A relaxed and somewhat chatty Tiger Woods wrapped up his 2013 season with media after the Tour Championship on Sunday, when he made mention of a streak he had in 2007 where he "made everything" and won a lot. He said the same was true with Luke Donald on his ascent to No. 1, that he made putts and couldn't hit a bad shot; and same with Rory McIlroy, too, when he soared to No. 1.
(Remember him? Rory? Curly haired kid? Irish accent?)
So I guess that Tiger Theory is as good a way as any to explain the Henrik Stenson Phenomenon that seems to have visited golf from an alternate galaxy.
The 37-year-old Swede is the latest to have the golf gods pull him aside, give him a wink and say: "This, kid. This is your time. Enjoy it, because we won't be saying this to you for the rest of your life. This is what we do. We come, we reward those who find something in their swing and in their brain, we let you roll, we get you paid, and then eventually we'll come pull the rug out from under you. Just ask your pal Rors."
Presto! Henrik Stenson, the guy who endured two career slumps so mighty you thought he'd fallen off the face of the Earth; the guy who famously played a golf shot in his boxer briefs; the guy who has a simmering temper below his stoic Scandinavian mug is, after a Tour Championship and FedExCup playoff triumph, all of a sudden King of the Golf World.
Want to hit a green in regulation? Stenson's your man, leading all players at East Lake, just as he did in two of the other three FedExCup events. Want to rank first on the PGA Tour in ball striking? Stenson's your man. Want to go wire-to-wire at the Tour Championship, with the pressure of a $10 million prize and a side bonus of $1.4 million for winning the event? Stenson's your – very wealthy – man.
All this from a player who had two PGA Tour wins in his career, and no majors. Yeah, it happens this way sometimes. As the ad guy once said: These Guys Are Good, and in any given hot stretch, One Guy Can Be Really Good.
Still, it's been a two-month blitzkrieg nobody saw coming. Stenson identified his swing clicking at the Scottish Open, where he finished tie-3rd behind winner Phil Mickelson. Since then, his tournament finishes:
• British Open: 2nd.
• WGC-Bridgestone: Tie-2nd.
• PGA Championship: 3rd.
• FedExCup Barclays: tie-43rd.
• FedExCup Deutsche Bank: 1st.
• FedExCup BMW: tie-33rd.
• FedExCup Tour Championship: 1st.
And as we learned more about Stenson, we understood his expectations for himself ran pretty high, despite his placid exterior. When he struggled to that tie-33rd at Conway Farms, he snapped the head off a driver in anger. Then, we found out from Golf.com that he also trashed a locker in the clubhouse, too.
Henrik Stenson: golf rock star. His motto might as well be: "Either I play well, or I'm going Keith Moon up in this piece, destroying property."
So if you were the guy who said in January, at your Fantasy Golf draft, while the trade winds of Kapalua buffeted the young lovers Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky (remember that start-of-year gallery buzz? Now our paramours are engaged!), that Stenson was your pick to win the FedExCup then just stop right now. Because nobody said that. Not even Stenson.
Something clicked in the summer of 2013, and it was fairways and greens, ahoy. He called it "an incredible run ... I'm speechless." He also reflected on his two career dips, falling to 230th in the world at one point, and said: "One should never give up. Always keep on trying harder. I managed to come out of some big slumps. Hang in there. Try your best, good things will come your way."
You going to doubt Dr. Feelgood? He's got $11.4 million reasons for you not to.
SCORECARD OF THE WEEK
73-71-69-67 – Even par 280, Tiger Woods, tie-22nd, FedExCup Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Course, Atlanta, Ga.
Like a football player streaking for the end zone only to be caught from behind and tackled at the 1-yard line, Tiger Woods' season-long destiny to win the FedExCup, seemingly inevitable when he logged five wins by early August, ended with the world's No. 1-ranked player as the FedExCup's No. 2-ranked player.
For the master of holding the 54-hole lead, golf's ultimate closer, it's more than a little surprising to see Tiger Woods not bring enough to the East Lake table to lock down the season-long points title. But as we often do here at Lateral Hazard, we return to our theme in life, enunciated in the society-changing film, "Top Secret": "Things change … people change … hairstyles change … interest rates fluctuate … "
And speaking of change, how about Tiger firing an opening-round 73, 29th out of 30 players, to effectively eliminate himself right out of the gate? Very un-Tiger like. Then, on Friday, Tiger admitted fatigue has affected his game. Very un-Tiger like. Then again, enduring a five-plus year span without a major win is very un-Tiger like, too. Back to our theme about hairstyles and interest rates.
Plus, after Sunday's round, when Tiger spoke, he said having his two children greet him after the round reminded him that "there's more to life than putting a little white ball into a gopher hole." Great sentiment, but who kidnapped Tiger Woods?
When Tiger tees it up at Augusta in 2014, he will be 38 years old, a little balder and still the player Jack Nicklaus this past weekend tabbed to top his major championship total record of 18. Either Jack is being magnanimous, or he understands that Tiger has ten more years of great golf, and 40 chances to get five majors. Who's to say Daddy-first, FedExCup-second Tiger isn't that player?
MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK
Look at that 20-year-old whiz kid, Jordan Spieth, of Dallas, Texas. Or, as he should be known shortly: "Jordan Sunday". Or, "The Final Round Kid." Or, something that you can think of that is surely better to describe Spieth's fourth-round prowess.
At East Lake, Spieth charged hard with a Sunday 64 to finish tie-2nd, three shots back of Stenson. This, from the same youngster who fired a Sunday 62 at Deutsche Bank for a tie-4th; a Sunday 65 at Greensboro to get into a playoff; and a Sunday 65 at the John Deere to get into a playoff, which he won. Throw in a Sunday 68 at the BMW last week and we have a player not able to legally consume alcohol, but able to legally take on and destroy any and all President's Cup foes at Muirfield next week.
Seriously. If the 2013 golf season is to be remembered, it's to be remembered for: 1) Phil Mickelson's final round at Muirfield; 2) Adam Scott's playoff win at the Masters over a game Angel Cabrera; 3) Jason Dufner’s rump slap of his lovely bride after the PGA win; 4) Justin Rose's 4-iron at Merion's 72nd hole; and 5) Jordan Spieth's arrival as the next great American hope, with nine top-10s and top-20 finishes at all four FedExCup playoff events.
Spieth started the year with no status on Tour. Now his status is Big Man on Campus.
When Spieth was making his big move on Stenson and briefly got within one shot, he came to the 17th hole and made bogey. Oh! Heartbreak. The culprit was his second shot, 162 from the fairway that he left in a front bunker, plugged. He couldn't get a good out, and two putted for bogey. End of a dream.
So let's go back out to the 17th fairway, remind Spieth of his amazing 2013 season, remind him of all the fans he's winning over, remind him that hitting a green from 162 ain't no thing to a kid from Texas with all the game in the world, remind him that if he stayed within one of Stenson any kind of drama could break out and … give that kid a mulligan!
BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK
"And he's DUFNERING!" – Dan Hicks, NBC, as Keegan Bradley holed out from 170 yards for eagle on Sunday at the Tour Championship, then promptly 'Dufnered' on the fairway.
Ladies and gentlemen, coming to a nightclub near you: Keegan and Duf! Please, tip your servers generously.
Ever since the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, where the rookie Bradley won his first major championship over Dufner in a playoff, the two players have been linked by history. Bradley even turned his car around in Rochester, N.Y. last month to be greenside when Dufner won the 2013 PGA Championship.
They needle each other on Twitter, they hang out, they laugh and they were paired together in the final round at East Lake. So, when Bradley hit a pitch-perfect iron for a '2' on Sunday, his immediate reaction was to sit on the fairway, hands tucked under his thighs, staring straight ahead … Dufnering.
And if you need to know what 'Dufnering' is, you probably haven't read this far in the column.
What a pair: Bradley, the energetic extrovert; Dufner, the laid-back milquetoast. A little yin, a little yang. (No, not Y.E.) Bradley and Dufner had a ball playing together, and have now ended the 2013 season as maybe the Martin/Lewis of the PGA Tour; or the Abbott/Costello of the PGA Tour; or the Smothers Brothers of the PGA Tour. As you can see, most of my comedic duo references are firmly lodged in the 20th century, but that's what you get for reading a 46-year-old suburban Dad for your golf fix.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
That's it. The confetti is being swept up, Henrik Stenson is finished destroying lockers and championship fields, Tiger is done missing putts (oh! Cheap shot!) and Rory McIlroy has done the last wasting of his 2013 season (oh! Another cheap shot!).
All that's left is the President's Cup, Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield in Ohio. That'll be our final Lateral Hazard of the year, and please, no emotional outbursts. Otherwise I'll sic Jordan Spieth's golf game on you.