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April 7, 2015

Henrik Stenson


MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a pleasure to welcome Henrik Stenson, who joins us for his 10th Masters appearance.
Henrik is coming off a stellar 2014 in which he recorded his 12th international victory, as well as Top‑5 finishes in the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship.¬† Henrik tied for 14th at the Masters last year.¬† It was his best performance in the tournament to date.
Henrik, welcome back.
MODERATOR:  Before we open up to questions, would you like to share the state of your game before the 2015 Masters?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, coming off a pretty good run at the last three tournaments on the PGA Tour there with a 4th in Doral and Tampa and 2nd in Bay Hill.
Game was in good shape and had a bit of a spring break with the family and then got the flu.¬† So, yeah, I guess the lead‑in wasn't exactly what I was planning.¬† I had to pull out of Houston last week and just be home and try and recover.
I'm getting better, slowly but surely.  Never as quick as you hope, but I guess it's known that I was pretty much down and out there for four days.  We should get better as we go along.  I'm just trying to conserve a bit of energy as the week progresses and hopefully have some left on the weekend when you need it the most and want it the most.
Game seems to be okay despite the hiccups and preparation and being sick.¬† Just looking forward to the week.¬† It's great to be back to my 10th straight Masters appearance, and I guess it's the one I have not managed to break the Top‑10 in this major, so that's certainly something we are hoping for.
Expectations are going to be a bit lower now given the circumstances, and that could be a good thing.  Yeah, just go out there and try my best, which I would have done even if I would have played the Houston Open and I wouldn't have been sick.  Just try and have a good week regardless.

Q.  What do you think's kept you from finishing better here?
HENRIK STENSON:  Not playing better than 14th, I guess.

Q.  If you can elaborate.
HENRIK STENSON:  A combination.  Possibly I don't feel like out of those nine previous appearances, I've never really gotten here with a game that felt like I'm playing really well at the moment.  It's been once or twice, I feel like I've played okay but never really been on top of my game coming into this week.  That's obviously one thing.
I mean, I feel like I've been putting really solid the last three tournaments on the PGA TOUR and the stats show that, too.
In previous years, I've had some poor weeks on the greens here, and as we know, it's a very difficult week on the greens.  And if you're not putting good or better than good, you're going to struggle to have a good finish here.  So I think that's one part of it, too.
Other than that, it's a golf course that should suit my game pretty good.¬† It's a different week because there's no room for in‑between shots.¬† Something that would have been a decent 20‑foot, or 25‑foot birdie putt on a regular week tends to take a little reach and end up far away from the pin.¬† You either hit a good shot or a great shot and get a really good chance for birdie.¬† Otherwise, you kind of end up with a poor shot anyway.
It's not a week where you can keep on plowing away and give yourself 20‑footers for birdie.¬† They don't stay around 20 feet from the hole here.¬† They are going to be hard ones to make par at.
Yeah, combination of those things.  And any other thoughts, greatly appreciated (laughter).

Q.  Shoot lower.
HENRIK STENSON:¬† Shoot lower scores.¬† I think someone who is really into their stats might‑‑ I don't think I've been in the 60s, either.¬† I've got a bunch of 70s and 71s, but I don't think I managed to be in the 60s.

Q.  You have one 69?
HENRIK STENSON:  Oh, I have one round, all right.  So much for me being the stats guy then.
All right.  So obviously breaking 70 has not been an issue for me around here (laughter), so I hope to do that again.

Q.  Do you think you're a good enough putter to win here?  If you look at the stats this year, you're No.2 in strokes gained putting; that would suggest you are putting pretty good?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, absolutely, I've worked hard on my putting.  I've always considered myself a good putter when I've been putting good, but I just haven't been putting good enough on a regular basis.  So that's been one of my goals to try and elevate that and get more decent putting rounds.
You're always going to have some good ones and you're always going to have the odd week here and there where you're rolling it nicely and holing a lot of putts.  For me, it's been about pushing the lower end and making that better.
I've spent a lot of time the last couple of months in particular on my putting and it seems to have paid off.  Yeah, I definitely think so.

Q.  Would you say this week, it's more important to maybe hole out from 1 1/2, three meters, than to hole everything, to win?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, a lot of times the longer putts are going to be difficult putts around here.  So you're probably happy to just get those close to the hole.  If you've got 45, 50 feet away with some trickle breaks and up and over putts and all the kind of tricky putts you can get on these hard greens, then it's all about trying to lag it, really.
You make‑‑ your percentage on that range is not going to be very high on any given week, and especially not on this week.¬† So absolutely, holing out is key, and that's what makes it hard, as well, because greens are quick and they are quite undulated and you get a lot of slick putts.¬† That's why it's important to leave yourself as much uphill putts as you can.
Again, the targets are kind of small, so it's not easy to get the ball there.¬† Yeah, you've just got to‑‑ holing out is key, absolutely.

Q.  No European has won here this century.  Have you got any deep or meaningful theorys on why that would be?
HENRIK STENSON:  What did you say, didn't play good enough or didn't shoot low enough scores?
I know you guys like to dig around in these things.¬† I remember we had a conversation back in the mid‑2000s about not enough Europeans winning majors, but then whenever Harrington won back‑to‑back Open Championships and G‑Mac winning the U.S. Open; and Rory got on this nice run, Justin and everything.¬† Of course we need to look at one of the majors specifically and see what's not working on that one.
No, I don't have any good answers on that, really.  There's been a couple of close calls obviously, and I'm sure we'll see European winners here, as well, in the near future.
I'll leave the speculations to you (laughing).  That's your job.

Q.  Even though you have a lot on your plate this week, so to speak, as a golfer, are you at all curious to see what Tiger scores Thursday?
HENRIK STENSON:  I'm sure I'll hear about it.  Yeah, of course, in my book, he's arguably the best player who has ever played the game.  So of course I'm going to have some interest to see what he's doing, especially after the break he's had.
I heard someone say that he came out by the pitching green and pitched‑‑ holed out four times in a row from 35 yards yesterday, so his short game seems to be in pretty good shape then, reading that out.¬† Yeah, it will be fun to see and it's good fun that he's back playing again.

Q.  Somewhat related question.  Is there in your mind a correlation between how well a player plays in the practice round and how well he actually plays in a tournament?  The other way to ask it is:  Can you play very well in a practice round and have it all leave you by the time you tee it up on Thursday?
HENRIK STENSON:  You never feel the same each day you step out of bed.  It's always going to change a little bit.  But I think normally you can read into how well someone is playing in general.
But whether it's going to be the week that he's going to win or not; I've had weeks where I feel like I've been hitting the ball fantastic on the warm up and I actually didn't play that good when I went out on the golf course and vice versa.
I think it's more a general feeling.¬† A couple of times in my career, I saw some other players when they were practicing‑‑ or actually it was the first time I set foot at Augusta National here in 1999, I think it was, and I saw Olaz√°bal at the pitching green, and he was nipping every ball so perfectly and playing great bunker shots and everything.¬† I said that to someone, I think he's going to have a good week, and he ended up winning.
Yeah, sometimes you can see some signs.  But again, it's hard to predict winners, as we know, and it's a lot of players and a lot of things that come into play.  So it's not as simple as that, but I think as a general idea, you can see if someone is in good shape and then you will put them down as being one of the possible contenders.  But yeah, this game can come easy and it can leave you easy or quickly, so it's a little bit hard to decide on that.

Q.  When you're lying in your bed suffering from the flu, the first major of the season so close, what's going through your head?  Is it frustration?
HENRIK STENSON:  (Lowering head, in heartbroken fashion).
Nothing I could do about it.  It was better to be sick last week than this week because if I would have had what I had last week this week, I wouldn't be here today.  So it's just to take the rough with the smooth and try to make the best out of it.
The good thing is expectations are kind of out of the window.  I was playing nicely, like I said before, but now I'm just happy to be here and to be able to peg it up on Thursday and make the best out of it.
So Augusta will be here next year, I presume, yeah.  And otherwise, we've got the U.S. Open to try and work towards and hopefully not get the flu before that one.  So I'm pretty chilled about it and just going to try my best.
I was more worried about what I was going to watch on Netflix.

Q.  You're No.2 in the world; are you disappointed that there's not more people in here right now?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, it's kind of heartbreaking, as well.  No, it's just going to make it quicker so I can get out and do my practice session, so I'm quite pleased, to be honest.

Q.  When people picked their Masters favorites this year, many people have mentioned your name, Rory's name, Bubba; if you compare yourself to those two, 1 and 3 in the world, where do you feel you have an advantage against them and where do you feel you maybe don't have that?
HENRIK STENSON:  Better looking (laughter).

Q.  Obviously.
HENRIK STENSON:¬† No, I mean, they are two great players.¬† Obviously I've done some pretty nice results to deserve my spot among those Top‑5 guys on the World Rankings.
You know, Rory and Bubba, both of those players hits it farther than I do off the tee, that's for sure.  I just feel like overall, when I'm playing good, I'm pretty solid all the way throughout my game, and my irons have been the one strong factor in the last couple years, really.  I produced quite a lot of birdie chances with my mid to shorter irons.  That's key here this week.
But you're not going to find anyone Top‑5 or Top‑10 in the World Rankings who can't hit a decent 7‑iron; then they wouldn't be there.
I don't particularly feel like there's one part of my game maybe that stands out.  I feel more like I'm just fairly solid all across the board when I'm playing well, and I'm in good shape.  So yeah, I hope that's going to be good enough.

Q.  Being sick last week, did it affect you this week?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was not planning on doing too much, which is always the danger at a tournament where you want to perform well and play well.  I think that's the challenge everyone that comes here the first couple of years faces because you want to get to know the golf course, work on your game and it's easy to do too much on the early part of the week.
And it's not just Thursday and Friday; it's Saturday and Sunday afternoon that you'll want it and need it if you're going to do well in this championship.
It was going to be fairly paced, anyway, but even more so now.¬† I played four holes now and chipped and putted a little bit.¬† Just do minimal work, really, and I feel quite comfortable around this golf course now.¬† I've played it so many times and it doesn't change a massive amount from year‑to‑year.¬† It's in fabulous condition this year; I think the turf is as good as I've ever seen it.
In terms of strategy and game plan, that's all done already.  I'm quite happy that I can go out and play on Thursday even without setting foot on the golf course beforehand.  Of course you want to do it; so I'm trying to keep it fairly short practice sessions and just try and get my energy back up.

Q.  I might have missed something here, but when you saw Ollie chipping so well and he went on to win, which was '99, you weren't here that year, were you?
HENRIK STENSON:  No, I was just here as a spectator.

Q.  From Sweden?
HENRIK STENSON:  Emma, she went to South Carolina, so I was over here in the springtime working on my game and got a practice round ticket for Augusta on the Tuesday, yeah.  So I was out there with everybody else getting in.

Q.  Did you have a pimento cheese sandwich?

Q.  How many majors have you been to as a spectator?
HENRIK STENSON:  You always come up with these things.

Q.  It's not that hard.  Did you lose your memory?
HENRIK STENSON:  Might only have been this one to be fair.  I think that's probably the only time.

Q.  What would you say is the thing you are most impressed about the course?
HENRIK STENSON:¬† In terms of condition?¬† Like I said, I just think the growth, it must have been good growth temperatures and the amount of rain and everything else‑‑ well, I know you guys, you can make it rain whenever you want.¬† Not a biggie.
But it's in very nice condition.  The ball sits perfectly on the turf, and for pitching and chipping around the greens in particular, and it's kind of nice to have that.  Because the difficulty level of a lot of the shots you're facing, the margins for error are so slim and so small that it's nice to have that perfect surface to try and play those from.
It's in good shape, and the greens were quick yesterday.  I thought they were quick for a Monday.  Probably quicker than they normally are on a Monday.  We'll see if it gets quicker as we go along.

Q.  You predicted the winner back in '99, but you didn't place a bet or anything; you could have made some money.
HENRIK STENSON:  It was a different; it was harder to place bets back then.  I actually had to set my alarm and call my mom in Sweden to go to the bookie, and I ended up forgetting doing that.  So yeah, it's something that still haunts me, yeah (laughter).

Q.  Have you thought about it?
HENRIK STENSON:  I've thought about it.

Q.  Does your mom place all your bets?
HENRIK STENSON:  She didn't do it that time and she hasn't done it since, no.

Q.  Is there any part of you that is surprised you haven't fared well or played better here?
HENRIK STENSON:  Surprised?  I feel like I should have done better, but it just didn't happen.  That's why we're here, trying to change it.  And like I said, those two circumstances early, like I said, you know, if you're not sharp on the green this week, it's going to shine through for sure, and I've had a few tournaments like that in the past; and then just not really feeling like I've come in here with a great game a lot of times.
This is not the place to try and find it.  This is really a difficult golf course, and it's not like you're going to build as the week goes on that easily out here compared to some other places.

Q.¬† Just curious, I'm sure‑‑ take it easy.¬† I'm sure your confidence level has been at various points over the previous nine years you've been here.¬† What kind of a dreadful feeling is it when it's more on the low side than it is on the high side?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, it is an intimidating golf course, and you face a lot of intimidating shots out there.  So of course if you're kind of wrestling yourself to start with, the golf course is not going to make it any easier on you.  And so on the one thing that you would say, it's a generous golf course off the tee in general, or generous in general.
If you're not playing good off the tee, it can still give you a bit of a break.  But you end up in some bad places here, of course.
So let's finish on that positive note.
MODERATOR:  Henrik, thanks very much and good luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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