but he plays the game like a seasoned campaigner and continues to demonstrate remarkable tenacity, ability and guile in the most pressure-packed conditions. Given his talent, and his ability to play his best golf with so much on the line, you have to think he's a multiple major winner in the making.
Sad end for Woods
As all the excitement was playing out on the back nine, Tiger Woods was already in the clubhouse. Despite his five victories, it's been another disappointing year, and his lacklustre performance at the Tour Championship was indicative of his end-of-season form. It's hard to account for his performances in the majors this year, but next season will be even more telling. Three of the four majors are staged at venues where Tiger's won before. If he doesn't break his five-year major duck in 2014, I don't think he'll beat Jack Nicklaus's record.
Immaculate Quesne triumphs in Italy
Julien Quesne fired a closing 67 to record a 12-under-par 72-hole total and win the Italian Open by two shots from Steve Webster and David Higgins at Golf Club Torino.
It was the Frenchman’s second European Tour win, following victory at last year’s Open de Andalucia.
He started with a first-round 68, compiled a Friday 71 and shot a third-round 71 to enter the final round four shots behind Australian Marcus Fraser.
On Sunday, Quesne made a double bogey on the second hole, which looked to have put paid to his chances.
But the leaderboard was extremely cluttered, and four birdies in his next nine holes pushed the Frenchman back into contention.
No one was surging clear, and three birdies over the final four holes gave Quesne the clubhouse lead on 12-under-par.
He waited anxiously as the last groups came through, but no one could make the birdie they needed to force a play-off.
All systems go
Now the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup play-offs have come to a conclusion, the European Tour looks poised to enjoy a fruitful end of season. With events like the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the four-tournament Finals Series ahead, expect to see a drama-fuelled end to 2013 as top Europeans vie for Race to Dubai glory. The European Tour has always had a strong start and finish, but the mid-season lull remains a cause for concern.
Next week, the European Tour is in Scotland for the ever-popular Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, while the PGA Tour takes an off-season break.
Photo Credit: TourProGolfClubs.com
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