NORTON — Thank you, Sweden. Thank you for “Dancing Queen,” the Nobel Prize, Volvos, Ingemar Johansson, Ingrid Bergman, Bjorn Borg, P.J. Axelsson, and the Sedin twins.
Lastly, thanks for Henrik Stenson, winner of the rain-soaked 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
We got to know Stenson and his family a little bit over the swampy weekend, and he presented himself as a worthy winner of our annual big-time golf event. Stenson and his wife and two kids (a 6-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy) interacted with New England fans every day. It was hard not to root for them after watching the whole family riding in a golf cart from the seventh green to the eighth tee at drenched TPC.
“My little boy loves to ride in the golf cart,’’ said Emma Stenson, also a native of Sweden.
Stenson shot a 66 on the final day to win the Deutsche Bank and has replaced Tiger Woods at the top of the FedEx Cup standings (the ultimate winner gets $10 million). His four-day score of 262 (22 under par, thank you very much) tied him for the lowest score in Deutsche Bank history. He donated $25,000 of his winnings to the One Fund.
He’s known to be a jokester with fans and other players. Emma remembers him jolting other players on the European Tour by asking them to sign autographs with a low-voltage pen.
“I’ve always had a great sense of humor,’’ said Stenson. “It just takes a little longer for some people to notice.’’
“He’s a good guy, that’s why I married him,’’ said Emma, a former NCAA golfer at the University of South Carolina.
Stenson was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1976 and took up golf when he was 12. He was a scratch player by 18, turned professional when he was 23, and joined the tour in 2007. He played for Europe’s Ryder Cup teams in 2006 and 2008.
He’s had a career of highs and lows, often in the running, rarely finishing first. He almost dropped out of sight way back in 2001-02. Four years ago, he was ranked fourth in the world, but that was the same year that he lost millions of dollars in the Stanford Group Ponzi scheme. He never made excuses, but his game went south at the same time his bank account was slaughtered. By February of 2012, Stenson was ranked No. 230 in the world.
“2011 was a really poor season, but I started to come back at the end of last year,’’ he said.
Stenson made the cut at all the majors this summer, finished second at the British Open, and tied for third at the PGA Championship. In a four-tourney stretch, he finished second twice and third twice. That’s a lot of near-misses.
What was the difference in Norton?
“I just played a little bit better today in the final round,’’ he said. “This week I hit a lot of fairways and greens.
“It was a big goal of mine to win a golf tournament after all those finishes. I was longing for a win and I got it.’’
This was only the second time he’d played the Deutsche Bank. Stenson finished 55th in Norton in 2007.
Stenson shot a 67 Friday, which put him in a tie for 23d after the first day of play. He vaulted into a tie for second with a bogey-free 63 Saturday, then shot 66 Sunday, which put him just two strokes behind leader Sergio Garcia going into the final day.
Sergio blew up on the front nine Monday while Stenson stayed the course. Stenson held a two-stroke lead going into the back nine, increased it to three strokes with a birdie on 11, then parred five straight holes, including No. 14, the most difficult hole at TPC. He sealed the deal on 17, hitting out of the bunker and finding the bottom of the cup from 31 feet. Birdie. Ballgame.
“I knew I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes,’’ he said. “The shot on 17 made the walk on 18 a little easier.
“Some of my great tournaments and finest results have been on really tough golf courses. This is a golf course with tricky holes and it helps to hit it nicely around here.’’
It was his first win of 2013, only the third PGA Tour win of his career, and his first since 2009. He’s back up to No. 10 in the world. And climbing.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and a long-term process to get into the fine play that I produced this summer,’’ he said. “I almost surprised myself to be able to be up there in four tournaments and big events, as well.
“It takes a lot of energy out of you. I need some time off. I need a break.’’
The tour is dark this week. That will be a break. Then Stenson will pick it up in Chicago Sept. 12 with a chance to win the $10 million jackpot.