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November 19, 2014

Henrik Stenson


STEVE TODD:  Thanks for joining us.  Welcome back to Dubai.  There's been a few changes since last year but I'm sure it still brings back some very happy memories to be back here this week.
HENRIK STENSON:  What changes?  (With poker face).  Yeah, there's a new tee on 14.

Q.  There's a waterfall.
HENRIK STENSON:  The waterfall.  No, it's good to be back.  Of course, last year was very special, and, well, I know it can't be as special this year because Rory has already won the overall race.
But I can make it a very special week for myself by playing well here and hopefully give myself a chance to win.  I haven't defended a title as of yet, so I couldn't think of a much better place to do it than here this week.
STEVE TODD:  It's always a time for reflection, you've said before, it's always going to be difficult to follow last year but it's been a pretty good effort so far this year.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I'm pretty pleased with the overall performance.  It was going to be a tough one, especially early doors in the season, it was tough.  I was battling a bit of fatigue and when you're in a bit of a bad spell there, if you're tired, you don't have the energy to practise and get going with the game and then it just becomes a bit of a bad cycle.
From kind of late spring and onwards, it's been quite all right and contended in a few events and had a couple strong results.  Overall it's not a bad season by any means.  I think I got close to 200 World Ranking points on the board, which is always a good indicator for a strong season.  It's a win that's missing, and hopefully I can take the opportunity here.  Otherwise, we'll try and come back and do it early next year.

Q.  You talk about the fatigue, which was obviously the product of such a great year last year.  Is there anything that you will do differently off the back of, what you say, is a successful year this year, to counteract that for next year?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I'm excited about next year's schedule.  I feel like I found a good rhythm to it and giving myself those breaks for rest and practise and gym work and everything.  I kind of had a great formula from 2012 and into 2013, and then I felt like I slipped out of that one a little bit due to a lot of different reasons.
I'm excited about trying to get back into that, because it was a pretty good recipe I had.  So I want to get back to doing all the little bits and pieces right and focus on all those processes, rather than trying to find your game and work on your game when you're out here, I'll do that away from the tournaments.  When I'm out here, I'm here to be fresh and be ready to compete.
It is a challenge to get it there, but it's definitely doable.  Playing a few less tournaments is one part of it.  I played 31 tournaments in 2013 and I think I'm down to 28 this year and I would like to get it maybe one or two off again for next year.  I think 26 is probably a good number for me.  Yeah, it looks good.
And we know how much golf it is from March all the way through the FedEx.  There's tournaments every week, but it's a very packed part of the season.  If you're not coming in there feeling reasonably fresh and practiced, then you're trying to catch up throughout that whole period.  That's what I was this year and I don't want to be the same next year.

Q.  Do you give yourself a bit of a break after this event before you start again in the new campaign, because it's been a hell of a season, and there must be some sort of fatigue right now.  Do you get away from it?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I think the good thing for me at least, I played two tournaments in eight weeks after the FedEx was done, a couple of weeks off, Ryder Cup, played the Volvo Match Play in England and had a couple of weeks off with the baby.  I haven't played that much golf with the last couple of months and then we have this run here with three tournaments.
I'm heading back to the U.S. when we're done here.  I'll play Tiger's tournament because it's in Orlando, so I can stay at home and drive across town which is nice.  Otherwise I would have been pretty much done and dusted after this week, and then I will start off in Abu Dhabi again.  I've got more of a break, and I'm travelling less during the break, as well.
That's the other problem; if you've got a few weeks off and you're going to go back to Sweden and you're going to visit family and friends.  I did that a couple years ago and I said, no, that's not the formula.  Everyone comes to see us, not go to see them (laughing).  I've done enough, and 30 weeks on the road is enough anyway.  We're going to spend Christmas in the U.S. and I'll be back down here.
So I'll probably get about five weeks off and some family time and should be ready to go in Abu Dhabi, and then I'm also taking all of February off in the U.S.  I'm going to be home and practise.  So when Doral comes, I should be good to go again.

Q.  Do you regard the U.S. as home now I guess rather than Sweden?
HENRIK STENSON:  (Nodding in the affirmative).

Q.  Do you get back to Sweden very often?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, as soon as school's out in the springtime, family goes back.  So my family is based about ten weeks during the summer holidays in Sweden, and then I play probably four or five weeks of those, I play around in Europe.
I get probably about four to five weeks in the summertime and then normally two weeks for Christmas, but we are skipping it this year.  We're not skipping Christmas (laughter).

Q.  How much do you reflect back on the last Sunday of this tournament last year, and especially on those two shots that you hit on the 10th, the 5‑iron, and the 18th‑‑ 12th and 18th?
HENRIK STENSON:  I got shot of the year for the 3‑wood on 18, but the on I rate equally as high was my three‑quarter 5‑iron in those conditions to the 12th green, which is a very difficult green and it was a very difficult pin position.  At that time in the tournament, it was a crucial birdie and that really put me ahead with a bit of a cushion.  So that's definitely one of the best shots I've hit.
So to have two shots like that in the same round is special, and I spoke to someone yesterday and we talked about the stats, and I think I hit 68 out of 72 greens.  It was the ball‑striking that won me this tournament last year.  I had I think 78 percent fairways and 94 percent greens or something.  It was the ball‑striking.  Putting I was pretty much average of the field I think and still managed to win by five or six.
I think playing on bermuda golf courses, it gives a big advantage if you're striking the ball nicely, because playing out of the rough, it's difficult.  You don't know how it's going to come out if you get jumpers and you can come out dead.  It's difficult to judge and same around the greens.  So a solid ball‑striking week on a bermudagrass golf course, it always seems to help a lot.

Q.  When you come back on the course where you have done so well the previous year the last time you played, when you make the start on Thursday, what will be your aim and what would you like to do?
HENRIK STENSON:  I think one of the dangers is‑‑ did I shoot 25‑under last year, I think it was?  So one of the dangers is, of course, that there's no‑‑ you can't bring that with you too much.  Because if you're going to shoot 25‑under again, which I'd love to do, then it's hard work.  You've got to do it again.
Sometimes I say to my caddie, "The ball doesn't know.  It didn't know what we did.  Just because we won last week, the ball doesn't know that this week.  We've got to tell that Titleist once again."  You see how I slipped that one in there?  (Laughter).
He has to be told again what to do, and it's the same thing.  I can't, just because I played great here last year, it's not going to guarantee me anything.  Yes, I know a good way to play this golf course for my game, but I still had to do it and still got to be as focused and patient when I go out there tomorrow and try and do it all over again.
There's no guarantees, just because you've done well in the past, and sometimes that could be a challenge, as well, to kind of let go of that and just focus on what you're doing at this point.

Q.  Tiger Woods, you talked about the tournament, in what way do you guys miss him or competing against Tiger Woods, or maybe you don't miss it?
HENRIK STENSON:  (Laughs).  Depending on how I answer now, do you think that could put me in trouble?  (Laughter).
In my book, Tiger is the greatest player.  I've played a lot with him over the years and of course, I never played with Jack and Gary and Arnold, but just in the way that Tiger has won some of his tournaments, I rate that possibly even higher than some of the others, just some of the shots he's hit and putts he's made under certain circumstances.
In my mind, he's the best player, and of course you want him to be part of the tournament.  You always take extra credit when you win a tournament that he's part of the field.
You know, he brings so many fans to the game and a lot of attention to the tournament, so of course he's missed when he's not playing.  And as with anyone, we know how frustrating that is to be injured, so everyone's been wishing him a speedy recovery and we want to see him back as soon as possible so we can beat him (smiling).

Q.  Can you give me one thing that strikes you above all others about Paul McGinley's captaincy at The Ryder Cup?
HENRIK STENSON:  (Pausing) One thing?  He did many things so great.  I think it's a lot to do with the prep work.  He had looked into so much attention to detail trying to make sure that so many things were right for us that week, but at the same time, not being too much.
So I think it was very well balanced in that sense of, you know, making sure that we feel like everything's been covered; but, you're still not telling everyone what to do.

Q.  What is something that you had asked him to do and he did, or was it something that he did specifically for you?
HENRIK STENSON:  (Pausing reflectively.)  Why don't we just go back to the normal easy questions.  (Pausing).  How much tape do you got in your camera?

Q.  The pairing with Justin?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, that's‑‑ again, you step up and deliver.  Thanks, Joy.
That was one thing, definitely, with the pairing like that, we came across the idea quite late.  I texted him about two weeks before and said, you know, I fancy a game with Justin.  We had spoken a little bit about it and we think that's a good idea, and, yeah, he came back to me and said that was along the lines of where he had been, as well.  He put us out first and gave us that responsibility and we managed to match up on that and played some great games together.
A captain that listens to the players kind of feelings on certain things, that's important, and he certainly did that.  But just the whole feeling, I felt like he really spent a year and a half of preparation making sure that everything was set when we got there.  He didn't want to be too much involved leading up to more than the last couple of weeks before.  He wanted us to focus on our games and play our tournaments, and then when it was time for The Ryder Cup, he had looked into a lot of things and made sure that everything was right.
Great week and he did well, and a lot of motivational points, and the short, good meetings in the team room at night.  Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel.  You just need to remind people about it and along we rolled.
STEVE TODD:  Next question.
What are we going to answer on this one, Joy?

Q.  I wasn't going to go in this direction, but speaking of reinventing the wheel, straddling the Atlantic on both sides as you do, what was your reaction to the U.S. forming this committee trying to solve this Ryder Cup thing?  A lot of people, including a few of us Yanks have kind of laughed at the idea that it's anything more than just playing a little bit better.
HENRIK STENSON:  I mean, playing better is obviously a big part of it.  But yeah, I think whenever you're not in any way not getting the results that you want, of course you've got to evaluate it and see if there's something you can do different or better to try to get a different outcome in the future.  That's kind of part of that process.
Well, I think if that's what an organisation feels like they need to do, I think it's a good thing.  They might come to the conclusion that, I think this is the way we should do it and hopefully get a different result in the future.  But it could be anything from how you choose The Ryder Cup captaincy, something we have made a change now, just in terms of having a different structure on who is going to choose.
I think it's a smart thing.  Hopefully for us Europeans, the outcome is going to be the same in years to come and we can retain the Cup.  But that's one part of it.
And of course, it's down to, biggest part is always going to be down to what the players do on the course and how well we play.  I wouldn't laugh about it.

Q.  I'll give you an easy golf question then.
HENRIK STENSON:  Thank you, thank you.

Q.  How pleasing was your final round last week, given from what I saw the first three rounds could have been better.  How pleasing was it to get that final round?
HENRIK STENSON:  It was pleasing.  I struggled on the greens the first three days.  I had a bad hole on the first day.  I was 5‑under after I think ten, 11 holes and was going nicely and then that round turned into nothing, really, and did the same for the next couple of rounds.
So to finish off with the best score of the week for me on the Sunday was very pleasing and gives the confidence a little boost.  I was putting nicely, and of course I would love to bring some of that momentum in here this week.
Yeah, when you finish good on a Sunday, it always gives you that extra little boost I think.  It was good.  I didn't think I was going to finish as high as third in the end.  When I finished, I would have expected possibly to be tied with a few guys or maybe one or two to sneak by me, but it was good enough for a third in the end.  No, I was happy with that week and that put me up here in second for Race to Dubai.
So yeah, I've got nothing to gain and everything to lose this week being second when I can't pass Rory.  It just gives me a good opportunity to get that second spot.  That's what I felt like when I‑‑ first of all, not playing all four of the final events due to the baby, I felt like it was always going to be a case of trying to finish second and if I could follow‑up my win last year with a second place finish, that still shows that I played a good year.  I'll still be happy even if I finish third or fourth or whatever.  It's a chance for that.  So I'll try and make the most out of it.

Q.  You talked about Tiger being the best.  In your opinion, how does Rory at his best compare to Tiger at his best?
HENRIK STENSON:  Very good question.  I think he's got pretty much the same potential.  I think we all see that; that he could be that dominant force in the next five to ten years that Tiger was.  I think he's got such a big game, and he's got every opportunity to be it.
Of course, Tiger is proving himself more than Rory has at this stage, but he's got every chance and it's going to be an exciting time for golf fans and everyone that follows the game to see if he's going to fulfil that potential to the fullest.
We know he's a tough player to beat when he's playing well, for sure.

Q.  There's a lot of talk amongst the media about a new era of dominance potentially with Rory.  Is that what you as players feel; we are in this transition period now?
HENRIK STENSON:  If he keeps on playing as well as he's done, then of course he's got that chance.  But there's a lot of good players out there.  So I'm sure‑‑ and I'm not done yet, so I'm going to try and stop him of course for the next couple of years.
I'm sure some of the other guys, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and a few of the other guys that have come up in the last couple of years, they are going to try and stop him and keep on developing being better players.  Got some guys coming up in Europe, as well.
I think every sport develops and it's going to be no different for us.  It just going to be tougher and tougher, and if Rory can be as near dominant as Tiger was for such a long time with the competition being harder and harder, that's going to be very impressive and it will be fun to watch.

Q.  Do you think he can beat where Tiger is at?  Do you think Rory can beat where Jack's at?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I mean, it will be tough.  It will tough to get to 14 Majors, but he could do it.  It would be even tougher to get to 18.  I guess it depends on how quickly‑‑ the next couple years will be crucial for the number.  If he can win two a year for the next two or three years, then all of the sudden you are making some good progress.
But I'm sure in one way that if he would say, if Rory would win one major a year for the next ten years, then he would be close.  But it would take some golfing to do it.  You can't just sit here and analyse it.  You need to go out here and actually do it.

Q.  Just wondering, sorry if I'm late to the dance on this, when was the baby born, what gender, what name, and are you guys through?
HENRIK STENSON:  We had a baby girl named Alice on the 26th of October.  How embarrassing if I got that one wrong.  So she's three weeks and a little bit.  Everything went well and born at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando.  She was six days when I left and she'll be a month when I get back home.  Probably be walking and talking and all sorts.

Q.  Is three about enough for you guys, or have you talked about that?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yes, I haven't done any official snip‑snips as of now but‑‑ (laughter).

Q.  I didn't ask that.
HENRIK STENSON:  But that's what you wanted to know.  You just didn't have the "balls" to ask (laughter).
STEVE TODD:  On that note, thank you for joining us.

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