Sport Golf

Monday 19 August 2019

Stenson sees funny side of Spieth's $700k putt

Rory McIlroy goes through a stretching routine during the opening round of the WGC Champions tournament
Rory McIlroy goes through a stretching routine during the opening round of the WGC Champions tournament

William S Callahan

The top Tour stars live and die by their performance on the greens and though it has taken a while, Henrik Stenson was able to joke about the damage Jordan Spieth did to him in the recent Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Stenson was majestic as he headed the leaderboard at the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake Golf Club for 36 holes.

But once Spieth got his mojo working, particularly on the final day when he holed putts from all sorts of distances, there was only going to be one winner.

Highlights of a memorable day included Spieth dropping a 20-footer for a birdie on the par-five ninth hole, and another bomb from almost 50 feet to claim a birdie two at the 11th.

The money involved was multi-millions of dollars, and even to the best in the world who are, by definition, the richest golfers in the business, putts holed and missed had a high tariff.

Spieth walked away with a $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup, plus the tournament first prize of $1.485 million.

Stenson, despite his disappointment at losing by four shots, did hole a special putt of his own on the last hole to claim second place in the Cup series, and that was worth well over a million dollars to the Swede. Spieth and Stenson have been reunited on the fairways in the first two rounds of the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai, with Bubba Watson alongside them in one of the marquee groups of this prestigious event.

Spieth said: "He (Stenson) brought up number 11 from The Tour Championship a couple times.

"I was talking to him about his putt on 18, because I had not seen him since, and I said, 'Man, I read about the significance of that putt. It was, whatever, a million-and-a-half-dollar putt difference'. And he said, "Yeah, but the one you made on 11 was $700,000'.


"I said, 'fair enough'. He goes, 'Because you know I would have won if you didn't make that'. He was joking, obviously. We had some laughs. It was a fun group, talkative group. Just kind of golf was getting in the way of a nice little walk," said Spieth.

The Texan has enjoyed a phenomenal 2015, winning five times so far and with the Masters and US Open part of that collection of honours.

Players and media observers recognise his calmness under pressure, but also his putting prowess. However, that aspect of his game is not quite at optimum level on his return to action after a short break.

"It's close. Matching speed and line isn't quite there on mid-range putts, but I made pretty much everything within six feet, which was nice.

"But yeah,I just have a little bit of work to do adapting to the speed of the greens," he said.

Rory McIlroy had to overcome a bout of pre-tournament food poisoning before taking his place on the tee for the start of the tournament, and he also wants to see an improvement in his putting.

In recent appearances the world number three has made plenty of birdie opportunities but failed to convert enough of them to his satisfaction.

McIlroy had more physical elements to deal with as he reckoned he had lost ten pounds in weight due to the effects of the food poisoning.

Despite that and shooting a highly creditable four-under par in round one, the competitor in McIlroy still felt his score could have been better if he made the most of his chances.

"Disappointed I missed three good chances coming in there on the front nine and didn't quite capitalise on those," he said. Shane Lowry was so annoyed with his performance on the greens as he shot a two-over par for the first round that he gave away his putter to a young spectator at the end of play.

This was a painless parting with the club compared with the Irish Open last May when he damaged his putter in a moment of frustration and had to use his wedge on the greens for the rest of that second round.

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