Henrik Stenson – Destiny awaits for trailblazing Swede
Henrik Stenson has done it all at the Ryder Cup. Holed the winning putt? Check. One hundred per cent record at a Ryder Cup? Check. Formed one half of a partnership for the ages? Check.
Having learned the ropes as Vice Captain, Stenson will now tick the final box in a memorable Ryder Cup career – Captain.
In the process, the 46-year-old will become the first Swede to lead a European Ryder Cup team when he takes the reins at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club from September 30 – October 1.
Stenson has been a central protagonist in Team Europe’s dominant success on home soil in the past two decades and has never been part of a losing home team.
The Gothenburg-born star made his Ryder Cup debut in 2006 when, under the captainship of Ian Woosnam, he holed the winning putt on the 15th green at The K Club, sealing a 4&3 win over Vaughn Taylor and confirming a victory which would equal the then-winning record of 18.5–9.5.
Already a three-time European Tour winner by the time he had donned the Team Europe colours, his Ryder Cup heroics would spur Stenson on to even greater things, and in 2007 he became the first Swede to win a World Golf Championships event, beating Geoff Ogilvy in the final to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
That helped him secure a return to the Ryder Cup fold, but after picking up a point and a half in Europe’s defeat to the USA at Valhalla Golf Club in 2008, Stenson would endure a six-year hiatus from golf’s greatest team event. His best, however, was still yet to come.
A win at the 2009 Players Championship continued his progression from multiple European Tour winner to global star.
The 2013 season, however, was something of a watershed for 2000 Challenge Tour Number One. Runner-up finishes at The Open Championship (to Phil Mickelson) and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (to Tiger Woods) hinted at a return to his best form, before a third-placed finish at the US PGA Championship heralded his re-entry to the world’s top ten.
And he wasn’t done yet. That September, wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship and the season-ending Tour Championship would make Stenson the first European player to win the PGA TOUR’S season-long FedEx Cup.
He created more history when he also won the season-ending DP World Tour Championship on the European Tour, also finishing top of its season-long rankings – then called the Race to Dubai. That ‘double-double’ triumph earned him a third Ryder Cup appearance, this time at Gleneagles in 2014.
On Scottish soil, the tale of the opening two days of the Ryder Cup was all about a Swede and an Englishman – Stenson and Justin Rose. The dynamic duo played together three times, and emerged victorious three times, contributing three points to a 16.5–11.5 victory for Paul McGinley’s side.
Fittingly, Scotland would also provide the backdrop for the zenith of his individual career, in July 2016. In one of the most memorable finales in the long and storied history of The Open Championship, Stenson overcame Phil Mickelson in an epic duel to lift the Claret Jug – the first male Swede to hold a Major Championship trophy.
He rekindled his infallible Ryder Cup partnership with Rose at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018, winning two from two as a pairing before Stenson made it three points from three with a Singles victory over Bubba Watson, contributing to another home victory for Team Europe, under the stewardship of his fellow Scandinavian Thomas Bjørn.
Alongside Annika Sorenstam, one of the greatest female players in the game’s history, Stenson has also been driving the popularity and inclusivity of golf in his home nation as co-host of the innovative Scandinavian Mixed hosted by Henrik and Annika.
His Open triumph, and the manner in which he claimed it, would ensure his name goes down among the greats of the global game. But for Swedish golf fans, and European fans alike, Stenson was already a trailblazer, a Ryder Cup legend and an immensely popular character, to boot.
He is known as ‘The Iceman’ for his cool persona and his unflinching focus, and he will require those characteristics, and so much more, when he leads out Team Europe in Rome next year.