SHANGHAI – Henrik Stenson had pain in his right wrist and still won the richest prize in golf at the final PGA Tour event of the year in Atlanta.
One month later, halfway around the world, not much has changed.
Stenson embarks on his bid Thursday at the European Tour’s BMW Masters to become the first player to win the FedExCup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. Thanks to his incredible summer run through two majors and a World Golf Championship, Stenson has a commanding lead – 425,573 euros – on the European Tour money list.
And yes, his wrist is still sore.
"I'm not sure what's going on," Stenson said. "I'm starting a seven-tournament stretch this week. It's not the best to have a wrist problem when going into that. But I'll do the best from here on in."
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The Race to Dubai will be determined by the four tournaments called the "Final Series," which starts Thursday at Lake Malaren. That will be followed by the HSBC Champions across Shanghai at Sheshan International, and then stops in Turkey and Dubai.
All of the tournaments have some of the biggest purses of the year. Stenson can put an exclamation point to his remarkable run, or be caught very quickly by the likes of Graeme McDowell or U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
The first matter of business is his wrist, which also was ailing the week he won the Tour Championship to claim the $10 million FedExCup bonus. Stenson saw enough improvement through therapy that he was able to play in the pro-am Wednesday at Lake Malaren. But the fact it hasn't improved during his month away concerns him.
The Finals Series features four of the richest events all year on the European Tour, except for the majors. The BMW Masters and the Turkish Open offer $7 million in prize money, while the HSBC is $8.5 million as a WGC, and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai is $8 million.
"The focus is to play well in the last four tournaments and see what happens," Lee Westwood said. "Those are four massive tournaments."
Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy have won the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles in each of the last two years. Neither of them, however, won the FedExCup, which would make Stenson stand out. The 37-year-old Swede had his eyes on the Race to Dubai title even before he won the FedExCup.
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Now, it's very much in his grasp.
"It's four big weeks coming up, starting here at the BMW Masters," said Stenson, who at No. 4 is the highest-ranked player at Lake Malaren. "There's a lot of points and money up for grabs in these events. It's only one top finish from any one of the guys, or a couple of the guys, behind me to catch me or move beyond. So I'm just going to focus on my game and try to have some good weeks. Hopefully, I can get one really good week out of these four, and that should hopefully give me a shot at the overall title."
Peter Hanson is the defending champion, though he also has had injury problems this year. Hanson has been dealing with back problems, which has caused him to fall from No. 19 in the world at the end of last year to No. 39 going into the Finals Series.
The only significant injury for McIlroy might be between the ears. The season has been one big distraction, from his slow start to the year and his toothache that he blamed for leaving early at the Honda Classic. McIlroy changed equipment companies, changed management companies, and now the companies are engaged in a legal dispute that could take another year to settle.
McIlroy returned from a month break – during which he played golf and had dinner with former President Bill Clinton – and returned last week at the Kolon Korea Open to finish in a tie for second place. He won at Lake Malaren in 2011 before it was an official event, and he battled on the back nine with Hanson a year ago.
"It's a course I've played well," McIlroy said. "I'm looking forward to this week, finishing the season strong and getting some momentum going into next year."