GARY B. GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Henrik Stenson ended this major championship season just like he did last year — on the verge of breaking through.
He’s not there yet.
The PGA Championship was his closest call.
Stenson twice had a share of the lead Sunday at Valhalla, and he had a chance to set a target playing ahead of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. He tied for the lead with a bold approach to the island-green on the 13th hole, spinning it back to 4 feet.
But he was the first to make a mistake, and the Swede never caught up.
He missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th, and then shockingly lipped out on the 3-foot par putt.
“After that it was a little bit of saving effort, bringing it home,” Stenson said. “I couldn’t convert to a birdie on the last (hole) either. I was way up in the mud in the crowd and had to rely on a chip in. Didn’t happen.”
Stenson was runner-up at the British Open last year to Mickelson by three shots, and he was third at the PGA Championship last year. After becoming the first player to win the FedEx Cup in America and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour, he was seen as a top candidate to become the first Swedish male to win a major this year.
Stenson tied for fourth at the U.S. Open, though it wasn’t really close — Martin Kaymer won by eight shots.
Still, this performance made him believe there will be more chances. Just not this year.
Meanwhile, he was proud of how he held up to enormous pressure of a four-man battle on the back nine at Valhalla.
“It must have been a great championship to watch on television or out there,” Stenson said after closing with a 66. “I was part of it. I’m happy with that. Gave it my best. I was four shots (behind) when we started today. It would have taken a back nine similar to my front nine, I guess, to pull it off. I just didn’t have it.”
Maybe not, but his front nine was good enough to make the other contenders aware of him on the backside.
He didn’t have a fair shot at eagle on the par-5 18th. He hit a good tee shot in the fairway, but there was mud on his ball from all the rain this week. It created doubt, and Stenson isn’t sure his swing was all that great. He pulled his second shot into the gallery, took two chips to reach the green from a muddy lie and settled for par.
“It was a good try, and I’m just very happy with the progress I made with my game in the last 10 days,” he said. “I’ll get more chances. I’m not worried. …
“Regardless who is up there, you want to see good golf and see birdies and the lead being changed back and forth. That is the exciting part. I think we gave them that, so I’m pleased to be part of that.”
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