GULLANE, Scotland — If Scandinavia is to celebrate a first-ever major winner, "The Iceman" will need to stay solid in the Muirfield heat this weekend.
Henrik Stenson has gone under the radar at the British Open, but two rounds of 1-under 70 left the rejuvenated Swede tied with Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods and in the last group out Saturday with leader Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Stenson is fondly remembered as the man who stripped down to his underwear to play a shot from near a water hazard at a CA Championship at Doral in 2009. And for winning The Players Championship the same year by blowing away Tiger Woods with a final-round 66.
On Sunday, he could write a whole new chapter.
"I'm up there and playing in a big tournament again," said Stenson, who placed third at the Open in 2008 and '10. "I think I've got the experience to do well in these championships."
Stenson's oscillating career is back on an upward slope.
After that victory at TPC Sawgrass, he was No. 4 in the world and had top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship that year.
As recently as 18 months ago, he was down to No. 230 and despairing about his game.
In the depths of the second slump of his 15-year pro career, Stenson turned to sports psychologist Torsten Hansson and the decision has worked out well.
He is one of the most consistent players on the European Tour this season and finished tied for third at last week's Scottish Open, a three-hour drive north of Muirfield on the Highland links. His accuracy off the tee was outstanding in Inverness and he has kept that up at the Open, hitting 23 of 28 fairways despite them being as bouncy and fiery.
"Tough conditions are something that I enjoy and suits my game," said Stenson, who is now ranked No. 30.
"Obviously with the two rounds in red figures, I'm keeping it, scoring-wise, pretty tight and not making too many mistakes. I felt like I've played the course pretty conservative, but still done well out of it for the first two days."
In Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, Sweden hasn't been short of grand-slam champions in tennis but major wins in golf has so far been elusive for the nation, and for Scandinavia as a whole.
Jesper Parnevik of Sweden was runner-up in 1994 — when he lost out to fast-finishing Nick Price at Turnberry — and '97. And few will forget Danish player Thomas Bjorn's collapse at Royal St. George's in 2003 when he was two up with three to play but took three shots to get out of a greenside bunker at No. 16 and lost to Ben Curtis.
"That's all I'm thinking, no one's won it!" Stenson said of the Scandinavian major drought. "Obviously I would like to be the first Swede or Scandinavian to win a major.
"But we've got some work to do before we talk about that. I'd rather talk about how that feels on Sunday, if it happens."
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