Stenson grabs early lead
ATLANTA—Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson—the top two seeds in the FedEx Cup—could not have been more different in the opening round of the Tour Championship yesterday.
Stenson hardly missed a shot on the front nine. He had such control over his game that six of his first seven iron shots were 10 feet or closer to the hole.
Tiger Woods was the model of frustration.
He missed a short birdie putt on the opening hole that set the tone for a most unusual day.
When it was over, Woods failed to make a birdie for only the seventh time in his PGA Tour career—three of them at East Lake.
Woods opened with a 73 to sit nine shots behind.
“It’s a nice feeling to hit those kind of shots playing with the world’s best player,” Stenson said.
“Normally, it’s him [Woods] who does it to everyone else, but it was kind of nice to throw a couple at him.
“We know he didn’t have the best of days, and he’s going to fight hard to try to come back into the tournament,” Stenson added.
“It’s still a long way to go, but it’s always nice to perform the way I did when you’re playing with the world’s best player.”
Woods walked off the course without speaking to reporters.
Perhaps he could learn from Stenson how to cope with a frustrating day on the golf course. Or maybe not.
“I don’t think I’m the right person,” Stenson quipped.
What made Stenson’s round so remarkable was that just three days ago, his emotions were boiling. Angry at the way he was playing, and the fact he had to be at Conway Farms north of Chicago for a Monday finish brought on by rain, he smashed his driver into the ground so hard the head snapped out.
Then he took out his frustrations by damaging his locker.
And that was just one tournament after winning the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“I really knew I had to be in a good frame of mind coming out there if I wanted to play good golf this week,” Stenson reasoned.
“As some of you noticed, I wasn’t that on Monday when I finished up in Chicago.
“So it was a good turnaround mentally,” he noted.
“I stayed very level-headed—kept the head on, both myself and drivers, and played a great round of golf.”
Stenson had a one-shot lead over Masters champion Adam Scott, who deals with his frustrations internally.
He was irritated by missing the green three times with a wedge, thus wasting good birdie chances, and missing a six-foot birdie putt on the par-five ninth to stay one-over at the turn.
Two shots into the 10th changed everything. Scott made six birdies in seven holes for a 29 on the back nine and a 65.
Stenson—the No. 2 seed and the hottest player in golf over the last three months—and Scott (No. 3) only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and the $10-million prize.
Even more is at stake for Scott, who would be a strong candidate for PGA Tour player-of-the-year if he were to win this week.
That would give him three wins, compared with five wins for Woods, though Scott would have a major and the FedEx Cup.
“There haven’t been too many guys who have been in the position the last 12 years to even warrant thinking about it,” Scott said.
“So it’s an opportunity that might not come along too often.
“I’m going to be working hard to try and make my case for it,” he vowed.