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Henrik Stenson displayed the kind of steady golf on Saturday in the Bahamas that validates his position as one of the top players in the world. The Swede effectively sealed his Hero World Challenge victory on the 15th hole when he nestled a 5-wood from 259 yards right next to the hole for a tap-in eagle.
From there, no one could catch the 43-year-old Stenson on his way to his first win since the 2017 Wyndham Championship.
Stenson was one of the oldest players in the 18-man Hero field, but strength and stamina were no issue at Albany Golf Club. He started the day one shot behind Gary Woodland, but overtook him with a final-round 66. At 18 under, Stenson managed to stay one shot ahead of Jon Rahm, the defending champion in this event.
“I found some good momentum after the tournament was finished in Dubai,” Stenson said of the European Tour finale, where he was T-44. “Sometimes just keep on working hard and grinding it out, I came in with a better feeling. Confidence can still be a little higher at times. But I’m really happy with the way I hung in there on the back nine.”
A handful of players moved in and out of the lead on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Stenson saved par at Nos. 11 and 14, which was crucial in setting him up to take the lead when he made the eagle at No. 15.
“The shot of the day,” Stenson said.
Stenson has spoken about his position in the Official World Golf Ranking falling off lately. He is currently No. 40 in the world. The Hero title should give him a boost of confidence there, too. It seemed to have set in second after he stepped off the 18th green.
“It’s down but it’s not disastrous,” he told the Golf Channel. “I’ve been top 10 in the world for five or six years straight, and that’s where I want to be. I feel like I’m playing to my potential. I can certainly compete with the best and I guess I showed that once again.”
One of the most interesting storylines to play out on Saturday happened in the final group right next to Stenson. Woodland started the day with a one-shot lead but assembled quite a colorful scorecard in the final round. Ultimately, Woodland’s closing 73 dropped him to 12 under and a tie for seventh.
It was a disastrous start for Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion. He went bogey, double bogey, bogey on Nos. 2-4. He birdied No. 7, nearly chipped in for another at No. 8, then plugged his approach at No. 9 in a penalty area. He blasted it out and chipped in from a sidehill lie to save bogey.
After a 4-over 40 on the front nine, Woodland came home in 33 – which will undoubtedly make the flight to Australia for the Presidents Cup a little more pleasant.
Woodland was one of 10 players in the Hero field about “to be locked up in a tin can for 23 hours,” as playing captain Tiger Woods put it in his post-round interview.
Woods held the solo lead briefly on Saturday afternoon, but an even-par back nine for a 3-under 69 wasn’t enough to win his own tournament. Woods finished at 14 under and four shots out of it.
“I had my chances. I didn’t make a lot of putts or a lot of birdies on the weekend. I certainly had a lot of good opportunities to put the ball in there close from where I drove it, and I just didn’t hit it quite close enough. And consequently, I ended up short .”
Rahm, who was solo second, played marvelously consistent golf and hit all but one green in a 6-under 66. The Spaniard now heads home to marry fiancé Kelley Cahill at the end of next week.
Patrick Reed was the only other player to finish between Stenson and Woods, landing at 16 under for solo third. That included the two penalty shots he incurred Friday for improving his line of play in a waste area. Even a closing 66 couldn’t make up for that setback.