LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Henrik Stenson has been so busy contending in big tournaments that he never stopped to realize what kind of season he was having.
Only when he was doing an interview last week with Swedish radio did it hit him.
“Yeah, it probably is my best season,” Stenson said Tuesday.
He won a World Golf Championship in 2007 and moved to No. 5 in the world, but Stenson didn’t really do much the rest of the year.
He won The Players Championship, possibly his biggest win, yet didn’t really feature much the rest of the way.
His only win this year was the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it’s what preceded it that has put the Swede at No. 6 in the world.
He tied for third at the Scottish Open and was runner-up in the British Open. He tied for second in the Bridgestone Invitational (by seven shots to Tiger Woods) and tied for third in the PGA Championship.
Stenson also tied for second in the Houston Open, which put him into the Masters and was a turning point in his season.
“From there on it’s just kind of been heading more and more in the right direction,” he said. “Unbelievable summer. And I guess if I stopped now — looking at the results and the tournaments where I’ve had those good results — it’s the best season of my career so far.”
ROOKIE SENSATION: While it’s easy to get caught up in Jordan Spieth and his amazing rookie season, it would be hard to consider the best by a pure rookie in recent times.
Only two years ago, Keegan Bradley won the Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship, and probably should have been selected for the Presidents Cup team.
And then there’s Tiger Woods.
Spieth is assured of becoming the first player since Woods in 1996 to start a season with no status on any tour and reach the Tour Championship. The 20-year-old Texan secured special temporary membership with a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico and a tie for seventh at the Tampa Bay Championship, giving him unlimited exemptions the rest of the year. He became a full member by winning the John Deere Classic.
Woods was 20 when he turned pro in late August, fresh off his third straight U.S. Amateur title.
He had seven exemptions to earn his card, and during that stretch he tied for fifth in what is now the John Deere Classic (losing a 54-hole lead to Ed Fiori), tied for third in the B.C. Open that was cut short to 54 holes by rain, and then won twice.
He beat Davis Love III in a playoff in Las Vegas, and beat the late Payne Stewart at Disney. In between, Woods was third at the Texas Open.
Going from nowhere to the Tour Championship in seven events? Woods still considers that one of his finest achievements.
MONEY TITLE: Henrik Stenson will have a clear shot at winning the FedEx Cup. He has no chance of catching Tiger Woods for the PGA Tour money title.
But the Swede still has his eyes on another money title.
Stenson is leading the European Tour money list by 425,573 euros (about $565,000) over Graeme McDowell with a stretch of big tournaments on the horizon — the BMW Masters, the HSBC Champions, Turkey and the season finale at Dubai. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose is right behind.
“That would be huge for me,” Stenson said. “In all my years, this would be as good of a chance as I’ve ever given myself to do it.”
Stenson only has two top 10s in regular European Tour events, compared with two wins for McDowell, but he has scored big with his runner-up finish in the British Open, tie for second in the World Golf Championship at Firestone and tie for third in the PGA Championship.
“When you put all the records down, winning a major would be the most important. And then it would be winning a money title — or FedEx — here or there,” Stenson said. “It’s a big achievement to be the best on a tour for the year.”
NEW MEMBERS: Four international players have indicated they will join the PGA Tour next year, including a familiar face. Darren Clarke returns, exempt through 2016 from his British Open title in 2011.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark also will join based on having enough money or FedEx Cup points equal to the top 125.
Meanwhile, former Masters champion Mike Weir, Stephen Ames, Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia are using their one-time exemption from being in the top 50 in career money. Robert Allenby and Scott Verplank are using one-time exemptions from the top 25 in career money.
Vijay Singh and Davis Love III will be exempt as life members — at least 20 PGA Tour wins in their careers.
BEV NORWOOD: Golf lost one of its great historians, publicists and story tellers when Bev Norwood, who spent more than 30 years with IMG, died in Cleveland last week of cancer at age 66. He did almost all of his work behind the scenes, yet his passing touched every important figure in golf, including the original “Big Three” of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
Norwood was a sports writer at the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal when he paid his own way to the British Open, and through networking, joined IMG. He went from London to New York before settling at headquarters in Cleveland and specialized in publications.
He was responsible for the World of Professional Golf, the most comprehensive annual review in the sport, and published annuals from the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup. He also put together a biographical booklet on Tiger Woods that was updated for every tournament.
Norwood complained of back pain at the U.S. Open at Merion. That turned out to be his last major.
“He confronted his battle with cancer in recent weeks with a strength and fortitude that belied his small frame,” IMG vice chairman Alastair Johnston said. “His wit and whimsical sense of humor, that were always so appealing to his friends and colleagues, never left him.”
One such example of his wit and endless information was when a company signed Woods to a five-year deal worth about $10 million, in which Woods gave a testimonial for the product and little else — no commercials, corporate days or logos he displayed on his bag. Someone told Norwood that it seemed like a lot of money for doing next to nil.
“Actually, it’s closer to nil,” Norwood replied. “If it were ‘next to nil,’ it would have been more.”
DIVOTS: About the only thing keeping Tiger Woods from winning the Vardon Trophy for the first time since 2009 would be withdrawing in the middle of a round. Woods has a 68.86 adjusted scoring average for a comfortable lead over Steve Stricker (69.08). ... San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista, Calif., has been selected to hose the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur ... Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald have pledged $1,000 for every birdie and $2,000 for every eagle at the BMW Championship toward The First Tee of Greater Chicago. Garcia this year has contributed $78,000 to The First Tee chapters from PGA Tour events he has played since August.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Hunter Mahan is the only player to compete in every playoff event since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. He has only finished in the top 10 in the final FedEx Cup one time.
FINAL WORD: “I’ve still got eight tournaments left. I’ve got a Steve Stricker season left to play.” — Rory McIlroy, on the rest of his schedule this year.