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November 17, 2015

Henrik Stenson

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

SARAH GWYNN: Henrik, thanks for joining us this afternoon. Welcome back to Dubai. Pretty special for you where you're chasing three in a row here this week. Just sum up your thoughts ahead of the week.

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's one of my favourite weeks of the year, as you know, and yeah, I'm excited about the opportunity to make it three in a row. It's not going to be easy, I know that much.

I've got 59 other players who wants to stop me dearly and I'm just going to go out and try and, yeah, make the same plan and hopefully play somewhat close to what I've done the previous two years, and we'll see if we can give it a shot.

Great to be back in Dubai. Nice to see the sun after a couple of weeks in China, and as always, good weather, good food, good golf course and a lot of familiar faces. It's a nice week to end the 2015 season.

SARAH GWYNN: You have friends and family here this week?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, coming in as we speak. I've got my own crew is coming on Friday, mid day. They are flying over from America and we are going to spend some time here after the tournament and head down to South Africa, as well. It's going to be good to see the kids. Haven't seen them for 3 1/2 weeks, almost a month, so looking forward to that. My parents, they have been here the previous two years. There was no way they weren't going to be here for this year's tournament.

And then of course a lot of friends that I made over the years down here that's going to come out and support and be here at the event. So I'm keeping busy.

Q. You've won here two years in a row. One of the things that really stood out in both the years is the number of greens that you hit in regulation. I think already, after what you have done in the past week at Shanghai, you were hitting 70 greens in regulation the first three days and 16 the fourth day --
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know what happened there. I know something went misfiring (laughter).

Q. Is your game plan going to change in any way from what you have done in the past two years knowing that you have definitely become better as a player over the last two years? Has it changed in any way or are you planning to change anything that you have done on this golf course over the past two years?
HENRIK STENSON: Not really. I think you'd be kind of stupid to change so much of the plan I've used the previous two years. It's going to stay the same.

Today was the first time I was out on the golf course. It played a little softer. The greens were a little softer but it's still early in the week so I'm sure they are going to firm up a bit. They are a bit softer on the fairways, as well. Potentially some of the holes might play a little bit longer and depending on that, it might be one or two more drives maybe than in the past years.

But the spots that I'm trying to hit off the tee is going to be the same. I think it's key to try and avoid the rough and the deep bunkers off the tee. The more greens you hit, it's going to be easier to 2-putt than to make up-and-downs from the rough. So I really feel like I'm getting a big advantage of hitting a lot of fairways and greens, and that's been key to my success here in the past two years.

Q. Can you just tell us what your remaining schedule is for the rest of the year, and also, I believe you're having a knee operation in December, if you would just talk a little about that, please.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, so I'm staying here for a couple of days after the event and then heading down early to South Africa. A bit of safari with the family. Hopefully I don't get eaten by a lion, and then I play in the Nedbank Challenge the week after that.

And then straight back to Orlando for a little scope surgery on my right knee, meniscus cleanup. It's been kind of going in the wrong direction but it's not been that bad, either. I'm definitely still playable, but I want to do it as a bit of a precaution before next year. Rather clean it up now in the off-season and get some rehab done than to have to take some breaks in the middle of the season if it goes bad.

It's such an important year with the Olympics and Ryder Cup and four majors and everything else, so hopefully I can be 100 per cent when the season starts again. My plan is still to start up in Abu Dhabi. I did a similar procedure in 2011 in early December and I was able to play in Abu Dhabi, even though it was kind of tight at times. I hope to be back in action for when we start here again in January.

Q. Was that the same knee in 2011?
HENRIK STENSON: No, that was the left one. Now it's the right one. So I'm trying to balance things up. (Laughter).

But it was a similar procedure, yeah. It was a torn meniscus in my left one and now it's in the right one.

Q. What is it that's enabled you to play so well here? And also you've been a resident of the UAE in the past; do you think it's familiarity with the course that just helps?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think I've always felt very much at home. I made Dubai my home for almost ten years. Coming back here, I feel like I'm coming home in a way, and that certainly helps.

Yeah, I like desert golf. We touched on it earlier there that hitting a lot of fairways and greens, that's kind of my strong part of my game, and that's really paying off on a golf course like this one, and especially on bermuda, same when I won the TPC Sawgrass in 2009, it's also played on bermuda. Good ball-striking is going to give you an even bigger edge compared to maybe a normal week.

So yeah, and it's a fairly long golf course and hitting high iron shots that stops quickly, that's something I can do pretty well at times. So that works well around here, too. A combination of things, but yeah, being so familiar with Dubai certainly helps a little bit, too.

Q. If I asked you to name the Flagship Event on The European Tour, which event would you go for?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think it would be a tight race between this one and Wentworth. Those are the two main ones outside the majors and WGCs on the schedule I would say. I'm not being biased if I say this one but just a little bit.

Q. Keith Pelley's goal over the next three years is to make The European Tour a viable opportunity to the PGA Tour. That's his stated goal. Do you see that as a possibility?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, there's always room for improvement, and I'm looking forward to see what we can make -- what changes we can make to make the Tour bigger and better and stronger. Of course it's always going to be challenges, and we know it's a challenge for the players who play both in America and on the PGA Tour to travel all around the world and play enough tournaments everywhere and so on and still keep the quality of your game and get enough practise and rest in.

So there's challenges, but it's always interesting to see what the new boss has in mind and what he can change in the years ahead.

Q. What have you made of what you've seen of Keith or spoken to Keith so far, and obviously the changes announced, confirmed this morning, about the number of events required to keep your membership; what's your view on that?
HENRIK STENSON: I think it was a welcomed kind of change but it's still not a change. It's mainly a change if you are not having a great year and you're still exempt in America and so on. I had it in 2011, or was it 2012, I was just going everywhere, really, to keep my numbers. I played two in Europe, one in the US and one in China in a month, and then I had a few days before I knew what was up-and-down coming back to the States from that trip.

It just makes it a little bit easier if you're not in all the big events, really. Gives you a bit of a breather then, so I think it's a good thing. For anyone who is Top-50 and are playing all the big ones, it's not really making any difference. So it's still pretty much the same. Same-same but different we could call it.

I'm going to have a little sit-down with Keith later on and it's going to be interesting to hear his thoughts, yeah.

Q. Can I just go back to the thing about the knee. You said it was kind of -- you have a feeling; is it affecting your swing in any way?
HENRIK STENSON: Not really. It picked up this summer. I started getting a little fluid collection on the back of my knee, so it's a little joint fluid kind of slipping out of the knee joint.

Q. Are you subconsciously favouring it?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I'm just hopping on my left all the time (laughter).

When my left one was bothering me in 2011, that really showed up in the prep for Augusta. I was up there playing a practise round with Poulter and G-Mac and I could barely finish the last nine that we played, and I just kind of battled through that year and had the operation done. This one has not been as bad but I feel like it's heading in the same direction. So it's been more clicking and a little swollen and so on, but not really bothering me playing golf.

I was a little worried when I was heading out for this six-week trip, playing five tournaments, that it could be potential problems, but so far, so good. I'm just going to ride it out and get the procedure done. So I can't really -- if I hit a poor shot, I can't really blame the knee, no.

Q. This week there are seven players in contention to win The Race to Dubai and for a lot of them beneath McIlroy, Willett, they need to win this tournament to win. That must make your defence of this tournament trophy a lot harder, and do you relish the competition?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think it's going to be difficult to win a tournament like this no matter how the standings are. But of course, it's going to be maybe even a little bit more focused on a few of those boys; mind when they are coming in, it's all-or-nothing, they have to win to have a chance for the overall title. Might make them try a little harder, but I guess it can back fire if you're trying too hard, as well.

I just need to play really solid if I want to be up there again, and that's my open, of course, and I think it's an exciting week for the golf fans since we have got the two leaders only a thousand Euros apart roughly and a lot of scenarios and a lot of things that can happen there and they can certainly not feel safe, because as you said, the other five players behind them can jump them all with the win.

So an exciting week to watch and for myself, it was much further down and just have to try and focus on a good week to try to make it three in a row and that's exciting enough in itself. Yeah, it's a good week ahead of us.

Q. These knee things that you're having done, are normally the sort of thing that gets done to older people. What's the cause --
HENRIK STENSON: Where are you going with this? (Laughter).

I think it's just wear and tear. I think I put a decent amount of force down through my legs the way I'm swinging. To be fair, I don't know, I might have done the tear in the meniscus might have happened coming off a water slide in the Bahamas or whatever, I'm not sure. I don't have a specific time and place where I feel like, oohh, I think that something went there.

It's probably gradual wear and tear and then some little thing playing soccer in the backyard, which is a good thing to do. No one's been injured doing that.

Whatever, just a little tweak at the wrong time might just send it over the edge. I think it's a lot of wear and tear. I've got a fair amount of stress in my knees in my golf swing. As you know yourself, you're not hitting it 300 yards by just tapping it. It is a fairly common thing among golfers to have to do these things, and I don't know if I'm too young to have it done or not, but I'm turning 40 next year.

Q. One of the things that was in Turkey and also in Shanghai, I saw a lot of Scandinavian players, Swedish players, spending a lot of time in the gym, and one of them actually said that it's guys like Henrik Stenson who have just brought this change of going to the gym and spending time over there. Also, the win for Sweden last week on Sunday. Can you tell me, do they give you credit for what is happening with Swedish golf?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think I can only take credit for the wins that I manage to accumulate. I think I've got nine of those, so it's a fair chunk I guess. But I would like to make it to ten at least. And it would be a good week to do it. I haven't won this year, so it would be a nice one to finish off here.

But to look back on the physical side, I think that was more when Tiger was really coming on the scene. He changed the way players look on the physical side and a lot more players started going to the gym and then of course it becomes a trend and it's a good trend. I feel like I'm in probably as good of shape that I've ever been in my career.

Over these last three years I worked pretty hard with my physio trainer, Cornel, to make sure that I'm fairly balanced and fairly strong. That's hopefully going to prolong my career so I don't need to have any operations or anything (laughing). Injury prevention and just recovering quicker and also being strong in a way that can help you with your golf swing and your golf game is key, too.

So probably it's better to do it late than never, and if I could have done a bit more of this probably ten, 15 years ago, I probably could have been even a little bit better. It's a good thing to do, and that's one of the best advice I could give to any young player to really start early looking after your body because this game is going to take its toll. There's a lot of wear and tear. It's a very one-sided movement, and your body is going to take hits. And when you reach in kind of the regions where I'm in, it starts showing up a lot more than it does when you're 25. It's a crucial part.

It was just great to see Kristoffer win last week. Of course I was trying my hardest to make it ten out of the hundred for myself, but when I couldn't win, I was very happy to see him win. He's been there a few times and he's a good guy and a very hard-working player. Very good to see him win.

SARAH GWYNN: Okay, we'll leave it there. Thank you and good luck this week.

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