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July 16, 2014

Henrik Stenson


MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome Henrik Stenson, the winner of the FedExCup last year and the Race to Dubai Rankings to the interview room. Henrik, thanks for joining us today. You finished second at Muirfield last year. You had two third-place finishes in The Open Championship on your record.

HENRIK STENSON: Now you're going to figure out what I really want.

MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm leading to a conclusion here. It must give you a lot of confidence going into this week.

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I'm fairly happy with my form. It can always be better, but I've played okay. It hasn't been as good of a season as the last six months, last year, but you can't expect to play like that all the time. It's been all right. I think I got four or five top 5s or top 5s coming into this tournament. So it's been pretty consistent play. I feel like I got some good results in this championship, as well. I played a lot of them and came out second last year. It's all about hard work, putting yourself up there and hopefully your name will be on top or around the top of the leaderboard when you hit the back nine on Sunday. That's what it's all about, to give yourself chances. If I can play well enough to keep to my plan and keep the patience and get the odd good bounce here and there, I hope to be there on Sunday.

Q. Last year your good run started with the Scottish Open, but you just changed your plans this year. Why was that? How do you think it will help you going into this Open?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it's one of them -- I played Scottish last year, I think it's great preparation to play that week when it's on a links course, as we have done the last couple of years. But down to my energy levels and how much golf I played, I just felt I needed a bit of extra rest. That was the main thing. I just couldn't keep on going. And coming into a Major championship being tired is always a recipe for disaster, more or less, because you've got to have a fresh head on to take the challenges and the hard work that you need to put in this week. So I made a change of plans. And in 2010 when I finished third at St. Andrews, I came over on the Thursday I think, and I practiced over the weekend and played the course before the long practice rounds and everything that goes on outside the ropes started. So I feel like I've gotten some good preparations and good practice in early. And there's two ways to do it, but you have to give yourself time. If you're not playing the tournament the week before, at least give yourself an extra couple of days to play some more rounds and just get used to playing the links surface again.

Q. You came on Thursday over here?
HENRIK STENSON: I came Friday morning, with no luggage. I played in shorts the first two days, which was lovely.

Q. Obviously you're playing with Tiger, so a lot of eyes will be on you. He's even got his own dedicated TV channel this week. I was just wondering --
HENRIK STENSON: Where did mine go (laughter)?

Q. I was going to ask you, would you like one? But also, not the fear factor, but how are the problems playing with Tiger? Has that gone? Are you used to it? You played with him a lot. It's not going to bother you?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think potentially the tough draw is still the group ahead, because everyone is searching for position. Whenever he's finished on the hole, they're trying to get into a good position to watch the next hole. That could be probably tough for them than to play in the group. I played a lot with him, it's sometimes a challenge with a lot of people inside the ropes and a lot of crowd moving. But it's big crowds here anyway, so I don't think you'll be noticing it as much. But no point making all the comments today. I'll wait until after the round tomorrow then and I'll give you the full script.

Q. I'm curious, obviously all Majors are huge, but what would this one mean to you if it would be more special because you're from Europe? And also how does this course suit your eye?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, The Open Championship is a highlight of any season, and for any player, I think, especially European born ones. So I started playing golf in '88 and I watched the Ryder Cup and The Open Championship in '89. So I got some of my early junior memories from watching golf on television from this championship. Yeah, of course, it would mean the world to me to win this championship. And if it doesn't happen this year, I'll come back and try next year. But then again I'm off to a Major championship at some point, and I'm not going to be greedy; I'll take either one of them. Of course it would be the icing on the cake to do it in Europe. And, sorry, yeah, I'll finish the question: I think the course suits my eye pretty well. It's a nice links course. I guess the only two holes, the 3rd and the 18th, got a bit more to it with out of bounds that maybe we're not used to on links courses. It's playing good. It's a bit softer, not as fiery as it was in '06. And into the wind you can certainly stop the ball on the green, and downwind you've still got to be careful.

Q. I wanted to ask a Tiger question a little bit differently: Do you suppose when he sees that he's playing with you it strikes fear in his heart?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think it would have been a lot of sleepless nights for him as of late. When did the draw come out? He looked tired, didn't he (laughter)? No, we played a lot, but, yeah, I've had some good success playing against him and managed to beat him a couple of times. So I'll try and play my game and play it as well as I can, and a few times it's been good enough to beat him. So I'll try and do the same tomorrow. He's just one of the guys I need to beat if I want to do well this week. But it's a good start if you know you can beat him.

Q. You have a very good life and a very good career and a lot of money. Where does the extra motivation --
HENRIK STENSON: You need a loan (laughter)?

Q. Yes, please. Where does the extra motivation come from to win a Major championship? You could have an excellent time without winning one. How do you motivate yourself for the extra step?
HENRIK STENSON: Like I said, I grew up watching this championship and it was a boyhood dream to play in the Ryder Cup and the other one was to win the British Open, The Open Championship. So just because I've had some great success, I don't think that dream hasn't gone away. And it's the last thing on my CV to make it complete, more or less, in my eyes. So I will try my hardest to make it happen. Yeah, motivation is always a factor, and you've got to have that drive if you want to make those things happen. And I feel like I still have that.

Q. Just wondering, you mentioned in your opening remarks about patience, keeping your patience. Is that still a work in progress for you on the golf course?
HENRIK STENSON: I think it always is, being able to accept your mistakes, and if you don't keep to your plan, more so to be able to keep to your plan. And the Majors are the toughest test mentally, I'd say, in the golfing calendar. And you're going to make mistakes, and it's how you bounce back from them. That's always been a key. And I think that's always a tough thing for a player, not just me in particular. You've got to have a fresh mind when you start the week. If you're already tired, that patience is going to run short if you do make mistakes and hit some bad shots and get off to a bad start. And chasing has never been the formula for good success here, either. It's just one of them to be mindful of and really prepare yourself when you start the tournament. It's going to be a long four days and you've got to keep your patience.

Q. For you in the Majors the historical significance of what it would mean to win here, the first Swede, is that extra motivation, does that add any extra pressure? How much does that even enter your mind in these tournaments?
HENRIK STENSON: I know that would be the case, if I do win, that I would be the first one. For me it's more about winning a Major. If one of my Swedish colleagues can do it before me, all credit, or well done to them. I'm just looking at trying to get one for myself. So whether I'm first or not, that's less importance, I think. So I don't feel like it's added pressure. It would be nice to get that off everyone's backs, I guess. A bit like when there was a lot of talks about Europeans not winning Majors back in '06 or '07, and then we kind of cleared that up. I'll try and get one for Sweden, then.

Q. Do you think the days of one or two players dominating golf have gone now? Tiger is talking about the field being deeper than ever, is that the way you see it? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
HENRIK STENSON: I think every sport develops over time and ours is not different. It's certainly looking at the different or different amount of winners in the last five years at the Major championships, we're seeing so many players win, and I think it comes down to that. Like you say, it's so competitive. At some point there might have been 20 guys battling out for it, and now it feels like anyone in the field can win if they have a great week. So it's definitely tighter. You see it on the European Tour and the PGA Tour on the number of players that on each stroke, you make a bogey, and you fall 15, 20 spots sometimes. But when you make a birdie you only gain seven, I don't know how that works. So it's very competitive and very tight. Yeah, it would take something very special to have two guys to come on board and dominate it, like it was possible further back.

Q. When you had that extraordinary run on both sides of the Atlantic the second half of last season, were you able to put your finger on a special element? Did you hope that you could maybe bottle it?
HENRIK STENSON: We've talked about the carrots before, haven't we (laughs)? No, it was some good work put in with my team over a long period of time that got me to the point where I could play such consistent golf. And then it was just down to the mind to keep on going, really, and the body to stay with it. I felt like I was in good physical shape, at that time, at least, before all the barbecue and ice cream that I've had in the last couple of months. And that just helped me keep on going. It's definitely a mental thing. It's very tiring when you're up in contention week in and week out. It takes a lot of energy out of you. But I managed to keep the energy and keep on going, anyway. To keep the run going is definitely between the ears. And to keep playing like that, yeah, you have to have a good base when you start it.

Q. Was there almost a sense of calmness that you had each week, that you were now in this sort of vein or did you each week have to get yourself back up?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think when you've done some good results over a long period of time, yeah, you almost expect to do well and you're not too bothered about it, either. You just do your thing and the good things keep on coming. Then it's just to keep yourself in that state of mind, keep on playing. That Christmas ruined a lot. I was running on fumes when I saw Santa Claus. I was very tired (laughter).

Q. Having had a career path that took you up higher, then a dip, then back up high again. Do you live in fear of losing your mojo again or can you rationalize what brought you back and can help yourself stay there because of that?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think you learn something every time, and I guess more than anything I've kind of come back from a very low pulse a few times. I know I can do it a third time, if it needs to be. But that being said, I'm not striving to put myself in that position again. If you keep on doing the right things and keep your mind to it, then I shouldn't be playing as bad as I've done a couple of times throughout the years. But this game is an interesting one, and you can never say for certain. It goes ups and downs. I've had probably some bigger downs and potentially some bigger ups than a lot of players. But nothing is just a straight line. And if it is, I don't think we're in the right place. Might be a coffin or something around us then.

Q. Would you mind if I asked a question in English and you answer in Swedish?
HENRIK STENSON: Carry on. We'll see if I can manage.

Q. Could you tell us your feelings on being grouped with Tiger Woods for the first couple of rounds here.
HENRIK STENSON: In Swedish, yeah? (Speaking in Swedish.)

MIKE WOODCOCK: Perhaps a one-sentence summary in English.

HENRIK STENSON: (Laughing) Didn't I answer that earlier?


Q. Par 72 with reachable par 5s, what style of game do you think this golf course suits best?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think it's probably some of the flattest greens that we play on links courses. And the key is going to be to get it. And the rough is a bit patchy. You can get some really decent lies, but you can be complete low wedge, hack you out as well if you get a bad one. So hitting fairways is going to be key, if you do that, you give yourself the best chances to hit the greens. In certain areas if you miss a green, you're going to have a little trickier up-and-down as well. Some courses are a little bit flatter to the sides and maybe a little bit more undulation. On here they're here kind of flat on the surface and then it goes away a little bit more in certain areas. So fairways and greens, like any other week, I guess. But it's going to be pretty crucial here, I think. And avoiding the bunkers is always more or less costing you a shot every time you hit it in the fairway bunkers. Scoring is going to be down to the wind and the weather, I guess. If it's good weather, yeah, with the four par 5s and so on, it's going to be -- it is four par 5s -- is it three? It is four, yeah. Other than that it's hard to guess now what the scoring is going to be like. But again on the par 5 the most important thing is to get the ball in play off the tee, so you can at least have a second shot. If you're hacking out or you're in a bunker, you know you're going to scramble for par. So make sure you hit the fairway on par 5s, if you want to have a go at it.

Q. Obviously you're going to be focused on your own game, do you ever like to lighten the mood with your playing partners during the round?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we'll have a laugh or two. It kind of depends on how someone is playing and how the whole thing turns out. But every now and again we get the opportunity to socialize or small talk a little bit. And I'm not going to tell you what we talk about.

Q. Are there some guys you can do it with more than others? Are you hoping with for that with your group tomorrow?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, of course the ones that you know the best and you've played the most with or the players you were growing up with, yeah, you tend to talk a bit more with them. But certain tournaments, certain rounds, everyone is so focused on the round, it kind of opens up to a bit more chitchatting. It's hard to say.

Q. Last time when Tiger played over here very famously he used the driver just once. And you are someone who is more comfortable using his 3-wood and irons. Do you think that plays to your advantage or are you going to change your plans with the driver a bit given that the course is not running as much as it did last time?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I thought about using it twice, just to break his record, or was it the other way around? I think it depends on the wind here. It seems to be a couple of drives -- I definitely see more than one. Did he just use it once or did he hit it on one hole? I'd say we'll beat that. I'll use it a few more times. 10 seems to be, the par 5, that seems to be driver. And 16, I'd say, as well. So there's at least two par 5s I'll see driver off the tee. And there could be a couple more holes depending on the wind.

Q. You've played a lot of events over the past 18 months. When you take a break like you did last week at the Scottish Open, how does the fatigue manifest itself on the golf course? Do you feel exhausted mentally? How do you know when it's time to take a break?
HENRIK STENSON: For me it's been time to take a break since January, really. But I haven't had a chance in my schedule to take much. I felt like Scottish was probably the only one in the last couple of months here for sure that I could take off. It's hard when you have a lot of commitments at events. You have a lot of tournaments to play, being a member of two Tours. And that's one thing I've felt during this season that I haven't had much room to kind of change my plans, even if I needed to. But in terms of fatigue, I felt like I regained some energy by being at home and playing in Florida. Sleeping in your own bed for about a month's time. And then went away again with a couple of busy weeks. Instead of practicing a lot, I rested before The U.S. Open, and I felt pretty flat on Sunday. To be honest, I think I squeezed everything out for the first three days and the practice. And the on Sunday I felt like there was not much left in the tank. That's certainly a sign if you're playing the last round in a Major and you feel like you've got no go in the body, then you need to rest a little bit. And it's as much mentally as it is physically, for sure.

Q. Tiger told us that you like to tell jokes out on the course. Do you have any clean ones prepared you could tell us or are you just going to ad lib bit?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I'll just fire away tomorrow and see what comes at him.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Thanks so much for joining us today, and best of luck this week.

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