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How Stenson solved the East Lake puzzle

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A quick comparison of the front-nine scorecards at the 2013 Tour Championship tells an important part of the story of Henrik Stenson’s 2013 victory march. There was no great recovery shot from a water hazard as Bill Haas achieved in 2011 — just consistent and remarkable play that staked the Swede to an early lead each day.

Throughout each of the four rounds at East Lake Golf Club, Stenson found a way to tour the outward nine without a bogey. He scrawled 14 birdies and 22 pars on his scorecards, an average of 3.5 strokes under par to begin the back nine each day.

To situate the achievement in a competitive paradigm, the runners-up were not so, well, perfect. Jordan Spieth posted eight bogeys over the four days while Steve Stricker marked down five. Spieth, a member of the 2013 U.S. President’s Cup side, notched eleven birdies to get to a composite 3-under on the front side for the week, while Stricker, the tour part-timer, offset his five over-par holes with eight under-par holes. Each second-place finisher, like much of the field, found himself with nearly a three-stroke handicap to begin the back nine. That’s quite a gap and one Stenson needed.

On Sunday, Henrik Stenson played the kind of controlled golf that scribes love to document in a winner. He began the day with a lead and calmly, surgically moved from first tee to final green with that lead intact. His tally of three birdies and one bogey was enough to toss a glove and beg the field to chase him down.

Both Spieth and Steve Stricker benefited from electric runs on Sunday. Spieth tallied eight birdies, including a four-hole stretch from Nos. 13 to 16 before his second bogey of the day (on the penultimate hole) derailed his attempt to haul down the leader from behind. Stricker opened with a bogey in Round 4, but then posted four birdies and an eagle through 15 holes. The Wisconsin native was unable to move further under par over the closing triumvirate of holes, though, and the tournament eluded his grasp.

“I knew I was getting close to the lead,” Stricker said. “I knew I got within a couple of shots. I knew I had to win the tournament probably to have any chance at winning it all. So my focus was on really the top spot and Henrik and what he was doing. Yeah, I knew I needed that putt for sure on [No. 15] up the hill, and I also knew that I probably had to birdie one or two holes coming in, which is a tall task here. They’re very difficult holes. So it was close, but yet he had it under control, I think. He was playing great. Every time it seemed like he made a mistake, it seemed like he came back and birdied a hole fairly quickly again and separated himself again.”

Spieth’s Sunday move brought him to within a stroke on the back nine.

“I heard the roar [from 16], so I figured I’m not just a pretty face,” Stenson said. “I could put one and one together. I figured it was him that made the [birdie on No. 16]. And then I was not in a great spot. It was all about getting back up on the green and trying to knock a long par putt in. I knew I had the par 5 coming up. If I could hit a good tee shot and get myself back in good position to try to make birdie.”

The champion followed his lone Sunday bogey with a bounce-back birdie on No. 15 and then watched as Spieth could not go lower, losing a shot No. 17.

Spieth had the four-birdie stretch at his back when he moved to the par-four 17th. It was there that his day’s work came a bit undone as he gave back a stroke to the leader.

“I just hit it fat,” Spieth said. “I was in between clubs. I’ll be honest with you, I was right in between clubs. If I hit an 8 iron to a left pin it was going to be hard to control from the back of the green side, so I tried to just kill a 9. It was just tough that I had that yardage. If I did kill the 9, it would have been perfect. But just a touch fat and hit it in the bunker.”

Dustin Johnson began the day paired with Stenson in the final twosome, four strokes in arrears. Needing to make a move when it became apparent that Stenson would not falter, Johnson was plagued by the inconsistency that marked his 2013 PGA Tour campaign. He made more than his share of birdies (seven) on the day, but countered them with three bogeys and a dagger of a triple bogey on the second-last hole. Johnson recovered a bit on No. 8 with his seventh red number of the day, but the championship trophy and ensuing FedEx Cup by then belonged to Gothenburg’s native son.

The day’s low round belonged to 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. The North Carolinian edged Spieth by one for Sunday honors with his 7-under 63 (also the low round of the week.) But Simpson began the day well back in the chase after three solid rounds. On Sunday, the Wake Forest alumnus nearly balanced the slate, signing for seven birdies and 11 pars. A five-hole stretch of consecutive pars derailed Simpson’s attempt to overhaul Stenson, and the President’s-cupper had to be content to accept fourth-place money.

Henrik Stenson now turns his attention to the European Tour, where he sits atop the points list in the Race To Dubai. Beginning in late October (giving Stenson and others a month to prepare), the European Tour chase features four premier events: the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions in China, the Turkish Airlines Open in Turkey and World Tour Championship in Dubai. Although both Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald have won simultaneous money titles on both tours, neither won both tour’s playoff races. Stenson will do his level best to cap an unforgettable 2013 with a historic performance.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Photos from the 2024 ISCO Championship

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GolfWRX is staying stateside, traveling to Kentucky for the ISCO Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

WITBs and custom putters are here for the viewing, including some very cool looks into the bags of some players whose setups we haven’t had the pleasure of shooting so far in 2024.

Check out all our photos from the Bluegrass State below!

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While you’re here, check out BK’s breakdown of the WITB of Davis Thompson, last week’s winner.

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Photos from the 2024 John Deere Classic

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GolfWRX is on site this week at the 2024 John Deere Classic. With the Scottish Open next week and The Open Championship two weeks away, those who have qualified will be looking to shore up their games in Silvis, Illinois, before heading to European shores.

On the equipment front, we spotted some new SuperStroke x Marvel grips and got an in-hand look at impressive custom Scotty Cameron putters. Our WITB galleries already feature a look at Jason Day’s wares, and general complement the spread.

Be sure to check back throughout the week as we add more photos from TPC Deere Run!

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Photos from the 2024 Rocket Mortgage Classic

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GolfWRX was of course on-site this week for our hometown event, the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

The photos have begun to flow in, and as always, we have WITBs, general galleries, and some cool special galleries — including a look at Jason Dufner’s 3D-printed putter. Be sure to check back throughout the week as we add more photos.

Check out links to all our photos below and see what GolfWRXers are saying in the official discussion thread.

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