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January 19, 2016

Henrik Stenson

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

NEIL AHERN: Henrik, thank you for joining us. Happy new year, and it's great to have you back in Abu Dhabi. Since the last time we saw you, you've been under the knife. Can you tell us a little bit about that surgery and how you're feeling at the moment?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I had a keyhole surgery in my right knee, 9th of December. So it was straight back to the U.S. from South Africa when I played last.

It all went well. Knee looks fine on the inside but obviously it takes some time to recover, and it's a fairly quick turnaround. I did the same one in 2011 when I operated on my left one. Had exactly the same time span between the operation and when I teed it up here back in 2012.

So yeah, it kind of feels the same, as well. It was a challenge to get back to walking back then, and that is the same now. It feels fine hitting balls. That's not an issue really. Just getting back to walking normal and putting it to the test of walking 18 holes five days in a row is going to be the challenge. I did nine holes yesterday in Dubai, and did nine holes before I came out. I haven't played and walked that much. We'll see how that holds up.

But other than that, it's just continuous rehab and doing exercises to strengthen it. Hopefully yeah, it will be as good as new.

NEIL AHERN: You had a good finish to 2015. Is it a case of just trying to pick up from where you left off?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, or even the way I look at it now, it's a big, exciting year ahead of us, a lot of golf, and preparation is going to be key. We got this early part of the year to really put things in place and set yourself up for a busy time of the year.

So there's nothing better in my book than to be here in good weather on good golf courses with good practise facilities good competition to start off the year, and that's why I've been back here year-in and year-out. Part of the inventory here in Abu Dhabi and Qatar and Dubai and keep on coming back.

NEIL AHERN: What are your targets and aims for 2016?

HENRIK STENSON: On my wish list, of course, is to be challenging and hopefully winning a major championship, but also Ryder Cup is very high on that list, and playing in the Olympics and give myself a chance to do well there.

It's always special when you play The Ryder Cup, you represent your continent and your country, and in the Olympics, you represent your country. So it's always an honor to play for Sweden and of course, I hope I can play well.

Q. How would you look back on 2015 as a whole, because obviously you had a good FedExCup series and made a lot of cash, quite a few second places, but couldn't quite get that win. So how would you sum it up?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, performance-wise, it was a very good year, especially I didn't feel like I played to my full potential a lot of times, but I still managed to put myself in contention and have strong tournaments. Then at the same time, it was a little disappointing not to leave that year with a win or two.

But sometimes someone throws a 50-foot putt at you or a couple of them, and other times, I didn't have the things go my way and missed one shot, Boston, in particular, when I was going head-to-head with Rickie and I was in good position to win. Things didn't work out and dumped one in the water on the 70th hole and there's no time to recover.

Yeah, it was a little frustrating, but at the same time, I take big positives when I managed to perform with what I felt like was not my best game a lot of times. I just have to stay patient and try and up that a little bit and hopefully it will go my way in 2016.

Q. What are some of the challenges you faced with this year's schedule, and how may it be different than recent years, because of everything that's going on in the season?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think there's going to be one or two occasions where I normally would have played or tournaments that I would have on my schedule normally that's coming out this year. Yeah, it's just a little bit more on and off throughout the summertime there. You've got British Open, week off, PGA, week off, and then it's the opening with the Olympics and then the Olympics week off, FedEx, and yeah, it's a lot of stopping and starting.

I feel like it's a little bit tougher to get a good flow to the schedule, but at the same time, I've got a few more periods in the springtime where I've got longer breaks and I can be at home and work hard at my game to be ready when it matters.

Q. There was a time when you really got off fast from the blocks in the season, especially during The Desert Swing. The last two, three years, it's been towards the end of the season --
HENRIK STENSON: You're way too observant, Joy.

Q. Could you just explain what has happened in the last two, three years, especially the two missed cuts over here and what has changed?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, of course, that's been a bit disappointing. But now since I'm very much practised and I'm fully fit, it shouldn't happen again this year, right, coming in limping on one leg.

I think it's just been long -- we've personally got very long seasons with very little time in between. I think if you've only got five weeks off, it's not really the time where you're going to work your hardest. So you've got to have some time down and I just haven't been able to pick it up quick enough to perform at these events like I did in the past.

And I've probably just been on a bit more of a break over Christmas, and yeah, that has shown in the results. Hopefully this year it can be a slightly different start than I had in the previous years, but I guess it's long, hard seasons, really, and playing more golf potentially worldwide than I did back in the day when I started off nicely here.

Q. With four members of the world top five under 30 years of age, do you feel a bit old now?
HENRIK STENSON: Definitely not. I'm only 39. I've got a another two months until I turn 40.

Well, the body certainly starts to feel it I guess. In my mind, I'm still probably somewhere mentally between 15 and 18 (laughter) and I'll try and stay that way for long. But I guess I can -- what was the saying, you never grow up, you just learn how to act in public. So I guess I figured that one out.

But of course, it's normal. Every sport develops and the young players now, they are better at an earlier age. You have all the technology and all the help that you can get to become even better, quicker, than what we had. And also competition is tougher.

Yeah, I don't think I have forever, that's for sure, to accomplish what I want to do. It has to happen in the next three or four years, I'm pretty certain of that. But I don't feel old, no. You do. (Laughter).

Q. Simple question: A Gold Medal in the Olympics or a major championship?
HENRIK STENSON: That's a simple but difficult question.

Q. Exactly.
HENRIK STENSON: And one can't have both? I'll take both, thank you very much. Next question. (Laughter).

It's very hard. I think Olympics is new for us. We're not quite sure how it's going to pan out and how it's going to feel to play there. I'm very excited about it. I haven't been to an Olympic Games, so to make it my first one as a participant, I'm thinking it's going to be a lot of great experiences. And then if I can play well and do myself and my country proud, that would be awesome, too.

But I guess if I had to choose, I might take a major championship by a couple of percent. But if I win the Gold Medal, I might tell you differently.

Q. Just going back to the young players, there seems to be a kind of changing of the guard on The European Tour, a lot of good, young players coming through. Do you think that might be reflected on The Ryder Cup Team in September?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm sure we're going to get one or two new faces on the team, absolutely. I think it's good. We have some talent coming up and hopefully they can keep on becoming better and better players.

And also as they progress, they can get the experience of playing more in the majors and World Golf Championships and play a bit in America at times and strengthen up, because it's not going to, the guys who have played in the last couple of Ryder Cups, we are not going to be around forever.

So of course we're here to fill up and the Americans are doing a pretty good job of that at the moment. It's going to be a challenge ahead, I'm sure.

Q. What we saw from you in Dubai isn't what we've come to expect or what you've come to expect --
HENRIK STENSON: No, you had to stand on your hand to see me on top of the list.

Q. By that stage, was the leg --
HENRIK STENSON: It was higher up, I would say. It had been a long -- I mean, as always, we keep on saying that it's long seasons and tough. But mentally, I think I gave it my best during the FedExCup. I had some great results.

But afterwards, I was quite exhausted, and then to kind of start picking up pace again, I had two good tournaments in China, and I just run out of steam in Dubai, I would say. It's always a busy week for me, as well, and I just didn't have the energy to get back after a bad start.

Played okay in the first 15 holes the first day, nothing really went my way. Finished up with a triple-bogey or something on 16, and that was pretty much it for me. I didn't recover from that. But I guess all in all, out of the three years, it's still pretty good with two wins I guess.

Q. I don't know if you saw the pictures of Jamie Donaldson's injury on Twitter yesterday. Is it surprising to see players using something like a chainsaw? Do you own one, and if not, what's the most dangerous thing you do in the off-season?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I got cut by a knife I guess in the knee (laughter).

Q. That was on purpose.
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, it was. Very small knife I guess. I do own a chainsaw. I have used it. I could have been on one of those pictures. I might refrain from using it again. (Laughter) I used to chop wood when I was a kid, or a youngster. Yeah, I had a couple of close calls with the axe, as well, there. So yeah, it's dangerous things.

Q. When is the last time you used the chainsaw?
HENRIK STENSON: Three years ago. It didn't start last time I tried, so it's probably a good thing. You got some trees you want me to -- (laughter). It's fun, though. I think the way it goes, it's just good fun to do something different, and you feel like you're strong, lumberjacking. I think it takes your mind off what you normally do, and it's fun to be sometimes out in the garden and do whatever. But it can be dangerous. We've had a couple of my colleagues find that out.

Q. Can you just tell us what you have to do with your knees at the moment, and anything that you are going to make sure that small little knife doesn't go in for the third time?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's quite simple. I need to put one in front of the other at this point. That's the challenge. But just coming back to walking normal, you kind of break a pattern when you have an operation and you're restricted in your movement and muscles, and all that swelling everything, and start compensating a little bit and walking normal again is a challenge.

But I have a good team, working with my physio and trainer, Cornell. We've done some good work the last couple of days in Dubai and it's getting better. I did much more rehab in the US on this leg than I did on my left one in 2011, so I've put a lot of effort in. You can be strong in certain exercises. But it's all that little twisting and walking down into a bunker and all those things that just takes a bit of time to build up.

But we're getting there, and to stay away from having to have another operation, I don't know, there's never any guarantees on that. But strengthening up as much as possible, of course. So if you feel someone picking up and walking around with you, don't be afraid.

NEIL AHERN: Thank you very much, Henrik. Have a great week.

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