The noted prankster Henrik Stenson pulled off one of his favorite gags at a tour stop in Europe a few years ago when he found himself staying in a room next to that of two friends and fellow Swedes, Carl Pettersson and Olle Karlsson.
With the strings on his hooded sweatshirt tightened until much of his face was hidden, Stenson hopped from his balcony to theirs, opened the sliding glass door, barged inside and shouted, “Give me your money!”
Stenson’s latest caper is even bolder. He is threatening to run away in broad daylight with more than $10 million at the Tour Championship. At the start of a soggy third round Saturday at East Lake Golf Club, Stenson’s lead in the 30-man field was 4 strokes. After an opening nine of 4-under-par 31, his advantage was 9, and the other players in his group, Jordan Spieth and a flu-weakened Adam Scott, fell hopelessly, helplessly behind.
Playing the last hour in the worst of the day’s rain, Stenson bogeyed three of his last five holes for a 1-under 69 and a 54-hole score of 11-under 199. He is 4 shots ahead of Dustin Johnson, the last player to qualify for the tournament, who carded a 67.
“I think I’ll choose to look at it from the bright side even though the weather is not that bright at the moment,” Stenson said as rain pelted the roof of the interview tent. “Started the day with a 4-shot lead and I still got it. So that’s all that matters, really.”
After Johnson, the next closest golfer to Stenson was Steve Stricker, at 5-under after a 68. Stenson is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings behind Tiger Woods, which means he is one of five players who would earn a $10 million bonus with a victory here. Woods, Scott, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar are the others. Woods was 3 over after a 69; Kuchar was 2 over after a 69; and Zach Johnson was tied for fourth, at 4 under, after a 69.
Scott, the reigning Masters champion, required intravenous fluids after a fever-filled night and struggled to a 74, which left him at 2-under.
“It was pretty rough this morning,” he said, adding, “The club feels like it weighs 60 pounds, and it was just hard work to get anything moving.”
Stricker said he was less surprised by Stenson’s stellar form than by the rest of the field’s sluggishness.
“It seems like a lot of lackluster play,” Stricker said. “I think guys are flat. It seems like a lot of guys are tired.”
Fatigue is not a factor for Stricker, who sat out the first playoff event, in Jersey City, and is playing in only his 13th official PGA Tour event of the year.
With Woods, the fittest of the fit, complaining of weariness after an endless summer of big tournaments, beginning with the British Open in July, Stricker imagines that more players will follow his example next year and play in fewer tournaments down the season’s stretch to conserve their energy, he said.
Marcus Fraser shot a 4-under 68, giving the Australian a 1-stroke lead over Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren after three rounds of the Italian Open in Turin, Italy.
Fraser had a chip-in birdie on the sixth hole in a bogey-free round that left him at 11 under.
Rod Perry and Jeff Sorenson contributed birdies on their last four holes and the Americans took a 10½-5½ lead over Great Britain & Ireland in the PGA Cup in Hexham, England.
Perry, who won the PGA Professional National Championship this year, nearly holed out for eagle from a bunker on the 13th hole and chipped in for birdie on the 15th. Sorenson made seven birdies in their 3-and-2 fourballs win over Nick Brennan and Gareth Wright.
The teams split the morning foursome matches at Slaley Hall.
Greig Hutcheon and Scott Henderson of GB&I had an 8-up lead at the turn before winning, 6 and 5.
The Americans halved the next fourballs match and won the other two.