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July 15, 2015

Henrik Stenson


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'll make a start. I'd like to welcome Henrik Stenson to the interview room. You've had three top-three finishes in The Open. You did very well at St. Andrews in 2010, one of those finishes. Do you feel you can go one stage farther and win the championship this week.

HENRIK STENSON: Well, you always hope so. I've done some good British Opens earlier, and I mean, it's still very hard to win a championship like this and to win golf tournaments in general, but we obviously have to try, and that's all you can do, try and give yourself a good chance come Sunday. Yeah, I feel my game is heading in the right direction. It's certainly been better, but it's been worse, too, a lot of times, and I've probably managed to do some good tournaments when it's been worse. Yeah, there's hope there, that's for sure. I feel I've got a good idea how to play this golf course. I've played it probably 45 times now over the years. What I don't know I'm probably not going to learn by having one more practice round I would imagine. I feel quite comfortable out on the golf course in terms of what to do, and even got my caddie in the back of the pressroom here who wants to get away from the rain that just started again. What we can't come up with together, then I guess we're not going to know it.

THE MODERATOR: You obviously relish this special atmosphere at St. Andrews, coming back here.

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it is a bonus for sure. It's a treat playing The Open Championship to start with, and to do it here at St. Andrews just makes it twice as good, I'd say. I had a great time in 2010, and if you enjoy yourself, you've got better chances of playing well, and that's what I did in 2010. It always helps to build on that, and you never know, we might be -- it might be my last British Open at St. Andrews. You never know. So might as well enjoy it, right?

Q. You said earlier you thought you knew how to play the Old Course. What do you believe the keys are to playing it?
HENRIK STENSON: Drive it good, hit good irons and putt well.

Q. The usual?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, of course the usual are always going to work. But I think there's always been a lot of talk over the years about how far left you can hit it but that actually closes the angles into the greens on a lot of holes. Of course the more daring you can be with your tee balls you're going to give yourself better angles into the second shots, especially when some of the pins are tucked away and some of the longer clubs, as well. That's one thing. Other than that, you're going to putt a lot of times when you miss a green. Your long-range putting has to be good because you end up with a lot of 40, 50, 60-footers throughout the course of the week, and it's important to two-putt those ones. Good short-range putting and good lag putting is going to be crucial, and staying out of the bunkers as we know is also good advice. I think I just have a rough idea where to hit it on every pin, on every hole, and this is a course where you've got to be pretty aggressive on a lot of holes, but there's still a few that you'd be very happy if you can make par throughout the week, and certain pin positions you've got to be a bit careful with. I feel like together with my caddie we have a good grip on that, and it's all about how well I'm playing when we're trying to execute that plan.

Q. You mentioned feeling comfortable around here and the amount of times you've played here. Is that experience likely to be particularly valuable if we get the weather that we're expected to get?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think so. Knowing this golf course in different kinds of winds and weather, it's definitely a plus and an advantage. Yeah, just how much it can change in a couple hours, we know that, and I played a few holes this morning, and it was pretty wet and playing long, and then a couple hours later the sun comes out a little bit and you feel like you could hit it 25 yards further than you did just a couple hours ago, and that's obviously going to affect how you play some of the holes and what lines you can take and what clubs you get into the greens. Yeah, everything adds up for sure in terms of experience.

Q. You mentioned it could be maybe your last here at St. Andrews in terms of Open Championships. We heard from Tiger Woods this year about how far he sees his game going. Do you ever assess that in terms of how many major opportunities you might have at the top of your game?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I look at it four years, five years down the line. That's kind of the time range that I see at this point. That would make it anywhere between 15 and 20 majors, really. Yeah, I'd better get to work, hadn't I.

Q. Yesterday we came to know that you have signed your first golf course design project. If there are certain aspects or an inspiration that you want to draw from as an architect from St. Andrews or from the Old Course, what would those be?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think my initial concentration on the architectural side would be a lot into the strategy of playing and that you have a lot of options. I like to have a lot of options on a tee shot, and also the risk and reward concept, that the better you do, you stand up to those challenges, and if you do that right, you're going to get the reward on the next shot. I think off the tee, like we mentioned here, you've got bunkers down the right-hand side on most of the holes, and if you try and keep it fairly close to them you get a much better angle in for the second shot. There's always something you either have to give up or something you have to gain by doing certain things, so that's something I want to incorporate. And then I think you can do a lot for trying to make a course that's playable for the everyday golfer but then also have that opportunity to juice it up a little bit when you're playing tournament golf. That's a tough balance to come out right. But I'm certainly going to try.

Q. You've flirted with the Claret Jug on a few occasions. Do you feel ready to consummate the relationship this year, and might the Scottish weather and the conditions help you in that regard?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I've certainly done some good tournaments and good Opens in some tough conditions. I understand we've got some rain on the way for Friday, I believe, and I don't know what the wind forecast is for the week ahead, but in terms of weather, I kind of take it one day -- every day as it comes. You've just got to be prepared to play in some tough conditions. It has suited me pretty well in the past. I think either pretty good conditions, or if it gets really, really tough could suit me, as well. We'll see what we get. Yeah, if we're ready -- I don't know if you ever feel ready or if you're feeling too ready, then that might be a bad thing, too. Yeah, I wouldn't mind a date... not with you, with the Claret Jug.

Q. What's your record over The Old Course?
HENRIK STENSON: I was third in 2010. I think I was somewhere around 30th in '05, and then I got a couple of good Dunhill Links performances in the past, as well, so I've done reasonably well.

Q. You were very much a contender a couple of years ago and went close. Apart from the obvious, what does it take to close the deal, and how much is luck a factor?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it definitely is a factor. I think every time you're inside the top 10 in a golf tournament, you're probably playing good enough to win, or if things works out for you, then you could have won if you're inside the top 10 more or less. I think that's how tight professional golf is right now. You see it in the scores. There's normally five to 10 guys on every number there in the result list. It might be a little bit less right up at the top, top 3 and so on, but if you're inside the top 10 you're probably playing good enough to have a chance to win. And then the more down, if you've got the 10, 15 per cent with you for that week, you need a good bounce, you need a break at the right time, and those things can keep the momentum going, all those little bits. But of course you've got to play well enough to be there on Sunday and be one of the guys a couple of shots behind or a couple of shots ahead, and then you can make it happen. Every time you're up there, you learn something, and I've managed to win some nice tournaments and still haven't got a major championship, but of course every time I show up, I hope this could be the one.

Q. As a follow-up to that, you've won some very good championships. If your career didn't get you a major, how much would you regret that?
HENRIK STENSON: Devastated. No, I think if I look at the big picture, how much I've managed to achieve coming from a little junior in Sweden standing there practising, dreaming about playing golf worldwide and competing in the big events, I think I've come a very long way. But it would be the icing on the cake, no question. But I would still go to sleep, I think, fairly happy even if it didn't happen. It's a bonus, and I'm trying hard to make it happen.

Q. Just wondering what you think of the course changes and whether you think they'll be much of a factor this week in determining the championship?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I think -- there's the odd bunker and some more pin positions on the 11th and so on. No, I think it's just knowing them and having a plan for where to try and hit the ball when the pins are in new positions. But overall, it's still kind of playing the same way. I don't think that's going to play a major factor unless you wing it over the back on 11 because then it might play a factor.

Q. About two, three years ago I remember you telling us that you had major problems with pollen in this area during this time of year and that really used to affect you in quite a few tournaments. Have you gotten over it because you look perfect at the moment.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the pollen in the early part of the summer, especially back in Sweden and certain parts of Europe is still a little bit of a problem. It's not as bad as it once was, but I'm feeling it. There's the odd sneezing and eyes are itching and I get a little bit tired, especially when I come in after being outside for a good few hours, then it kind of wears down on the immune system a little bit. But it's not a massive thing, but it's still there. But obviously I disguise it well then.

Q. Would you mind answering a question in Swedish for us?
HENRIK STENSON: (Answer in Swedish.)

Q. Could you maybe answer this one in Scottish for us, please?

Q. I don't know how you feel but I think this is viewed as the major major. What would it mean to Swedish golf if you were to win it here this weekend? Do you think it would brighten up the sports pages?
HENRIK STENSON: We'll have to see about that. Let's try and win it first and let's see who it knocks off in the sports pages. Yeah, it would be huge, of course. We've come close a number of times. I think we've got -- I don't know if we've got four or five second, runner-up finishes in Open Championships and a bunch of other close, good results. Then again, you can be second without being close to winning, which is another thing, of course. But yeah, it would be huge. I would be very happy if I could win a major championship at some point, whether I'm the first Swede to do it, that's less important for me. I'm trying to make it happen for myself. That would be key. It would have a big impact back home and for Swedish golf, no two ways about it. And yeah, as a kid growing up, when I started following golf, it was the Ryder Cup and The Open Championship that I was watching, so yeah, this probably holds a little bit higher place in some of the golfing Europeans' hearts.

Q. Can you just expand about playing at this level for another four or five years or already contemplating your retirement, or what did you mean by that?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it was more I kind of look at it as if the body holds up and things go rather well, then I should have another four, five years at the top of my game, I hope. Unless I manage to win this thing, then you're never guaranteed to be in them in the future. That's kind of why I said, you never know in five, six times where you're at. I might be 51st in the World Ranking then and not be here for 2020. You've got to enjoy things when you're at the top of your game, as well, so that's what I'm trying to do here this week and enjoy the atmosphere, whether it's a little drizzle and a little windy at times, but that's part of it. But yeah, to actually answer your question, I guess, yeah, there will be one point when I will be considering other things in life, as well.

THE MODERATOR: Henrik, thank you for joining us.
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