TWELVE months ago Henrik Stenson played a brilliant approach to the 18th hole at the DP World Tour Championship to ensure he rounded off a landmark season with another victory.
It also won him the European Tour’s shot of the year prize. But on Sunday, back in Dubai again, he mustered an even better effort, this time at the penultimate hole of the tournament.
That sublime tee-shot, which left him a tap-in birdie to successfully defend his title, was more impressive because, having gone the whole year without a win, the pressure was really on.
It was only fitting that the Swedish Ryder Cup star land a title at the season’s last event, having been one of the most consistent performers despite the trophy drought.
Stenson’s magnificent display was also a fitting end to a great tournament, though it could all have been so different.
He looked in a mess when he hit his tee-shot out of bounds at 11 and had he not holed a very good six-footer at 16 he really would have been screwed – but he kept going and got his reward.
I felt sorry for Rafael Carbrera Bello, who led by two on the back nine but had a terrible finish, double bogeying both 16 and 17.
It was always going to be difficult for Stenson to follow his remarkable 2013 season, in which he won both the Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup, but he had done it fantastically, finishing a clear second to Rory McIlroy in the European money list.
He says his target next year will be a first Major, and maybe that change in mentality is what he needs because he is 100 per cent ready. He is very tough to beat and I’m certain his time will come.
If he plays to his potential then Stenson could conceivably win any of them, though his great driving, strong iron play and solid putting make the Masters most suited to his game.
Oddly his record at Augusta is worse than at the other Majors, and unfortunately for him no-one is currently more at home at the Masters than McIlroy.
The world No1 showed just how good he is by finishing in a tie for second despite leaving so many shots out there in what was his first tournament for six weeks. The kid is fantastic. Ryder Cup colleagues Justin Rose and Victor Dubuisson also played beautifully to join McIlroy two shots behind Stenson and justify their places in the top five of the Race to Dubai.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry too had cause to celebrate as his fifth-place finish lifted him into the world’s top 50 and booked his first trip to Augusta. He looks a lovely player with a great shoulder turn and good temperament, and his Masters debut is totally deserved.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam