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WGC ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
January 3, 2008
LAURA NEAL: Thank you everyone for joining us today this afternoon and this morning, depending on where you're calling from. It's our 2008 Accenture Match Play Championship defending champion's press conference.
I'd like to remind everyone, as you know, the first event of the World Golf Championships tees off February 18th through the 24th, and we are celebrating ten years of global competition with the World Golf Championships this year.
On the line we have Gary Beckner, the senior director global event marketing for Accenture and also Michael Garten, executive director of the Accenture Match Play Championship. And last but not least, we have our defending champion, Henrik Stenson on the line early morning on the line from Hawaii, teeing off in the Mercedes Championship winner's-only event, the first event of the season. So we appreciate his participation from the first event of the year this morning.
I'd like to turn it over to Gary Beckner for a couple comments.
GARY BECKNER: Thank you and first of all happy new year to everyone on the call and thanks for attending. And Henrik, thanks for attending, as well.
Accenture is pleased to be an umbrella sponsor of the World Golf Championships and title sponsor of the Accenture Match Play Championship. We introduced the match-play format on the international golf stage in 1995. Then, it was the Accenture World Championship of golf prior to the inception of the World Golf Championships in 1999, which we then became part of.
As Laura mentioned, 2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the World Golf Championships, which really have established themselves among the major tournaments on the TOUR, each and every year. Each year this event, as you all know, has attracted the Top-64 players in the world, in one-on-one, single competition to win in the match-play format, a showdown of high performance, if you will. We're looking forward to another great event this year, as well as welcoming Henrik back to defend his title.
In closing, I want to thank the PGA TOUR for its excellent leadership in the World Golf Championships series, the many players who have participated in the ten years, and last but certainly not least, the media, which have done a totally outstanding job over the years of both covering and reporting on this event around the world.
So we thank you all, wish you a very good 2008 golf season, and look forward to seeing many of you either at the Media Day on site on the 22nd, and also at the event in February. Thank you again.
LAURA NEAL: Just a reminder to media who are listening, Gary Beckner and Michael Garten from the tournament are still on the line, and they are available for questions once we ask a few of Henrik.
And speaking of that, Henrik, I'd love to get a couple opening remarks from you. Just talk about some of your memories from winning the Accenture Match Play Championship a year ago, and what confidence that gave you going throughout the rest of the season and into this year.
HENRIK STENSON: Well, obviously that's been the highlight one of my career so far. I hope I can have a few more down the road. But winning the Accenture Match Play was, you know, that was the biggest tournament I won so far.
Great memories from that week, and really looking forward to coming back in February.
Q. How has your life changed since this time last year, and sort of what have you been up to?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it was a very busy season, exciting year, both on and off the golf course. I had two great wins there, one in Dubai and then followed up with the Match Play a few weeks later.
I guess the Match Play win was probably a broader presentation of myself as a player to the American public. It was my first tournament win in America, and I guess the ones that follow golf closely might have, you know, seen my name up on the list in Europe, but not so much over in America. So I guess that was, you know, a big footprint on my behalf over year.
Off the golf course, we had our first daughter on the first of July, and we just finished our house in Orlando. So a lot of things going on, and I think things have stabilized a little bit and I'm really looking forward to the 2008 season.
Q. What do you like or dislike about the match-play format? Can you just talk about match-play tournaments?
HENRIK STENSON: I really enjoy playing match play. I've had some good success, obviously, and I played in my first Ryder Cup in '06, I really enjoyed that. I've played quite a few match-play tournaments, team events around the world before that.
It's such a clear task, really. You've got your opponent. You either do better or worse, and that's the name of the game. I really enjoy match play. I wouldn't mind playing even one or two tournaments more in the season.
I guess the only tough thing is when you have a match-play tournament, elimination straightaway, it can be tough for good guys traveling halfway around the world to just play one match. But that's the name of the game, and I think the majority of the guys really like it.
Q. Sort of to follow up on that, speaking of bringing together some of the world's best golfers, the World Golf Championships are celebrating their 10th anniversary; do you think they are doing a good job of bringing the best golfers together?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, absolutely. They always have a really, really strong field, together with the majors, and I guess the TPC Sawgrass event. You've got really strong fields and the best players are there playing, so I think that's definitely the case.
Q. What's your schedule look like for the start of the season? Do you know what tournaments you'll be playing in yet?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, I made a bit of a change. I'm not going to play as much in America in '08. I played 30 events in 2007, and I played 31 weeks in 2006. I'm trying to cut down a little bit on my schedule so I can get down to the number, about 25 events.
So I'm not going to be a member on the PGA TOUR in '08. Both, as I said, trying to get down the number and be a bit more prepared and have more time for practice and so on. Also with a young family and trying to cut down on the traveling a little bit. I won't be playing -- I'll play the Match Play and Doral and then Sawgrass. That will be the ones I play in America until May.
Q. I had a quick question regarding the match-play format. Do you find it more challenging to play in the match-play events, you know, compared to a regular TOUR event?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the thing with such an event, I mean, you can never relax. You have to be full-on concentration in every match, because if you don't win every match, obviously you get knocked out. So it's a very draining week mentally. Last year when I won it, I pulled out the week after because I was so tired and probably never been as tired as when I finished that final on the Sunday.
So it is mentally draining, and it's a long week for the players who go all the way. I mean, I think Geoff did extremely well to be able to come back and make it all the way to the final. Obviously he was very disappointed that I stood in his way in the final, but you know, if I can come back and repeat anything close to that, I'll be pretty pleased.
Q. And I have one quick follow-up question. Can you talk about playing on desert courses? Is it something that -- is it something that your game is well-suited for, or not?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, being based part of the year down in Dubai, I've had some good practice. But we try and stay away from the desert, so I guess when we play well and keep it on the grass, it doesn't make that much of a difference if the course is in the desert or not.
But you know, it was a nice coincidence that I managed to win both my tournaments in the desert.
Q. My question is a little bit away from golf, but over the holiday season, I wondered if you had been able to take in any of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Russia, and if so, if you had any comments on Sweden's big win over Canada?
HENRIK STENSON: Okay. Thanks for breaking the good news.
We've been 14 people in the house. We had my wife's family over from Sweden, so we've been quite busy with showing them around Orlando and just relaxing, so I actually haven't followed up on the hockey, but that was good news.
Yeah, I don't even know where in the standings we are in the tournament at this moment.
Q. You're there with Stephen Ames and Mike Weir this week; any chance you guys might chat about that a bit?
HENRIK STENSON: Definitely, now what you've told me, I'll be sure to remind them. (Chuckling)
Q. Just a quick one about the mental capacity for match play. You've obviously had a lot of success in that and the Ryder Cup; is that something you particularly look forward to and enjoy?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah, I think it's just -- I mean, obviously when you play a normal stroke event, it's pretty clear what you need to do, as well; you need to beat everybody else.
But it's like in a match-play situation, it's do-or-die. You've got the other guy there and you need to play better than him if you want to move to the next round.
So I think it becomes very clear to me what I need to do, and you know, most of the times so far, I've been able to find the game I need to have to beat my opponent. Yeah, I sort of thrive on that, and I really do enjoy match play.
Q. You mentioned you were going to be playing more in Europe this year. Is that partly to do with the Ryder Cup?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that's one reason, as well. You know, try and qualify for the team, obviously. That should make it a little bit easier, if I can compete on the two lists than just on the one, on the World Ranking list.
Yeah, that also comes into play, and with the scheduling and everything. So it's not just the one reason, but that's obviously one part of it.
Q. And how high up on your list of priorities is the Ryder Cup? Was it an incredible experience for you last time, obviously holing the winning putt and stuff like that?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, being part of that team in Ireland with the crowds and that we managed to win again; yeah, just being able to jump into the team spirit, that was a boyhood dream of mine that went through and I was extremely happy to be part of that team. It's very high up on my priority to play again.
Q. After such an amazing start to last season, but you dropped off a little bit, is it very hard to maintain that kind of form, and do you feel you're coming back into that kind of form now?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, form is always up and down as we all know. It's hard to keep it really, you know, keep it going all the time.
More than anything, my disappointment was in the big events last year. I missed three cuts and finished I think 17th at Augusta. My performance in the majors weren't anywhere near where I had hoped, and that's also why I'm trying to cut down a little bit and make sure I get those weeks of practice and rest in to try and be more prepared when I play.
I felt, you know, I had a couple of good tournaments, a couple of Top-10s, quite good at the Wentworth Match Play and played pretty good in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
So, I felt that I've been coming back to form a little bit. You know, we'll try and move in the right direction.
Q. Just a follow-up to that last question, you mentioned how your form fell away particularly in the majors; was there any one reason that you could perhaps attribute to that?
HENRIK STENSON: I just felt that I was playing a lot, and when you lose your form a little bit, and you don't have that time to really work on your game because you're traveling and playing all the time and sort of puts you in a little bit of a catch-up situation. I was trying to almost work on my game early on in the week in some of the big events, and that's just not the way to do it I think.
That's a big part of why I'm changing my planning and my scheduling for this upcoming season. I think if you lose a bit of form and you're playing a lot, and when I've committed to play a lot of tournaments, it's hard to get it back on track again.
Q. A follow-up to that, I know you've spoken many times in the past about the grass allergies you suffer from, especially in Europe from May through to August, has that been something that's affected you throughout your career or has it got worse?
HENRIK STENSON: It's been pretty much the same in the last couple years. It's more the tiredness that comes with it; that's the big problem. You know, it's something we work on and try and find a way to try and make it better. Yeah, if I look at my results in the last couple years, I have gone through a bit of a slump in the early summer months.
So yeah, I would like to try and turn that around. You know, if that comes down purely to allergies or too much golf in the spring or whatever reasons it might be, yeah, it's just something I will try and address. There's a lot of good events, and especially the three of the four majors are in that period, as well. Yeah, it's something I need to try and sort out.
Q. A final question. Which of the four majors this year do you think sets itself up best for your game?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I felt that the one I was playing somewhat reasonable at was Augusta last year, and I could -- yeah, I could well see myself doing well at Augusta this upcoming year, if I play well enough. It's always one of them; it's not just if the course suits you or not. You have to have the game for the week, as well. I hope I can do well around Augusta.
Q. Wondering about some of the emerging British golfers, especially Justin Rose had a great 2007, wondering how good you think he can be and whether he can really make an impact in 2008?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, Justin is a fantastic player. I think in the past he might not have been able to maybe win as many tournaments as he would have liked. But I mean, he had a great year in '07 and won a couple of good events and the Order of Merit.
So, you know, I was very pleased for him. I hope he can continue on that road, and I'm sure he will be a big impact both in Europe and in America.
Q. Looking at a slightly different sport, looking at football, you being a Swede, how well do you think Sweden might do in the summer in EURO 2008?
HENRIK STENSON: Oh, come on, give me some easy questions here about golf or something. (Chuckling) Well, I hope they make it to the semis. I'll be happy with that.
Q. Right now you're 16th in the world, and if the tournament were held today, I think you would go up against Mark Calcavecchia, No. 49. When you're playing in he match-play format, do you pay attention who you're playing? Do you pay attention to the rankings, or do you just focus on playing the course?
HENRIK STENSON: First of all, I mean, you've got to play well yourself most of the times to win a match. Then, of course, I mean, before you tee it up, you want to know who you're playing against, but in the end it doesn't make that much of a difference. You've just got to go out there and play well.
You know, it sort of tends to give itself away then what you need to do. Match play it seems a lot of times, at least, it seems to be one of them situations where if you play well, the other guy starts to play well because he has to. And if both are a little bit off, you know, the match is not that well played, but it's still even.
So it always tends to come down to the last couple of two, three holes, anyway. So you've just got to play the course, play your own game, and then of course there's always going to be the situation where you can go off your opponent's results if he's in trouble.
But to answer your question, it doesn't matter that much who you're playing with.
LAURA NEAL: I'd like to thank everyone for joining us today, and a special thanks to Henrik. I know you have a 12:55 Hawaii time tee time this afternoon.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we should make it.
LAURA NEAL: Best of luck. You have time to get out there and warmed up, best of luck as you get the season started, and we'll see you in the not-too-many weeks in Arizona for your title defense.
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