Stenson cruises to Nedbank victory
BY iseekgolf.com | Southern Africa Tour | 2008 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Round Four | 08 Dec 2008
Stenson started the final round with an eight-stroke lead and there was never a hint that he might falter as he added “Africa’s Major” to the World Cup he and Robert Karlsson won in China a week ago.
Stenson went to work early with that magical three-wood of his to birdie the second and extend his lead to nine strokes over compatriot Karlsson – and that’s as close as anyone got to the sweet-striking Swede.
Kenny Perry returned the day’s best score, a seven-under 65, to finish up a distant second, the American having started too far back (12 behind) to make an impression.
Perry won the best battle of the day by finishing birdie, birdie to claim a cheque of $600,000 while Karlsson fell away to nine-under to be third.
Rory Sabbatini, still fussing and cussing over shots that did not go quite where he wanted and putts which would not drop, was fourth another shot back with Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia tied fifth on four under.
But that seemed almost beside the point given the lopsided look Stenson’s magnificent play had given the leaderboard.
He was in such control that even the loss of his favoured three-wood (the shaft snapped while he was scuffing up a grass tee) failed to distract him. He simply geared down to the four-wood, or a long iron, kept hitting the ball in the fairway and putting confidently to continue his relentless progress.
Stenson revealed afterwards that he had spent a lot of time in practice working out the exact distances he was able to hit his irons in the rarefied air and it certainly paid off as his distance control was superb – an important aspect given the horrendously thick collars of unkempt kikuyu grass around every green.
When he did make the odd mistake (a pull being his bad shot) he was able to extract himself and scramble his par figures and, yes, given that this is golf, there were also the two pieces of good fortune when he found sprinkler heads near his ball to drop away from potentially damaging lies.
Ironically his only yardage mistake came on the 72nd hole when his long-iron approach from a scruffy lie near the bunker on the 18th ended up long and buried – resulting in a buried lie from which he was unable to save a par four.
And afterwards Gary Player sparked what is likely to become a talking point when he described Stenson’s 21-under-par total of 267 as a record.
It is certainly not the lowest total posted, for Ernie Els totalled 263 in 1999, Nick Price 264 in 1993 with Els matching Stenson’s 267 in 2002, but the course has since been re-modelled – some length added, additional and deeper bunkers dug and… the new 17th green which has transformed this hole into the hardest on the course.
Stenson’s score defied belief. At 21 under he was five better than Trevor Immelman’s winning score last year while Perry could only get to four shots shy of the Masters champion’s 16 under – an indication of just how well he played.
Last year “Africa’s Major” propelled Immelman to his first major in the Masters. Don’t be surprised if it works out that way for Stenson too.
Source – Nedbank Challenge