Stenson’s win at last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship was the cherry on top of what has been nothing short of a miraculous comeback for the 37-year-old Swede.
Stenson’s troubles on the golf course have been well documented. Following his win at the 2009 Players Championship, Stenson moved up to fourth in the World Golf Rankings. He then proceeded to fall into a deep slump that would last for three years and see him drop all the way down to 230th in the World Golf Rankings.
Stenson began to turn things around late last year with a win at the South African Open and has had a very strong season in 2013, culminating in a two-stroke victory at last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship which catapulted him up to sixth in the World Golf Rankings.
Stenson’s comeback has been remarkable by any standard, but to truly appreciate his ascension back to the top of the game, you must first understand exactly what he has gone through since 2009.
Stenson’s win at the 2009 Players Championship on the back of a flawless final round 66 was his fifth victory in a four year stretch that also included a win the 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
He appeared to be on top of the world while jubilantly hoisting the Players Championship trophy and posing for photographs with his young family at TPC Sawgrass.
However, by that time the wheels that would ultimately drive Stenson into a three year slump had already begun turning.
In late February 2009, Stanford Financial Group was seized by U.S. authorities following an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange commission described Stanford Financial’s activities as “a massive ponzi scheme” and all assets were frozen by the U.S. Government.
This was during the heart of the Global Financial Crises, and there is an old saying that anything becomes normal if it happens often enough. So, one more bank collapsing as a result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary back in February of 2009.
That is, unless you happened to have a large sum of money invested with Stanford, which was unfortunately the case for Stenson.
Prior to 2009, Stenson had earned nearly £6 million on the European Tour which would have been roughly $9.38 million. He had also earned around $3 million on the PGA Tour prior to 2009. So, his career pre-tax on-course earnings would have been somewhere in the vicinity of $12 million. During that same period of time one could only assume that Stenson had earned several million more in endorsement deals.
Shortly after Stanford Financial collapsed in 2009, word began circulating that Stenson could have endured a huge loss to his personal fortune.
In late February Stenson admitted (via The Guardian) as much:
[It is] not all my money. But I have quite a big part of my own savings and investments with them. I don't know anything more than I read in the papers. So it's obviously not a happy situation for a whole lot of people. It is a very unfortunate situation. I'm a victim as everybody else in that big thing. So we just have to see how bad it is. Everybody has got to sit tight and see what comes out of it, but it's obviously hard to be too positive about it at the moment.
To date none of Stanford’s investors have recovered a single cent they had invested with the company, although there is a class action lawsuit currently in the works against several third parties by investors who lost millions in the Ponzi scheme. And one can only venture to guess exactly how much money Stenson was referring to when he said that he had “quite a big part of his savings and investments” with Stanford Financial.
It is probably no coincidence that Stenson’s long dark slump began not long after he lost a sizable portion of his savings and investments in a Ponzi scheme, and to make matters even worse, Stenson was personally sponsored by Stanford Financial. So, along with the inevitable embarrassment that came from being the victim of a Ponzi scheme, Stenson had actually been promoting Stanford Financial all along through his sponsorship deal.
Stenson was not the only professional golfer to have been affected by Stanford Financial’s elaborate Ponzi scheme. Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas were also sponsored by Stanford Financial, although it is unclear if either man had their own personal money invested with Stanford Financial or what portion of their fortune they may have lost in the Ponzi scheme.
However, after a breakthrough 2008 season where Villegas won two consecutive FedEx Cup Playoff events including the Tour Championship, Villegas has won just one event since (the 2010 Honda Classic).
Singh has also not won a single PGA Tour event since 2008; although age has certainly played a factor in Singh’s career slowdown since that time (Singh turned 50 years old last February).
While the rest of the PGA Tour will be battling out for a $10 million pay day at the Tour Championship, most will be looking to simply pad their bank accounts with this massive season-ending bonus.
Stenson, on the other hand, will most likely be looking at the 2013 FedEx Cup as an opportunity to replace all he has lost, or more accurately, all that was taken from him.
Stenson’s three year slump was caused by a lot more than just a lost putting stroke and a case of the driver yips, and a FedEx Cup victory might just mean more to Stenson than any other player currently in the hunt for the $10 million first place prize. Because for Henrik Stenson, a FedEx Cup title would mean redemption…both on and off of the golf course.