Bad enough that Tiger Woods endured another season without winning a major. Now somebody's coming for his wallet.
That somebody would be the sweet-swinging Swede Henrik Stenson, who obliterated TPC Boston with an avalanche of consistent ball-striking and won the Deutsche Bank Championship on Labor Day, moving past Tiger for the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs with only two legs left. Oh, by the way, the guy who wins the FedEx Cup wins $10 million, more money than Dr. Evil could have ever dreamed.
With five wins this year and the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup standings well in hand when the playoffs opened, you'd think Tiger was in line for a third FedEx Cup playoff win, to match 2007 and 2009. Ten million would be a welcome salve for a year in which Jack Nicklaus' ghost stiff-armed Tiger yet again.
But Stenson is coming strong. He attacks the game with the fearlessness of a guy who has stared into the abyss, only three years ago falling from the world's top 10 to 230th on the planet when his game left him amid mental strife. Stenson lost a large chunk of his personal fortune to a Ponzi scheme, and the ensuing stress sent his game sideways.
Time, sports psychology and an incredible ability to hit golf balls onto greens in regulation (No. 1 on Tour) cured Stenson. He's back in the world's top 10. Plus, how can the pressure of the FedEx Cup playoffs affect a guy who once stripped to his boxer briefs in 2009 to play a water shot? He's not just bringing sexy back, he brought his game back, too.
A final-round 66 by Stenson spoke to all that, and capped off a blistering summer of golf by the stoic Scandinavian. After having to play his way into the top 50 of the world rankings at the last minute for a Masters invite, here's what Stenson has done when the stakes are highest:
• Tie for 18th at the Masters.
• Tie for fifth at the Players Championship.
• Tie for 21st at the U.S. Open.
• Second at the British Open.
• Tie for second at WGC-Bridgestone.
• Third at the PGA Championship.
As he told NBC's Steve Sands after the round, he was looking to cap all those big-paycheck, no-glory finishes off with a win, and got it without much worry when 54-hole leader Sergio Garcia ordered up a "Sergio Garcia Sunday Special" and faded into irrelevance, and when the always-game Steve Stricker's 67 left him two strokes shy of Stenson. The only concern came when Stenson missed the 17th green, bringing into question possible nerves. He answered those by jarring his bunker shot for a birdie, extending his lead, and sending golf writers to their laptops penning odes to Stenson's game, unearthing gems like: Did you know he is top-10 in driving accuracy? And fourth on Tour in scoring average? One scribe even posted a link to ABBA's "Super Trouper" on Twitter to pay tribute, to connect Swedish greats. So yes, Labor Day frivolity was had.
Sure, Tiger can still regain the top spot when the playoffs resume a week from Thursday at the BMW Championship, but the way Stenson is swinging it, I wouldn't be so sure. The only chink in Stenson's game right now is a balky putter, but Tiger's no great shakes either after his Sunday 73 and tie-65th. After all, Johnny Miller on NBC needled Tiger about needing another putting lesson from Steve Stricker. If Johnny's back into pulling-wings-off-flies mode, can't wait for the next installment.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
67-66-72-62 – 17-under 267, Jordan Spieth, tie-4th, FedEx Cup Deutsche Bank Championship, TPC Boston, Norton, Mass.
To refresh some key factoids about Jordan Spieth: He's 20 years old. He won the John Deere earlier this summer. He lost a thrilling playoff at Greensboro, or he'd have two Ws already. He's finished top-20 in his first two FedEx Cup playoff events. He's 10th (!) in FedEx Cup points, ahead of players like Jason Dufner, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk. He has clinched a spot at the Tour Championship, and becomes the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from starting the year with no status on Tour, to the Tour Championship.
Did I mention he's 20 years old? I did.
When Spieth won the John Deere, he became the youngest winner on Tour since 1931, so the former Texas Longhorn has a little history as his caddie, too.
And then finishing birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle for a Sunday 62? Two days before Fred Couples is set to make his captain's picks for next month's President's Cup at Muirfield Village? You can add "timing" to the kid's skill set, too.
You can almost see Cap'n Freddie, lying on his couch on Sunday, flipping the remote back and forth from TPC Boston to the Yankees-White Sox game to a DVR'ed recording of the Washington Husky-Boise State game from Saturday night back to TPC Boston, then texting assistant captains Jay Haas and Davis Love III with: "Dudes … I've been sorta channel-surfing … Should we take this Spieth kid, or what? … and what time is the Florida State-Pitt kickoff?"
It's as simple as this, Cap'n: Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson would each make a fine captain's pick, but you have to do us all a solid and take only one of those guys. Make room for Jordan Spieth, who would add some serious sizzle to an event that, ahem, doesn't always sizzle. Do the right thing, Boom Boom!
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"This was pretty much a total collapse … You saw that tee shot on No. 4 … I hate to say it, but he was choking." – Johnny Miller, NBC, on Sergio Garcia's tumble from 54-hole leader to final-round 73 and tie-4th, five shots behind Stenson's winning number.
Do you really hate to say that Sergio was "choking," John? Because I think I know, and you know, that you don't hate to say that. And more power to you. You make it entertaining, and keep it honest, and probably spur a shot or two in the Johnny Miller Drinking Game viewer contest, in which the viewer does a shot if Johnny drops a signature line like "This is makeable, Rog" or "He's feeling his nerves" or the simple beauty of the word "choking."
Despite five top 10s in 15 PGA Tour starts this year, El Niño remains winless in 2013. Worse, he is embellishing his reputation as the ultimate fader. If this guy were a baseball closer, his nickname would be "Gas Can" for the ninth-inning leads he'd torch.
Garcia led at the Deutsche Bank after both the 36- and-54-hole marks, then shot a Sunday 73 that was better than only six other players in the 76-player field. If you think that's an accident, think again.
Sergio's scoring average before the cut is 69.96, a scintillating eighth on the PGA Tour. Sergio's scoring average in the final round, even before this past Sunday, is 72.33, a leaden 165th on the PGA Tour.
If Sergio were a Thursday-Friday stock, you'd go Al Czervik from "Caddyshack" and "Buy, buy, buy!" If Sergio were a Sunday stock, you'd also go Al Czervik from "Caddyshack" and "Sell, sell, sell!"
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
Sometimes trying to follow the Tour's "projections" of who advances in the FedEx Cup playoffs and who fails to advance reminds me of my high school advanced algebra class, where I had no clue what the answer was until I snuck a look at my buddy Sandy's paper after he solved the problem.
Same with the FedEx Cup. Just wake me when you've done the math, and tell me who's in, who's out.
That said, we had a rare moment of clarity on Sunday at TPC Boston. K.J. Choi stood over a par putt on the 18th hole, and NBC's Dan Hicks informed us that if Choi made the putt, he'd advance to next week's BMW Championship for the top 70 players. If Choi missed it, he was out, and Ernie Els was in.
Even I could follow that math.
Choi missed the putt. He actually bogeyed the final hole, a reachable par-5, to miss the next leg of the playoffs by a stroke. He earned a scolding admonition from Johnny Miller for his trouble, and the Big Easy was headed to the Windy City.
So, let's go back out to the 18th green at TPC Boston, remind Choi that most players are making birdie on this hole with a degree of ease, remind him that he still has a shot at $10 million if he makes the putt, and remind him that Miller is ready to tsk-tsk him if he misses it and … give that man a mulligan!
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
It's pretty simple: We head to our couches for NFL opening Sunday.
The Tour wisely takes the week off, to avoid being lost in a tsunami of sports fans checking their smart phones to see how their fantasy football teams are doing, those same fans barely even realizing the sport of golf exists.
The playoffs resume a week from Thursday for the top 70 players, but don't be fooled – they'll be checking their smart phones to see how their fantasy football teams are doing that week, too.