Another day closer to the Masters and another player to profile. Today we look at the second European and indeed the second Swedish player on the list.
For many years, Henrik Stenson has been the main man in Swedish golf and to a certain extent still is, although Alex Noren is running him close these days.
A major winner already, courtesy of his 2016 Open Championship win, where he come out on top in a famous duel with Phil Mickelson on Sunday, Stenson will be looking to go closer than he has been able to before, at Augusta.
Since his last missed cut in 2011, Stenson had been a model of consistency here with four straight top-24 finishes in the event, before missing the cut again twelve months ago. Looking at that run of four straight top-24 finishes, you could argue he has found something of a comfort level with Augusta but his lack of top-10’s leaves something to be desired.
The fact he has still never finished higher than T14 in this event that suggests Augusta isn’t a favourite of his and that’s why there will always be question marks around his chances in the first major each year.
Stenson has a top-4 finish or better in each of the other three majors, including his win at the Open Championship, so it is fair to say his efforts here at Augusta in particular have been short of expectations.
Why he can win the 2018 Masters
Firstly it is important to remember, no matter how his record here looks, he has still made plenty more cuts than he’s missed here and has finished inside the top-20 more often than not, which is no small feat in itself.
In addition to his modestly impressive showings here so far, Stenson is clearly amongst the world’s elite and joins Tiger Woods as the only two players to win a major, a WGC, The Players and the FedEx Cup.
There are not many better players in the world than Stenson with an iron in their hand, with Adam Scott, who we spoke about yesterday a rival of his for that particular title.
A late bloomer and also a player that has comeback from an incredible fall from grace, Stenson continues to impress year on year. The only thing left for Stenson to do in the game is to win more majors and he has the ability to do just that.
It has been an indifferent start to 2018 for the Swede, who really should have done better in contention at Bay Hill this past weekend, as he held the 54-hole lead there for the third time in last four years, and is still looking for that elusive win at Arnie’s tournament.
He was outplayed by playing partner, Bryson DeChambeau last Sunday which whilst DeChambeau is clearly a huge emerging talent in his own right, is obviously a concern. Despite a strong chasing pack, Stenson still remained in control for much of the front-9 and it wasn’t until Rory McIlroy and to lesser extent Tiger Woods caught fire that his place at the top of the leaderboard looked in real danger. Stenson never reacted to that charge from McIlroy though and that will be a tough pill to swallow.
Stenson is understandably frustrated that he has never been able to crack the top-10 at Augusta, and attributes his relative struggles to what is required off the tee. “Augusta is a course that’s set up to bomb it off the tee and really get it up there. You’ve got to be precise with your approach shots into those small sections on the greens and every yard kind of helps in that quest. So, yeah it is a different type of golf.”
A man who religiously sticks to his plan off the tee, hitting 3-wood for position, it appears Stenson knows he may need to open his shoulders and hit driver off the tee here to seriously contend. Whether or not he will be happy to deviate from his usual plan to do so, remains to be seen though. He hits his 3-wood plenty far enough and it sounds like he just prefers layouts that reward straight shots, rather than those that allow you to advance the ball easily from the rough. His strengths are hitting it long (enough) and straight, setting up plenty of chances for his continuously solid approaches but here at Augusta, plenty of players can find good approach angles without finding fairway, negating Stenson’s strengths somewhat.
It would however be naïve to rule out Stenson’s chances of winning a Green Jacket, no matter how obvious it is that the other three majors suit him more. This year may be the year he looks to change his approach, after analysing his past performances and if you do like his chances of overcoming his past form at Augusta, he certainly is an enticing price given his ability.