Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: April 5, 9:01 PM ET
Henrik Stenson's surreal swan dive
By Farrell Evans
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If you were making a wager on a player to do well in Thursday's first round of the Masters, Henrik Stenson probably would have been toward the bottom of your list. The 36-year-old Swede had shot 80 and 83, respectively, in his last two opening rounds at Augusta. And though he had a tie for third in Puerto Rico last month, perhaps the most memorable thing he's done on a golf course since winning the 2009 Players Championship came last year at the U.S. Open at Congressional, where he cut his hand after angrily breaking his club in the final round. His caddie at the time, Fanny Sunesson, who worked for years with Nick Faldo during all of his major wins, had to wrap Stenson's hand with a bandage.
His wondrous adventure continued on Thursday in the first round of the Masters. He was 5 under par going into the 18th hole and had led most of the day after carding two eagles and two birdies in his first 17 holes. His eagles came at the two par-5s on the front nine, the second and eighth holes. But then he found tree trouble at the 465-yard, par-4 18th.
"The worst part of 18 was really over-hitting the wedge and hitting it up in the crowds behind the green and then it took me four to get down from there," Stenson said. "The fifth shot that I played is a foot from being stiff really. Small margins, and obviously with hacking a few earlier, that just made it worse. Finishing with an 8, I don't think I've ever done that."
He would end up with an 8 on the hole, leaving him with a 1-under-par 71.
What promised to be his best career first round at the Masters, ended up as an embarrassing finish.
"I had some great saves and two great eagles but after the 11th hole I didn't hit one fairway off the tee," Stenson said. "If you can't get the ball in play off the tee you are going to draw shops. Playing out of the forest on the back nine is going to cost you at some point. It's disappointing that it costs that much."
Stenson hit 6 of 14 fairways for the day and 12 of 18 greens in regulation. But then Stenson is an unpredictable guy.
Remember, he's the guy who stripped down to his underwear to hit a shot out of the water in 2009 at Doral and who lost a substantial portion of his savings in the Stanford Financial Group Ponzi scheme scandal.
In December, Stenson had surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. At 189th on the 2011 PGA Tour money list, he would have lost his playing privileges this year were it not for his five-year exemption for winning the Players.
It's no surprise that the 18th would be Stenson's downfall. On Thursday, it was the third hardest hole on the golf course with an over-par average of 4.295. Stenson's quadruple bogey at 18 matches the highest score ever on the hole. Camilo Villegas was the last player to make an 8 here in 2007.
Last year, the 18th was the ninth-hardest hole in the tournament.
Stenson's mishap left him 4 shots behind 18-hole leader Lee Westwood, who shot a 5-under-par 67.
For 17 holes, Stenson had a cool hand until he came to the home hole. But there is too much golf left to worry about what could have been.
Stenson said on his way to the range: "I'm going to try now to get some calmness in the swing and get ready for tomorrow."
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.