Is Stenson a genuine contender at The Masters?April 6, 2018 Opinion
Henrik Stenson is one of the best ball-strikers in the game. But is his putting good enough to win at Augusta? James Savage and Dan Murphy have opposing views
Henrik Stenson is never a name which springs to mind when placing your Masters bets.
But after an opening round of 69 he may be one of Europe’s best hopes of making it three Green Jackets in a row.
But does he have what it takes to win at Augusta National?
Yes, says James Savage
There had been doubts about Stenson’s major credentials prior to his record-breaking victory at Royal Troon in 2016.
That was after he’d won The Players, the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai.
When Stenson is on form he’s proved time and time again that he can stare down world class fields.
Despite breaking his major duck, Stenson has been working relentlessly hard with his coach Pete Cowen to improve.
I watched him beating balls until long after the sun had gone down on the range at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and he was the first one back the following day.
He’s hungry for more major success and I believe he is more than capable of bagging another couple.
Ok, his record at the Masters isn’t the best (neither was Sergio Garcia’s) but he’s proved in the opening round that he can shoot good scores here.
If he can keep himself up towards the top of the leaderboard come Sunday then he’ll be able to handle the pressure better than many.
He’s good enough to win at Augusta National.
No, says Dan Murphy
To say that Henrik Stenson is a surprise feature on the first page of the Augusta leaderboard is ridiculous.
He’s an Open champion, a world-class competitor and one of the best ball-strikers on tour.
Nevertheless, his record in the Masters is by some distance the most modest compared to his exploits in the other three majors – the US Open, Open and PGA.
He’s never had a top 10 in 12 attempts – although he has on five occasions finished in the top 20. Four missed cuts, including one last year, are less impressive. So it’s worthy but unspectacular.
The principal reason for this is that while Stenson’s strength is his iron play, his weakness is his putting.
Put simply, he has never holed out well enough here to get in contention, and now, some 12 years after he made his debut, that is a lot of bad memories to overcome.
Yes, he will go into the second day as one of the best-placed Europeans but I prefer the chances of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose, to name but three, of slipping into the Green Jacket come Sunday night.