At last year’s Wyndham Championship, Henrik Stenson finished atop the leaderboard by one stroke, ending a four year winless drought in the United States. Four birdies in a five hole span on the back nine catalyzed the victory, which jumped the 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year from 75th to 23rd in the FedExCup Standings, which allowed him to reach the penultimate round of the playoffs.
Stenson returns to Sedgefield this year to defend that title, still his most recent victory anywhere. At No. 19 in the OWGR, the only higher-ranked player in the Wyndham field is No. 16 Hideki Matsuyama.
2018 has been a good year for Stenson on the PGA, as he has five top-10 finishes in 13 starts, which include a solo-fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a T5 at The Masters, and a T6 at the U.S. Open.
Statistically he looks even better: he leads the Tour in greens in regulation percentage, is second in driving accuracy, third in strokes gained: approach-the-green, fifth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, and 10th in scoring average. Those stats confirm what we already know about Stenson; namely that he is an elite iron player.
Yet, despite all the reasons to be high on Stenson’s chances of becoming the first repeat Wyndham champion since Sam Snead in 1955-1956, nobody is sure what to expect from him this week. In his three most recent starts, he’s finished T39 at The Open, T35 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
“Yeah, we’ve not been playing our best these last couple of weeks, for sure at Firestone and PGA, but we’re working away, like I said. And you’re never that far away, even though at times you might feel it. I think it’s trending in the right direction and, yeah, I hope I can turn it around result-wise this week,” said Stenson.
“When you’re working on things and the swing and your putting and so on, sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for it to sink in and get back to the way you want it. Yeah, we’ll see. I’m positive.
Prior to The Open Championship, Stenson injured his elbow in an off-course incident, which seems to have contributed to his recent struggles.
“Yeah, it’s been bothering me for a while there and I couldn’t play the Scottish Open. Got me into The Open unprepared and didn’t really have a chance to compete the way I wanted in that. But it’s fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now but I can’t really go after it in the gym fully,” said Stenson.
“The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it’s getting better.”
Stenson does not really need a win this week (although he is not yet a lock for the European Ryder Cup team), and most would figure that he would not be at Sedgefield if his elbow was still bothering him, but until we actually see him out there playing well, nobody will know for sure.