VIRGINIA WATER, England –– Henrik Stenson is so close to becoming World No. 1 he can almost taste it.
No Swede has ever reached the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Ranking. At World No. 3, Stenson is the highest ranked Swedish male in history.
He wants to go two places better.
Stenson is in contention to win the €4.75 million BMW PGA Championship with 36 holes to play. He lies 5 under, just five shots adrift of joint leaders Thomas Bjorn and Ireland’s Shane Lowry.
Two good rounds and victory would help him replace Adam Scott as the world’s leading player. There are many other permutations that would see him overtake Scott and World No. 2 Tiger Woods. For example, he only needs to finish in the top 30 if Scott misses the cut in the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
Even if Scott makes the cut, then Stenson can still become World No. 1 if he finishes a few places better in this tournament than the Australian finishes in Texas.
That’s for Monday and the mathematicians at the Official World Golf Ranking. For now, Stenson’s just trying to win a golf tournament.
“Adam’s a good player, so I don’t expect him to miss the cut,” Stenson said. “I’ve played fantastic for four or five months, made more points than anyone else. If I can do it now then it’s on the back end of that.”
Stenson isn’t sitting in his hotel room every night with a spreadsheet trying to figure out the permutations that will get him to World No. 1. He knows good golf will take care of that.
“I’m more concerned about getting my game going in the right direction. There’s a long summer ahead of us. It’s all about getting into good golf, and I know I will most likely have a good shot at it.”
Stenson might be closer to the lead if not for a scrappy finish to his second-round, 1-under 71. He made bogey at the par-5 17th after duffing a chip from the right-hand rough. He then made a great par save at the par-5 18th after hitting his approach shot into the stream which guards the green.
Stenson is playing in the European Tour’s marquee event for the first time since 2010. He played the tournament for 10 consecutive years before that and didn’t exactly cover himself in glory. An eighth-place finish in 2007 is his best result on a course he admits does not suit his eye.
He’s found the layout to his liking for two days.
Despite saying he’s not fretting over the world ranking, he admits it’s in the back of his mind.
“World No. 1 is more a consequence of how well you’re playing. It’s a simple system: you play well you’re moving up, you play poorly you’re dropping down. I’m more about playing well enough to be up among the top guys for a long period of time.
“Saying that, I have enjoyed setting a new personal best. The position I’m in now is the best one I’ve been in so far and the best a Swedish male has been. Of course I’d like to have it on my resume that I’ve been world number one at some point. I know what I need to do to get there.”
That dream could come true this weekend.