Sten­son set to head to Troon early af­ter win at BMW Open

The Herald - Herald Sport - - GOLF - BERNIE MCGUIRE

HENRIK STEN­SON, fresh from win­ning the BMW In­ter­na­tional Open at Pul­heim, will head to Royal Troon for a cou­ple of days ahead of next month’s Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment Scot­tish Open in a bid to boost his chances of be­com­ing the first Swede to cap­ture The Open Cham­pi­onship.

Three years ago, when Cas­tle Stu­art last hosted the Scot­tish Open, Sten­son spent two days of that week fa­mil­iaris­ing him­self with Muir­field be­fore then shar­ing third place along the Mo­ray Firth shore­line be­hind Phil Mick­el­son. A week later, Sten­son ended run­ner-up to Mick­el­son at Muir­field.

“I went to Muir­field early also in 2013 ahead of play­ing the Scot­tish when we were last at Cas­tle Stu­art and then look where I fin­ished in The Open,” said Sten­son.

“So maybe by head­ing to Royal Troon ahead of this year’s Scot­tish Open I can go one bet­ter in this year’s Open.”

Sten­son was speak­ing af­ter com­plet­ing a three-shot vic­tory in Ger­many, end­ing an 18-month win­less drought with scores of 68, 65, 67 and 71 for a 17-un­der par tally on a rain­soft­ened Gut Larcenhof course.

The Swede, who was forced to miss the sec­ond ma­jor of the year last week through in­jury, held his nerve to see off South African Dar­ren Fichardt and Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen of Den­mark who fin­ished in a tie for sec­ond on 14-un­der.

The day was to prove a test of stamina af­ter Saturday’s washout meant play­ers would be re­quired to play 36 holes.

Sten­son’s bo­gey-free third round gave him a one-shot lead but four dropped shots in the space of seven holes in his fi­nal round al­lowed Fichardt to pull level.

But birdies at the 13th and 15th set­tled nerves and an­other at the 17th all but se­cured vic­tory while Fichardt bo­geyed the last. It was Sten­son’s fifth top-six fin­ish in eight Euro­pean Tour events this sea­son.

Ole­sen had an op­por­tu­nity early in the round, and briefly shared the lead with Sten­son, but did not keep pace with the Swede on the back nine and signed for a 73.

France’s Raphael Jacquelin was fourth on 11 un­der, one shot ahead of Ser­gio Gar­cia and Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat.

It is Sten­son’s 10th Euro­pean Tour ti­tle and he’s now just one vic­tory short of match­ing Robert Karls­son’s all-time Swedish record of 11 wins.

How­ever, more im­por­tantly, Sten­son has locked-in a fourth Ry­der Cup spot and is the old­est player to date in Dar­ren Clarke’s team.

“I had vir­tu­ally wrapped-up my place in the Ry­der Cup but then this win should be a huge boost for our team as there is a few rook­ies who could be in the side, and we are go­ing to need plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“But in say­ing that there is a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence just off the edge of be­ing se­lected and with two Ma­jors and the FedEx Cup Se­ries still to play.”

Stir­ling’s Craig Lee, who also played 36 holes on day four, fin­ished the best of the four re­main­ing Scots by shoot­ing 75 and 73 for a share of 45th place at one un­der par.

Mean­while, USA Ry­der Cup vice­cap­tain Steve Stricker has ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to con­test next fort­night’s Aberdeen As­set Man­age­ment Scot­tish Open.

It will be the first time Stricker has played a reg­u­lar Euro­pean Tour event since the 2011 Qatar Masters.

And there could be two more “over­seas” play­ers com­pet­ing given the PGA Tour’s Green­brier Clas­sic, and to be staged the same week as the Scot­tish Open, has been can­celled this year due to flood­ing in West Vir­ginia that has claimed 23 lives.

It has also forced the R&A to switch to this week’s Bar­racuda Cham­pi­onship in Reno, Nevada, for the al­lo­ca­tion of one place into The Open that was to be on of­fer at the Green­brier.

DAY IN THE SUN: Henrik Sten­son of Swe­den was forced to play two rounds on day four due to rain but held on for vic­tory

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