LEFT: World number four Henrik Stenson of Sweden watches his tee shot at the second hole during the Pro-Am event of the BMW Shanghai Masters at the Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai yesterday. RIGHT: This handout picture taken and released by the Asian Tour yesterday shows Sergio Garcia of Spain (right) and The Queen of Malaysia, Tuanku Hajah Haminah sharing a light moment during the Pro-Am event ahead of the CIMB Classic at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
SHANGHAI: Sweden’s injury-hit Henrik Stenson will step up his bid to clinch a unique European Tour and FedEx Cup double at this week’s BMW Masters in Shanghai as Rory McIlroy aims to end his season on a high.
Stenson is in pole position in the Race to Dubai as the European Tour starts a four-tournament run worth more than $30m, climaxing at next month’s season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.
But the Swede, who won the US PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup last month, faces a powerful field in Shanghai including former world number one McIlroy and major winners Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer.
Also teeing off today will be English Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who will defend his WGC-HSBC Champions title, also in Shanghai, next week. Luke Donald, who finished third at last year’s BMW Masters, is another threat.
Stenson is looking to be the first man to win the Race to Dubai the European money list and the FedEx Cup but his build-up has been marred by a wrist tendon injury that flared up a couple of weeks ago.
“The physio has done some good work on it and most of the pain is gone,” he said to reporters yesterday.
The amiable Swede, who had worn tape on the wrist earlier in the week and joked that it made him “look like spiderman”, revealed that he had gone to hospital for an MRI scan and had been given the all-clear.
“I was almost ready to throw in the towel,” he said. “It was quite bad for a while. But I was able to hit some shots on the range a little while ago and I’m going to try to play in the pro-am.”
Stenson has enjoyed a remarkable return to the pinnacle of world golf after drifting outside the top 200 two years ago as his swing and confidence deserted him.
But the 37-year-old is back at world number four and, since regaining his old touch with a third-place finish at the Scottish Open in July, has produced a stunning string of results including finishing runner-up at the British Open.
He stepped back into the winner’s circle during the US PGA play-off series, triumphing at the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship to soar back into the ranks of the world’s elite.
“It’s been the best season of my career. I think you learn a lot going through the tough times,” Stenson said.
Two-time major winner McIlroy has been scratching for form all season and has recently been dogged by persistent rumours of a split from tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
He recently ditched his management company in acrimonious circumstances.
But he has fond memories of Lake Malaren, finishing second behind Peter Hanson last year and winning two years ago when the event was an invitational.
And the Northern Irishman showed enjoyed a welcome return to form last week, finishing second at the Korea Open despite having an ice cold putter.
The top European players in the elite 78-man field will enjoy a rare break from the rigours of travelling, remaining in Shanghai for the $8.5m WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan Golf Club next week.
They will be joined by the cream of the PGA Tour, including three major title holders in Phil Mickelson (British Open), Justin Rose (US Open) and Jason Dufner (PGA Championship).
The European Tour final series then moves on to Antalya for the $7m Turkish Airlines Open before culminating with the top 60 players competing for the $8m DP World Tour Championship that will take place in Dubai.AFP