It hasn’t been a very pleasant couple of weeks for Henrik Stenson — and some of it was due to his own doing.
The 46-year-old Swede was stripped of his European Ryder Cup captaincy by the DP World Tour the moment he joined the LIV Golf tour two weeks ago. And for that, he has received a fair amount of criticism, choosing the Saudi millions over legacy and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Stenson will enter the final round of his first event with LIV, Sunday at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in first place at 9-under, with a three-shot lead over Dustin Johnson.
Imagine how commissioner Keith Pelley and the powers that be on the DP World Tour would feel if Stenson wins this thing.
“Yeah, it’s certainly been a busy and emotional week, no question, or 10 days,’’ Stenson said after shooting a 2-under 69 on Saturday. “But I was very happy with how I managed to channel the concentration and go out and play the best round of the season [Friday]. I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I was still focused and good attitude, and that’s what kept me in the ballgame. Yeah, pleased with the way I’ve kind of kept my head down and focused on business.’’
Asked if he has a chip on his shoulder after being fired from what he called a dream job, Stenson wouldn’t bite, looking at both of his shoulders, smiling and saying, “I don’t see any.’’
If you don’t think Stenson would love to send a message to the DP World Tour by winning on Sunday then you probably believe the Saudis funding the LIV tour will have to take a home equity loan out to pay him the $4 million winner’s check.
Asked directly what he thinks the powers that be at the DP World Tour feel seeing him at the top of the LIV leaderboard, Stenson declined to respond.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just going to focus on doing my best out there tomorrow, and we’ll see where it takes us.’’
Clearly, the golf course has become an oasis for Stenson after the storm he has both created and tried to navigate through, and it has been showing at Trump Bedminster.
After Stenson began the opening round Friday with a 7-under 64, which had him tied with Patrick Reed for the lead, he spoke with a sense of relief that he was able to focus on golf instead of controversy.
“It’s nice to be out there playing golf,’’ he said. “Yeah, of course it’s been a busy couple of weeks and not the most fun, but we keep our head down and focus on the golf. Just very pleased to have the ability to go out there and do that and play such a solid round. It’s the best I’ve played all year.’’
Stenson will be chased on Sunday by Johnson, who’s 6-under, as well as Carlos Ortis, Talor Gooch (who shot 64 on Saturday) and Reed, all of whom are 5-under.
“He’s definitely in reach for sure, especially around this course,’’ Johnson said.
“I’m trying to catch him,’’ Ortiz said of his final-round mindset. “Make some birdies and hopefully he doesn’t make that many. That’s the game plan.’’