Sten­son de­liv­ers big mo­ment in win

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Numbers Game - By DOUG FER­GU­SON

NASSAU, Ba­hamas — Win­less in more than two years, Hen­rik Sten­son found him­self in the mid­dle of a wild chase to the fin­ish Satur­day with Tiger Woods and the elite in golf all around him.

Five play­ers had a chance to win in the fi­nal hour. Four had at least a share of the lead at one point.

One swing changed ev­ery­thing.

“The shot of the day,” Sten­son said.

He drilled a 5-wood from 259 yards to within inches of the hole for a tap-in ea­gle on the par-5 15th, go­ing from a oneshot deficit to a one-shot lead. Three pars gave him a 6-un­der 66 and a vic­tory in the Hero World Chal­lenge he might not have seen com­ing.

Sten­son tied for 44th two weeks ago in Dubai and spent a few hours on the range that af­ter­noon with swing coach Pete Cowen. He car­ried some of that to the Ba­hamas, and his nerves held up at Al­bany Golf Club.

“Some­times, just keep on work­ing hard and grind­ing it out,” Sten­son said. “Con­fi­dence can still be a lit­tle higher, but I’m re­ally happy with the way I hung in there.”

Woods fell out with a chip that didn’t make it up the slope on the 14th hole, and he had to scram­ble for bo­gey. Justin Thomas had a pair of 12-foot birdie putts burn the edge. De­fend­ing cham­pion Jon Rahm, in his fi­nal event be­fore get­ting mar­ried in Spain, ap­peared to seize con­trol with a birdie-ea­gle-birdie stretch to take the lead on the 16th hole.

And then Sten­son struck the de­ci­sive blow with his 5-wood. He knew it was good. He couldn’t see be­yond a dune as it bounced onto the green, tracked to­ward the hole and set­tled about 8 inches away for ea­gle.

That took him from one shot be­hind to one shot ahead, and

Hen­rik Sten­son alignes his ball at the third green dur­ing the fi­nal round of the Hero World Chal­lenge at Al­bany Golf Club in Nassau, Ba­hamas on Satur­day. he closed with three pars.

Rahm had to set­tle for two pars to close out his 66.

Sten­son won for the first time in 50 tour­na­ments world­wide, a drought dat­ing to the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship in Au­gust 2017. His world rank­ing plunged from No. 6 to No. 40.

“It’s down, but it’s not a dis­as­ter,” Sten­son said of his rank­ing. “I can com­pete with the best, and I guess I showed that.”

Pa­trick Reed, un­der scru­tiny for im­prov­ing his line of play in a waste area Fri­day that led to a two-shot penalty, shook that off for a 66 to fin­ish alone in third.

Woods hasn’t won his hol­i­day event since 2011, and he put him­self in po­si­tion with timely birdies while play­ing along­side Thomas. It looked like quite a bat­tle with Woods set­ting the pace early, and Thomas catch­ing and pass­ing him with an 8-foot ea­gle putt on the 11th hole.

But that was as good as it got for both of them.

Woods tried to drive the par4 14th hole and wound up in the waste area with a bad lie. He sent that over the green, and his chip up the slope wasn’t hard enough and came back down the hill. His fourth shot barely made it onto the green and he holed a 15-foot putt to es­cape with bo­gey.

But he spent more time in the waste area on the par-5 15th and had to scram­ble for par, and that was the end of his chances. Woods closed with a 69.

The only vic­tory — a hol­low one — was fin­ish­ing with a lower score than Thomas for the first time in some 15 pair­ings to­gether. Even that re­quired a dou­ble bo­gey by Thomas on the last hole, giv­ing him a 70.

“I don’t think that’s how we wanted it to end up,” Woods said with a laugh. “If I was go­ing to get him, it would have been nice for ei­ther of us to have a chance to win the tour­na­ment.”

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