Is the wait nearly over? Will Henrik Stenson do what no Swedish male has ever done and win a major championship in the next few years? He’s certainly got form on his side right now.
Stenson was the hottest golfer on the planet for the last half of this year. No one was surprised when he became the first player to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same season.
Can he record another important first and put Sweden out of its misery?
Sweden’s lack of a male major winner is one the abiding enigmas of European golf. Swedish women have had no problem knocking off major victories, but Swedish men just can’t get seem to get to the finish line first in the tournaments that really matter.
I’ve been around long enough to have seen a plethora of Swedish players come and go, some with major expectations on their shoulders. Ove Sellberg, Mats Lanner, Anders Forsbrand, Per-Ulrik Johansson, Jesper Parnevik, Joakim Haeggman, Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke, Robert Karlsson, Jarmo Sandelin, Johan Edfors are just some of Swedes that have shone on the European Tour over the years.
Some looked like world-beaters for certain spells, yet still we await major success. There are plenty more who looked like world-beaters in the amateur ranks only to fail in the pro game.
Hello Sweden, the great Swedish experiment of the 1980s and 1990s, helped produce the likes of Sellberg, Forsbrand, Parnevik, Sorenstam, Helen Alfredsson, Liselotte Neumann and others. The scheme encouraged Swedish companies to put money up to help promising young Swedish golfers develop their talents. It helped Swedish women take the major stages, starting with Neumann’s 1988 U.S. Open win, but the men somehow did not follow.
Parnevik, Fasth and Stenson share a common bond. They’ve finished second in the Open Championship. Stenson finished behind Phil Mickelson this year, Fasth was runner-up to David Duval at Royal Lytham in 2001, while Parnevik lost the 1994 Open to Nick Price. It’s as close to major success as Swedish men have ever got.
Stenson might have the edge on Parnevik and the above group because of what he’s been through the last few years. The 37-year-old plummeted to 230th in the world less than two years ago, yet has somehow battled back to become world number three.
Despite his travails, Stenson never once ducked an interview, never once was rude to anyone making such requests. He’s genuinely one of the European Tour’s good guys, someone with a wicked sense of humor. The fact that much of it is self-deprecating makes him all the more likeable.
His financial travails have also been well documented. The bad investments he lost through Stanford Financial makes the $20 million he’s earned this year all the more welcome.
Will experiencing adversity bring him major championship glory? Let’s hope so. We’ve been waiting too long for Sweden to produce a male major winner. Henrik Stenson, major champion, has a nice ring to it.