Henrik Stenson looks certainty for Gleneagles
HENRIK STENSON is one of the court jesters of professional golf, but behind an ever-ready smile and penchant for practical jokes lies a deeply complex and highly competitive individual.
The Swede's regal march to Tour Championship and FedEx Cup glory at East Lake yielded an $11.44m jackpot and, significantly, propelled him back to No 4 in the world, matching a career-high he last enjoyed in the wake of the Players Championship win at Sawgrass in 2009.
As European skipper Paul McGinley pointed out yesterday, the ranking points he earned in Atlanta make Stenson "almost 85pc certain" to qualify for his Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles.
Those who know Stenson for his usually jovial on-course demeanour or as the golfer who stripped down to his boxers and golf glove to play a shot out of a water hazard at Doral a few years back, will be surprised to learn how he smashed the head off his driver during last week's final round of the BMW Championship.
Or how his frustration later that afternoon persuaded him to give new meaning to the term 'hurt locker' ... typically, Stenson apologised to Conway Farms and offered to pay for the repairs.
The serene majesty of his recent victories at the Deutsche Bank and Tour Championship contrasted sharply with Stenson's desperate search for his missing golf game in recent seasons as he plunged to 230th in the world.
The $11.3m he won on Sunday serves as just compensation for a man who was one among many who lost millions of his personal savings four years back in a massive ponzi scheme perpetrated by jailed fraudster 'Sir' Allen Stanford.
Though it all, Stenson somehow retained his sanity and sense of humour, which gives true measure to him as a man.
McGinley certainly looks forward to having such a strong personality in his team at Gleneagles, saying: "He's a very strong player and a very strong competitor and a very good guy in the team room.
"I served with Henrik on the Players Committee and he's a strong character with strong views. I don't think anybody's betting against him making the team now."
After Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy, who is now back in sixth place in the rankings, topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the 2011 and 2012, Stenson is the first European to win either the Tour Championship or the FedEx Cup.
Coupled with Justin Rose's US Open success at Merion, it suggests that McGinley's hand at Gleneagles will be as strong, if not stronger, than any of his predecessors.