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January 14, 2015

Henrik Stenson


NICK TOTTEN:  Henrik, welcome back to Abu Dhabi.  Obviously we all kind of know the success you've had in the region over the years.  This is maybe the one missing.  How are you looking forward to the week?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I'm looking forward to the week, as always.  I'm doing my 10th tournament out of ten possible, and same on the two other ones, doing my 15th start in Doha and Dubai.   I've played every possible chance that I've had throughout these three weeks.
So it's great to be back here in Abu Dhabi.  It's a great golf course, and I've been second twice, particularly the first year we had in 2006, I think I lost out by a shot to Chris DiMarco in the end.
Yeah, it's the one missing, and I would like to have it, and I probably fancy my chances a little bit more this time around.  Game feels in pretty good shape at this time.  In the previous years, I feel like I've been trying to get going and find it a little bit more.  If there's any signs of the way I've been hitting the ball in practise the last couple of days, I've got the chance to have a good week.  So looking forward to it.

Q.  So what's different this year, apart from the fact that you feel a little fresher?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, definitely feel fresher.  Break may not be a whole lot longer, but stayed in Florida and feel like I've been in touch with golf a little bit better.  Even though I had three weeks with no golf clubs, I still feel like I've done a little bit more beforehand.  When I go back to Sweden to celebrate Christmas, then it's a complete shutdown.
I just feel a little bit more ready to go and a little bit better shape than I was last year.

Q.  Just in terms of the year ahead, how do you view the No.‑1‑in‑the‑world scenario?  Is it something you look at as you want to challenge Rory as a goal for the year?  What's your outlook on that position?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I think he's sitting in a pretty good position.  I'm the one that needs to make up ground as of now if I want to catch that No. 1 spot.
For me personally, I've said that quite a few times now:  I would rather win a major than to be world No. 1, if I had to choose between the two.  Of course, I wouldn't mind to get both at the same time.  That would be nice.  But I'm just working away on my game.
I'm going to try and be as prepared as possible when I get into Augusta and the other Majors, and I really feel with my scheduling this upcoming year that I'm in more control.
Last year was a bit of a hangover from 2013 and I was very low on energy.  When I started the year, I was kind of playing catch up most.  At least the first half of the year was trying to get back to practise in terms of energy and such.
I feel more in control of my schedule and I have a better plan in place, and hopefully I can get back to the preparations that I had in 2013, rather than what I had last year.  So looking forward to that.  And if I play my best golf, I hopefully will have a chance to challenge on both those things, and it can happen in so many different ways, as we know.
World Ranking is showing how you're playing in the last two years, and particularly at the moment.  So you can reach that spot in many different ways, but I'll try and not to‑‑ that's kind of out of my control; and I can only focus on my things and develop my game and play as good as I can, and the rest will take care of itself.

Q.  I was going to ask you about your scheduling.  When you looked ahead this year to the four Majors, apart from Augusta,  what are your thoughts on going to the other two venues, and what about the U.S. Open venue?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I've only seen pictures of it.  I will travel out there before the Match Play, since we're going to the West Coast in the U.S.  I will go there for a day and a half, two days, and get a good look around.
It's nice to do that preparation beforehand, because you can nice and calmly walk around the course, play, or just go and check it out and get a game plan in place, and it's less work and easier to do this then than when everyone is there the week of the tournament.
And Whistling Straits we played in 2010, so it's somewhat familiar.

Q.  As someone who has played this tournament every year since its inception‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  Do I get a balloon or something?  (Laughter).

Q.  There are 12 other guys who have done that, by the way, ten out of ten.

Q.  Twelve.

Q.  Yeah.
HENRIK STENSON:  I thought I was going to be the only one.  Such disappointment.  (Laughter).

Q.  What are your thoughts on the course, how it has developed over the years?  Do you think a 62 that you did in 2006, that kind of a score is still possible with all the new changes that have been made in the golf course?  What do you think about that, as well?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I don't know if I'm biased, but I'm sure it must have been harder to shoot 62 in 2006 (laughter).
The course has changed quite a bit.  There are a few holes that are longer and there's a few more bunkers.  It's definitely been updated and made tougher as we go along.  But so has the game of golf and the quality of golf and the players and so on.  So I wouldn't say that it's impossible to shoot 61 or to tie the course record.  But it's definitely harder to do it now than it was in 2006.
Some of the later years when we played here, the rough has been very, very thick and it wasn't as thick back in 2006, either.  So the setup is harder and the course is harder.  You have to play better to shoot 62 now than I did in 2006.  See how honest I am, right.  (Laughter).

Q.  What about the changes, the new changes; do you like them?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I haven't been out on the course yet, so I'll see those.  I heard the water has been brought in a bit on 12.

Q.  Yeah, 2, 4 and 12, are the major ones.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I'm sure that will be good.  I'll get to see it this afternoon.  I'll try to stay away from it during the week.

Q.  Can I ask you, when you leave the house at Lake Nona and give the wife a kiss and hug the children, what's a burning ambition now going into a new season?  What sort of drives you on again?
HENRIK STENSON:  How is that related?  (Laughter).

Q.  What's the sort of aspirations this year, the goals?
HENRIK STENSON:  As I said, there's really only a major missing on my C.V.  That would be the final little piece, really.  And if I cannot make that happen, of course I will look further ahead and try and make that one into two.
But as of now, that's the focus.  For the years to come, I will try and be prepared, and I fancy my chances.  If I can come well prepared and playing well into most of the majors, and can get up there in contention on a few of them, I hope I can walk away with at least one.
So that's kind of what I try and achieve in my schedule.  But then we have a lot of other good tournaments around the world that we want to play well in, as well.  They kind of fit in there quite nicely.
Yeah, every year‑‑ and that's why it was so nice to win in Dubai on the back end of last year, because no matter how good you've played in a season, you're still looking at how many trophies you managed to bring home during that year.  That just made the whole year stand out a little bit better.
But it was a great year for me, 2014, especially given the challenges that I had for the early part of the year.  I came in as world No. 3 and walked out of that year as world No.2, so it was a very solid season for me.  I think it was only roughly five guys who accumulated more World Ranking points than I managed to do.
So winning tournaments is still important, and the bigger they are, the sweeter it is.

Q.  What made it so difficult actually coming from 2013 into 2014, and do you envisage Rory having similar problems?
HENRIK STENSON:  Not really because I just feel like the attention and the demand on my time went up so much more.  I think he's been used to be that extra bit in the limelight for a number of years now.  So it's not really going to change as much.
Yeah, expectations, of course, there's always a danger, but I think he knows how to handle that part, and for me it was more that I was exhausted.  After 2013, I was in contention so many times for the second part of that year; and you're losing a little bit of energy every time.  And when I didn't give myself enough time to recover after that year before I kicked into another 28‑tournament season, I was just too far behind and I didn't have the energy to practise.  I didn't have the energy to work out, and my calendar was really booked up for the next three to six months into 2014.
And you have a little bit of the blame, as well.  You're one of the media, everyone's chasing me, or was chasing me (laughing).
So it was a number of things.  And that's what I feel now.  I'm better at saying no.  I've declined more things than I did in the early part last year.  Yeah, just getting the balance back in being more‑‑ how do you label it; but I'm a little bit more in the limelight than I was before 2013 season.

Q.  When you sit down and analyse your relative positions in the World Rankings and you look at your relative performances in recent years, what's the difference between you and Rory McIlroy?
HENRIK STENSON:  Other than that he won two Majors last year?  (Laughs).

Q.  What makes him two win Majors and you not win two Majors last year?  Is there a difference that you can put your finger on?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I think I got the possibility; if I play as well as I can in those events.  I didn't perform my best at any of the Majors.  That's really the difference.  He's got a very strong game.  I'd say he hits it a bit further than I do.  But then it's down to what form you bring into the Majors a lot of times.
I don't see‑‑ I wouldn't say that I‑‑ I see myself as being able to win a major championship, as well, if I play that well and put myself in the right position.  I've been close a couple of times, but I get to the PGA last year, I think I started four shots back in the last round.  And it was I think the second round, I just didn't play good enough in that round, and I gave up those three or four shots in that round.  And you can't really afford to do that if you want to be the world's best.
So in terms of our game, possibly putting has not been my strong point.  I'm a good putter when I'm on, but my kind of low end on my bad days haven't been as good as they need to be or over a whole season, I guess.  So that's something I'm working on, and if I can elevate my putting just a little bit, I think I'll be right there.

Q.  When he was at his peak, there was a sense of separation between Tiger and the rest.  Is there that same sense of separation developing between Rory and the rest, or is it too early to say?
HENRIK STENSON:  Might be a little bit too early to say but we know what a great player he is and how well he can play.  It's just down to see if he can be as dominant as Tiger was.  Of course, as one of the guys chasing him closely, I hope that's not going to be the case.
And I think potentially, the game of golf, there's more players with a chance to win than there was maybe ten, 15 years ago, and we see that at the Majors, as well.  There's more new players who put themselves in position to win.  So it's probably tightened up quite a bit, as well.

Q.  We don't see as many clubs snapping or putters drowning‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  I thought you were on my side, Joy.

Q.  In the last couple of years, there have not been too many incidents like that.  Is it just the age, or is it something that you've been consciously working on with Torsten and your team?
HENRIK STENSON:  First we are talking about club snapping, and now we are mentioning my age.  Oh, Joy, it's going to be a tough one for you (laughter).
I think it's a bit of both.  I don't want to by any means take away that passion or fire to perform well.  I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I'm working hard at my game.  So if I don't get the results that I want, the disappointment sometimes spills over.  And I have quite a good patience, but sometimes even that runs out.
And there's been the odd incident over the years, yes, I admit, nothing we are particularly proud of.  But there's a danger if you are trying to completely take that away, it might take something else away that's actually an advantage.
But the position I am in, I've got a lot of eyes on me and I'm trying to behave at my best behaviour, yeah.  And I'm turning 40 in two years' time.

Q.  You talk very well about Rory and at other times you've talked about the strengths of other players.  I want to ask you to try and explain to me what you think they say about your game.  What do you think they regard as your greatest strength?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, it's probably a combination of two things.  I would think good iron play, good ball‑striker.  That is kind of the foundation of my game.
And then I can win some big tournaments and I don't normally shy away too much when I'm in position to win, either.
So hopefully they feel that I'm on their tail and I'm not going to let go too easily.  So I don't know, what do they say?  I don't listen to them (laughter).

Q.  I'll tell you.  Do you think they say anything about your mind?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, that's what I meant on the second part; that when I'm in contention, I normally perform pretty well, and yeah, and that I'm one to count on if I'm up there, absolutely.

Q.  Just very quickly.  I wonder if one or two of the four Majors this year, particularly ones that you fancy, the venues maybe more than the other ones?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I played well in 2010 at St. Andrews, finished third, even though a few shots behind Louis.  But I'm really looking forward to coming back to St. Andrews.  I had time on my life there in 2010, and I think it's a course that just grows and grows on you, and the atmosphere of both The Open Championship and staying in St. Andrews; I felt like a kid again almost.
I was just eager to get out there and get to play, and it's not everyone week you feel like that.  So I'm really looking forward to coming back to St. Andrews.  Augusta is a course that I think will fit my game, or should fit my game very well, but I haven't‑‑ that's a major I've probably performed the worst out of.  So I hope I can turn that around; and as here, it's my 10th anniversary, I'm doing my 10th straight Masters, as well.  So hopefully the experience over those last nine years will come into play when we go there in April.
And as mentioned, Chambers Bay, I don't really know anything about how that's going to play.  And Whistling Straits I played in 2010.  But I fancy my chances probably more at some of the other ones than that one potentially.  So that's a given that I will win the PGA Championship I guess, that's how it normally works (laughter).
NICK TOTTEN:  Thanks Henrik.

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