Stenson looking to make Swedish history

Henrik Stenson is in position to capture Sweden's first major championship on the men's side.


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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Could this finally be Sweden’s year?

Could it be Henrik Stenson’s year?

We shouldn’t be talking about Stenson possibly becoming the first Swedish male to win a major, but he can make Swedish history with a good final round.

A third round of 67, 5-under par, put him into contention heading into the final round of the 139th Open Championship. Tied for fourth eight shots behind Louis Oosthuizen, he is in position to get a very large monkey off the back of Swedish golf.

Pundits have been predicting Swedish success in the majors since the 1980s. Back in those days the names Anders Forsbrand, Ove Sellberg and Magnus Persson were bandied about as future major winners. Nearly 30 years later and we’re still waiting for Swedish success in the tournaments that matter.

That’s too long.

“We’ve been longing a long time to have a Swedish male player win a major,” Stenson admitted. “If it could happen tomorrow, that would be great.

“It would be a big bonus if I could win this tournament and be the first one out of Sweden to win it, but a Swedish win on the male side in a major championship will come hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Of course, winning majors has never been a problem for Swedish women. Liselotte Neumann put Sweden on the golfing map when she won the 1987 U.S. Women’s Open. Helen Alfredsson followed her with victory in the 1993 Kraft Nabisco before Annika Sorenstam totally dominated the women’s game.

So Stenson could make inroads into a very large deficit.

The 34-year-old has a decent record in majors. He has four top-10 finishes in the tournaments that really matter, including third place in the 2008 Open Championship. Stenson finished six shots behind Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale two years ago.

Truth is, it’s a sad reflection on Swedish men that Jesper Parnevik remains the last Swede to come close to winning a major. He should have won the 1994 Open at Turnberry, but handed the championship to Nick Price with a bogey on the last hole.

In the intervening 16 years, Swedes have done little to suggest they were going to go one better than his second-place finish.

“I’ve said before that I think the reason Sweden hasn’t won any majors on the male side is that we haven’t positioned ourselves well enough. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

Stenson put himself in position with a couple of outrageous strokes of good fortune. He went through the green at the par-3 eighth hole but rolled in a 70-footer for birdie, a putt he called “a bit of a bomb.”

An eagle followed at the par-4 13th when he hit his 5-wood tee shot 320 yards and holed out from 105 yards with a lob wedge for eagle.

Stenson would be two shots closer to the lead had he played the 16th and 17th in level par. Instead he played them in 2 over when he three-putted the 16th and then found the Road Hole bunker at 17 and had no chance of getting up and down.

Still, his 67 equaled the best score of the day.

The affable Swede has put himself in position. Now he has to deliver – for the sake of Swedish men.

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