NORTON, Mass. — One big putt for Rickie Fowler. One big mistake for Henrik Stenson.
That turned out to be the difference Monday when Fowler rallied from a two-shot deficit with five holes to play, making a 40-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and playing flawless the rest of the way for a 3-under 68 and a one-shot victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Fowler won for the third time this year and moved to No. 5 in the world, not quite in the conversation for the new “Big Three” but perhaps on the cusp of it. The victory assures he will be among the top five players in the FedEx Cup that has a clear shot at the $10 million prize in the Tour Championship.
“It’s pretty special to fight it out like that,” Fowler said.
Stenson was a runner-up in a FedEx Cup playoff event for the second straight week, and this one figures to sting.
He grabbed a three-shot lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th, and after a two-shot swing in Fowler’s favor at No. 11, the Swede drilled a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 12 to restore his lead to two shots.
Stenson never trailed until his tee shot on the par-3 16th came up short, bounced off the front of the green and down into the rocks and the water. That led to a double bogey, and Fowler never gave him a chance to catch up.
Stenson had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a tie, but it slid by on the right and he closed with a 70. Fowler two-putted for par from 10 feet.
“I obviously pulled the wrong club on 16 and was trying to get the most out of a 7-iron into the wind and ballooned that one a little bit and that was the crucial mistake. Making double there was really a killer,” Stenson said. “I tried to get those two shots back or at least one to force a playoff on the last two holes and couldn’t manage to do it.”
The final hour was every bit as tense as The Players Championship in May, except instead of five players having a chance to win, this was a duel with Stenson the entire back nine.
Fowler didn’t make any birdies after his long putt on the 14th, but he didn’t have to. Where he thrived was off the tee and his iron play into the greens. Swinging freely, he was never really out of position until he went just long of the green on the par-5 closing hole with his second shot.
He played it safe with a putter to 10 feet, putting pressure on Stenson to the very end.
Fowler finished at 15-under 269 and moved to No. 3 in the FedEx Cup behind Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, with Stenson at No. 4 and Bubba Watson at No. 5.
Charley Hoffman bounced back from a 76 to close with a 67 and finish alone in third.
One of the loudest cheers was for a player who had no chance to win. William McGirt was on the verge of being eliminated from the FedEx Cup when he holed a 7-iron from the fairway on No. 17 for eagle. A par on the 18th hole allowed him to sneak into the top 70 and advance to the third playoff event north of Chicago in two weeks.
Hunter Mahan kept his streak going by closing with a 70 to tie for fourth, moving him from No. 91 to No. 52. Mahan is the only player who has never missed a FedEx Cup playoff event since this series began in 2007. Jerry Kelly made birdie on the last hole for a 72 to narrow get into the top 70. Keegan Bradley also got in.
Two other players imploded on the back nine to end their season.
Kevin Streelman appeared to be safe until he shot 42 on the back nine for a 77. He was at No. 65 and dropped to No. 75. Carlos Ortiz of Mexico had four straight birdies and was making a late bid for Chicago until he took triple bogey on No. 9 and then shot 41 on the back nine for a 71.
There were no changes to the Presidents Cup, though Matt Jones of Australia squandered a great chance. He only needed third place to make the International team, but he made two double bogeys in three holes to start the back nine and finished in a five-way tie for fourth.
Stenson now has been runner-up four times this year without winning, and this was every bit as good a chance to win as Bay Hill.