He was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at a major and Tiger Woods at a World Golf Championship, and he tied for third at the PGA Championship to keep climbing in the world ranking. Stenson was doing just about everything right this summer except winning, usually because someone simply played better.
Not this time.
Stenson surged past a fast-fading Sergio Garcia with three straight birdies, seized control with a 5-iron into 15 feet for another birdie right before the rain delay, and then put away Steve Stricker by holing out from the bunker for birdie late in the final round at the TPC Boston.
He wound up with a 5-under 66 and a two-shot win, and suddenly his summer is looking better than ever.
"Pretty perfect timing, I guess," Stenson said. "There's never a bad time to win a golf tournament, I know that much."
The 37-year-old Swede moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings after two playoff events, assuring him his first trip to the Tour Championship and a clear shot at the $10 million prize.
"I'm just pleased I won here," said Stenson, who tied the tournament record at 22-under 262. "This was a big goal of mine to win a golf tournament after all those nice finishes. My family is here. I'm going to see my kids in a little bit. It's all good."
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., started slowly and finished with two birdies for a 69 to finish alone in third and lock up a spot on his first Presidents Cup team for the International squad.
Stenson's win was only part of the high drama Monday, so much that Woods became an afterthought. He closed with a 73 and tied for 65th. The best image of him all day was walking back out to the course after a rain delay with he and his 6-year-old daughter dressed in matching red.
Brendan Steele thought his season was over when the final round was halted for two hours because of rain. Steele made a birdie putt on the 15th when play resumed, hit a 9-iron to 2 feet for birdie on the 16th and closed with two more birdies to sneak into the top 70 in the FedEx Cup and advance to the third playoff event in two weeks at Conway Farms north of Chicago.
"I did everything that I can do, especially on a day that wasn't going my way for a long time," Steele said.
Steele appeared to bump Ernie Els out of the top 70 when he tied him at 12-under 272. He started the tournament three points ahead of the South African.
"It feels like I just missed the cut," Els said when he finished.
But the Big Easy was given a big reprieve. K.J. Choi made a bogey on the par-5 18th. Charley Hoffman made bogey on the 17th. Kevin Chappell missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole. That combination was enough for Els to grab the 70th spot by a fraction of a point.
Stricker's third runner-up finish this year allowed him to move into the top 10 and qualify for the Presidents Cup team, despite playing a part-time schedule. That put the 10th spot up for grabs between Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson, who were playing together on the other side of the course.
They were tied at 8 under — big advantage to Simpson — until the former U.S. Open champion dropped two shots on the last four holes. Johnson faced a 25-foot birdie putt on his last hole that determined whether he made the team, and he poured it in the middle.
Johnson last week gave up a chance to earn points by skipping The Barclays to be in his brother's wedding.
Lost in all this commotion was Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old Texan dressed in a shirt with the Dallas Cowboys' silver-and-blue colours. He went birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle at the end of his round for a 62 right before the rain delay.
With such soft conditions, his 17-under 267 was never going to hold up. Spieth wound up tied for fourth, and is No. 10 in the FedEx Cup standings. He is assured of becoming the first player since Woods in 1996 to start a season with no status and reach the Tour Championship. Woods, however, did it in seven tournaments.
U.S. captain Fred Couples announces his two wild-card picks for the Presidents Cup on Wednesday, and Spieth is sure to get plenty of attention.
Stricker was two shots behind and had a long eagle putt on the 18th. Behind him, Stenson hit his approach into the bunker on the 17th. Right when the tournament was in doubt, Stenson holed the bunker shot to effectively wrap up the win.
Stricker could hear the roar.
"I just kind of rolled my eyes," he said. "But I told my caddie that he's been knocking at the door for a couple of months. And he's been playing some great golf. ... Good for him. Great shot. Like I say, he's been knocking at the door for quite some time and finally got his win."
Garcia had a two-shot lead at the start of the final round and gave it away quickly, starting with a three-putt for bogey on the par-5 second hole. He missed several short putts and went out in 39, falling too far back to catch up. He closed with a 73 and tied for fourth, five shots behind.
Stenson, who hit his second shot into the hazard on the second hole to make bogey, atoned for that mistake with a tough pitch for birdie on the fourth, a 7-iron to 3 feet on the fifth and a 6-iron to 15 feet for birdie on the sixth. After that, he kept his mistakes to a minimum.
"I'm really pleased with how I bounced back," Stenson said.
He was talking about his early bogey, but he could have been talking about his career.
The big Swede already made one great comeback a decade ago to reach No. 5 in the world. He was outside the top 200 and his game in disarray at the start of the 2012 season. But he pulled himself out of another slump, and this win took him to No. 6 in the world ranking.
"I've done enough good results to know I can play this game at a very high level," Stenson said. "And not to be able to be anywhere near that standard is frustrating."