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January 27, 2015

Henrik Stenson


NEIL AHERN:  Thank you, everyone, for coming this morning.  Thank you, Henrik for coming in.  You must look forward to coming back here; you have more European Tour wins than anyone else, and as a former resident, is it always nice to come back?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, of course, it's great to be back at Emirates Golf Club.  I made Dubai my home for almost ten years.  I played and practiced an awful lot here at Emirates, so I feel like I flow this course inside out, and had the success in 2007 and another couple of high finishes.
So, yeah, great to be back, lots of support and it's a really enjoyable week for me being back here.  With a good finish on Saturday as it was in Doha, best round of the week for me, finished off with a couple birdies and got a decent result.  Of course the local knowledge and slight improvement in form should give me the chance to hopefully go a little bit better than I did in Doha.
NEIL AHERN:  Are you feeling confident?  Do you feel like you found something there on Saturday?
HENRIK STENSON:  I feel like it's been slight improvements all along.  I came there with a plan to do some good work with my team and try to move in the right direction, every week and every day.  Not necessarily doing it every day but at least on a weekly basis, I feel like I'm taking some steps in the right direction.
It's always hard to know when you're going to fire on all cylinders, but it's definitely in the right direction and sometimes you find little bits in your game and in your feel, and you can turn it on quite quickly.
At least I'm positive.  Obviously I've played better than I am at the moment, but I certainly played a lot worse, as well.  So we're somewhere in the middle, lurking in the background a little bit.
NEIL AHERN:¬† You mentioned a long‑term plan.¬† Is it going to plan at the moment?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I feel so.  I feel like it is.  I had these three weeks together with my swing coach and physio was out for the first two weeks and conditioning coach, so we did some good gym work.  I got a whole month at home for practise now and preparation before that real intense period leading up to Augusta.
So four weeks at home, a lot of gym work, a lot of golf practise towards the end of that four weeks and then I'll play Doral, Tampa, Bay Hill, week of Houston, Augusta.  So really this is the time of the year now to do the hard work and hopefully play my way into some really good form into Augusta.
But that's a little bit further down the line, so try to get the best result we can here and get some work done.

Q.  I know you said on this golf course, one of the keys is finding the right line off the tees.  But is it unusual preparation for this golf course, the shooting range?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Any time you can fire, hit the bull's eye, no matter what sport you're doing.¬† I have a couple of hole‑in‑ones coming up this week‑‑ if I can keep that same velocity in my swing.¬† It's going to be all good I think.¬† It's a 9mm.

Q.  How important is something like out of the box preparation for you at times, not just sweating it out on the golf course and the driving range but doing something like this just on the eve of the tournament?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I've had a couple of busy weeks.  We do quite a few things outside just playing and practising these weeks and I managed to have a day off and just wanted to do something else.  To relax the mind, you just need to do something completely different.  Doesn't really matter what it is.
I guess I could have been building sand castles down on the beach or shooting a couple rounds at the shooting range.  Just do something different and had a relaxed day yesterday.  Should we should be a little bit more energised and give it all for these six days.

Q.  You seemed to be pretty good at it. 
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I wouldn't say I surprised myself, but towards that (laughter) we all have high expectations, don't we, when we go to a shooting range or darts or anything.  Yeah, I was fairly steady.  You don't want to meet me in a dark alley with a 9mm (laughter).

Q.¬† Players talk about how a course suits their eye.¬† Stephen Gallacher said‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  He doesn't like this one at all, does he.

Q.  How often in a season do you do you feel you stand up on a golf course with that feeling?
HENRIK STENSON:  25 per cent maybe, something like that, 30.  Yeah, it's not every week, that's for sure.
I guess it could be sometimes you really like the look of a course.  It might not be the one that actually suits your game the most but it really looks nice and inviting to your eye.  And then sometimes you might feel like, well, it might not be the course that I enjoy the most but it really suits your game well.  So it's a combination of the two, as well.
But it certainly helps, and what I love about this golf course is that due to slight wind changes, it's going to change how you pick your lines and where you're trying to hit the ball off the tee.  And due to a lot of doglegs, it also gives you that option to be more aggressive depending how you feel about your game and what you think is the right choice.
It certainly is a course that you can play over and over again, and it always feels like you're playing a slightly different course.  It's a great layout in that sense.  If you look at it, it almost goes in two circles, which the wind direction will affect all the holes slightly differently.
Take 13, for on example, the short‑ish par 5.¬† You can hit driver really aggressively and come in with an 8‑iron if you hit a great tee shot.¬† But if it's into, you might have to hit 3‑wood straight out and you can hardly reach the second shot.¬† You can really play many different ways and I think that's great.¬† It's got a great finishing hole set up for some drama, as well, which we've seen over the years.¬† It's a great track.

Q.¬† Most of the doglegs on this golf course, quite a few right‑to‑left, does it really matter how the holes set up for you, or are you just comfortable whichever way the dogleg moves?
HENRIK STENSON:  It will matter for sure, given your preferred shape or your natural shape of your shot, it will make a difference in some cases.  But if you're playing well, even if you fade it, as long as you pick your line and start the ball where you want to and it curves back, it might give you slightly less margins at times but you can still do it regardless of shape.
But a high draw will suit for a lot of the holes.  Isn't that what that kid, what's his name, Rory, is hitting normally?  (Laughter).

Q.  You can make a lot of birdies out here.  Do you come into a week like this thinking that you're going to have to go low this week?  How does that work?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Yeah, you kind of have a rough idea about the winning score.¬† I think we've normally been, what, 17, 19‑under, somewhere around there.¬† It's normally‑‑ you know you're not going to be far away if you get to those numbers, so that's 4‑ or 5‑under a day if you want to be there.¬† Most weeks, you have one day where you might not be scoring that well, also.¬† So you definitely need to shoot some low numbers.
But it's got a number of reachable par 5s, a couple of par 4s that are a little bit shorter, so there's definitely birdie chances out there and you will‑‑ when you know it's low scoring, yeah, you normally start out feeling that you want to be a little bit more aggressive.¬† But it's a good track and it's got a few holes that can bite you back, as well.¬† So you've got to find that balance.

Q.  Further down the road, The Scottish Open, is that in your thoughts this year?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† No, it's still a part of the year when I haven't quite decided yet.¬† I have a few different options in terms of preparation for The Open.¬† I don't like to make promises I'm not going to keep, so I'll leave it uncertain as of now.¬† We'll have to touch base on that later‑‑ maybe tomorrow.¬† Just kidding.¬† (Laughter).

Q.¬† I would like to ask Jim√©nez, he's on this tour and now the Champions Tour.¬† Do you see yourself in the future like him competing‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Smoking a lot of cigars and having long, curly hair?¬† It's great, I just saw that yesterday that he won in Hawai'i, right?¬† And he won his first‑‑ after Augusta, he played and won his first Champions Tour start, as well.¬† He like it is over there on the Champions Tour.
He's a great player.  His game has really stood up over a long, long time because he's got a strong short game.  And his technique on the long game, he's not a long hitter as we know but he swings the club in a very efficient way and keeps the ball in play.  I think he can be around for as long as he wants to, partly because of his sound technique in that sense.
Just shows you that if you can stay competitive on The European Tour, then you're competitive, definitely on the Champions Tour, and even on the PGA Tour.
So it's good to see and he's a fun character.  A lot of people enjoy watching him play and he's a character and we need some characters.  It's good to see him win.

Q.  Before Abu Dhabi, you seemed quite bullish and confident about where your golf was at; obviously that didn't quite work out down the road.  Qatar obviously was more to your liking.  Would you say Abu Dhabi is not a fair reflection of where your game is at at the moment and Qatar is more where it is?
HENRIK STENSON:  I felt like when we started Abu Dhabi I was a whole lot fresher than I was the year before, which might be a bad comparison because I was really knackered when I came there last year.  This year, I was feeling normal, so that felt like a huge improvement, and it was.
And I had not played a lot of golf but I still felt like I was hitting the ball nicely but the closer to the tournament, the further away it got, which can happen at times.¬† Yeah, it wasn't the start I wanted.¬† Yeah, I'm just working away and trying to make the long‑term work take me in the right direction, and not falling into the trap of, I've got to play well this week.
So going for quick fixes is not really what we're after at this point.  So I want to build on the long perspective.  I think I'm taking some steps in that direction, and that makes me happy.

Q.¬† Following on from that a little bit, when your game is on, nobody can touch you really‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:¬† I'm sure there's a few guys though‑‑ but I manage to have some good weeks and leave some of the guys in the dust maybe.¬† (Laughter).

Q.  If that was to happen this week, if you had one of those weeks this week, would that change your scheduling process?  Would you rethink things leading up to Augusta?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† No.¬† I have my plan in place.¬† I'm happy with that one.¬† I'm not going to let any good or bad short‑term things really going to change that one.¬† I've got to try and take my game another step.¬† I've got to work really hard in many different areas and that's what I'm intending to do in the month ahead.
So win or lose here, it's not going to make a difference.¬† The only time where you would make a change‑‑ if I go to, but then you've got scheduling problems, as well.¬† Even because we have a number of tournaments both on The European Tour and the U.S. Tour, so I can't really afford to take too many off even with that month off, I can't take too many out.
But that would be the only thing, if you're feeling like, yeah, I'm really on, I'm really playing well and I've done well in Doral and Tampa, would you then think, you know, maybe I should not push it another week.
But my schedule is kind of set and I intend to stick to that one for the most part.

Q.  Just on the subject of Miguel, how do you view his Ryder Cup captaincy potential?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I think most likely we're going to see a race between Darren and Miguel.  I mean, that's beauty of being a part of the Tournament Committee that no longer votes for it; I don't have to put any thought into it.  I just have to wait like everybody else until the result comes out.
I think we've got a lot of capable candidates for captaincy.  We'll just have to wait and see.  My guess is as good as yours.

Q.  Presumably the committee will take into account the opinion of leading players.  How important is it for them to take on board the views of guys such as yourself?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Yeah, as of now, I haven't been asked in these‑‑ by anyone on that committee.¬† So I'm sure it's made up of the three previous captains, right, and Thomas?

Q.  And George and David.
HENRIK STENSON:  So they have got enough experience between themselves to come up with good decisions.  I'm as curious as you are.  I believe they haven't met yet.  They haven't managed to get that meeting together, so I don't know when it's scheduled to happen.  Yeah, I can give you my thoughts when we see the result.

Q.  How comfortable is that fence you're sitting on?
HENRIK STENSON:  Very comfortable.  (Laughter) good try.

Q.¬† You said you were obviously working towards long‑term aims, but have you had any chats about maybe having a Swedish Major winner this year; Noren finished well last week.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was very pleased to see his come back so well.  He's battled a wrist injury for pretty much all of last year and the back end of 2013, as well.  Great news to see him back and he finished with a 65 I think on Saturday in Doha.  That was great to see.
Yeah, it's all about giving yourself chances.  I know we're going to win one sooner or later.  Of course I hope it will be me.  I would be more worried about me not winning one than being the first one.  If one of the other guys can do before me, great for them.  I'm just working hard to make sure it happens for me, because it's really the last thing missing on my C.V.
So I'm just going to try hard to be well‑prepared when I get to the Majors, and give myself as many chances as I can.¬† I kind of look at it, roughly a five‑year period, that's 20 Majors.¬† If I can come in well prepared, hopefully play well in a number of them and be up there, I fancy my chances I can close the deal at some point.
Whether it happens this year or next year, whether I'm first, second of the Swedes to do it, doesn't really matter.  Just want to make sure it happens.

Q.  You keep talking about having your conditioning and physical work and gym work, everyone talks about the strength of yours.  When you were turning pro, what is the kind of difference that you feel many your own body from that time to what you are now?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Same as everyone in age.¬† Just aches a bit more, right.¬† I think no question, I would have benefitted‑‑ if I could have done the work that I've done with Cornel in the last three years, if I had done that in my late amateur days or early pro days, I would have had a better foundation throughout my career and less chance of injury and I would have been stronger and fitter as a player throughout my whole career.
So it is important.¬† I think more and more of the young players realise that.¬† In the last ten years, fitness amongst the players out on Tour has developed so much.¬† So it is getting more and more, and more for‑‑ if your body breaks down, we see that so many times, players get injured and you can't play if you're injured.¬† That's as important as developing the physical side for being better as a golfer.
It's also to be able to handle the practise and the travel and the stress you put on your body hitting all those golf shots, because it's a very one‑sided motion and it's going to wear you down sooner or later, I start to feel, closing in on 40 in a year or so.
At times back in the day, I didn't really do much other than in the wintertime perhaps.¬† During season it was very little, and then you get that‑‑ you do some good work maybe when you have time off for a couple months, and then you just gradually go down throughout the year and then you have to build up and then you go down; instead of being able to elevate a little in your off‑season, it's a different philosophy and there were times when I didn't do much at all.
Now at least I try and maintain it out on Tour and now I've done a bit more these last couple of weeks to try to get my year started or my season started in that department.¬† When I get back home, it's going to be pretty hard work the first two or three weeks at the gym to get that little bit of base built.¬† Because that's the hard thing when you have a short off‑season, as well.¬† You want to rest, but you have to have time to build up, and if you want to have four weeks off between seasons, it's not really enough time.

Q.¬† Do you like to do weights like 400 pounds and all that‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  It wasn't 400 pounds.  It was only 380.  Those disks are a little deceiving, I have to disappoint you on that.
But I wouldn't say I do as much heavyweights that maybe some of the guys do through a tournament week.¬† If I do it, it would be Monday, possibly Tuesday, and then throughout the tournament days, it's more maintenance stuff and core, back, cross‑over patterns and just overall, addressing some of the weak points.

Q.  What do you put your success in Dubai down to in your opinion?  Obviously you have a personal connection to the place.
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Yeah, I think that's one part of it.¬† I always felt very comfortable here and from having made it my home for such a long time but also the golf course is a good golf course, and it promotes strong ball striking and that's always been a strong part of my game, tee‑to‑green.
Looking at the results I had at Jumeirah Golf Estates, percentage of fairways and greens, might not be the tightest course in the world but I had a very high percentage of greens in regulation.  And if you're playing on a course that has bermudarough, the more fairways and the more greens you're going to hit, it's almost like leveraging your game because it's very uncontrollable out of the rough and chipping around the greens is hard, too.  I guess you get a bit of a double effect if you're hitting a lot of fairways and greens on a course like that.
Here I think it just comes down to having played here so much and really knowing the course.  I guess I like sunshine, as well.
NEIL AHERN:  Thank you.

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