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Stenson having his greatest season

Tuesday - 9/10/2013, 9:30pm  ET

DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Henrik Stenson has been so busy contending in big tournaments that he never stopped to realize what kind of season he was having.

Only when he was doing an interview last week with Swedish radio did it hit him.

"Yeah, it probably is my best season," Stenson said Tuesday.

He won a World Golf Championship in 2007 and moved to No. 5 in the world, but Stenson didn't really do much the rest of the year. He won The Players Championship, possibly his biggest win, yet didn't really feature much the rest of the way.

His only win this year was the Deutsche Bank Championship, but it's what preceded it that has put the Swede at No. 6 in the world.

He tied for third at the Scottish Open and was runner-up in the British Open. He tied for second in the Bridgestone Invitational (by seven shots to Tiger Woods) and tied for third in the PGA Championship.

Stenson also tied for second in the Houston Open, which put him into the Masters and was a turning point in his season.

"From there on it's just kind of been heading more and more in the right direction," he said. "Unbelievable summer. And I guess if I stopped now -- looking at the results and the tournaments where I've had those good results -- it's the best season of my career so far."

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ROOKIE SENSATION: While it's easy to get caught up in Jordan Spieth and his amazing rookie season, it would be hard to consider the best by a pure rookie in recent times. Only two years ago, Keegan Bradley won the Byron Nelson Championship and the PGA Championship, and probably should have been selected for the Presidents Cup team.

And then there's Tiger Woods.

Spieth is assured of becoming the first player since Woods in 1996 to start a season with no status on any tour and reach the Tour Championship. The 20-year-old Texan secured special temporary membership with a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico and a tie for seventh at the Tampa Bay Championship, giving him unlimited exemptions the rest of the year. He became a full member by winning the John Deere Classic.

The surge continued with a playoff loss at the Wyndham Championship, and his tie for fourth in the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Woods was 20 when he turned pro in late August, fresh off his third straight U.S. Amateur title. He had seven exemptions to earn his card, and during that stretch he tied for fifth in what is now the John Deere Classic (losing a 54-hole lead to Ed Fiori), tied for third in the B.C. Open that was cut short to 54 holes by rain, and then won twice. He beat Davis Love III in a playoff in Las Vegas, and beat the late Payne Stewart at Disney. In between, Woods was third at the Texas Open.

Going from nowhere to the Tour Championship in seven events? Woods still considers that one of his finest achievements.

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MONEY TITLE: Henrik Stenson will have a clear shot at winning the FedEx Cup. He has no chance of catching Tiger Woods for the PGA Tour money title.

But the Swede still has his eyes on another money title.

Stenson is leading the European Tour money list by 425,573 euros (about $565,000) over Graeme McDowell with a stretch of big tournaments on the horizon -- the BMW Masters, the HSBC Champions, Turkey and the season finale at Dubai. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose is right behind.

"That would be huge for me," Stenson said. "In all my years, this would be as good of a chance as I've ever given myself to do it."

Stenson only has two top 10s in regular European Tour events, compared with two wins for McDowell, but he has scored big with his runner-up finish in the British Open, tie for second in the World Golf Championship at Firestone and tie for third in the PGA Championship.

"When you put all the records down, winning a major would be the most important. And then it would be winning a money title -- or FedEx -- here or there," Stenson said. "It's a big achievement to be the best on a tour for the year."

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NEW MEMBERS: Four international players have indicated they will join the PGA Tour next year, including a familiar face. Darren Clarke returns, exempt through 2016 from his British Open title in 2011. Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark also will join based on having enough money or FedEx Cup points equal to the top 125.

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