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January 21, 2016

Henrik Stenson

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

HENRIK STENSON: Great start. Best start I've had here in years, ever, possibly. Happy with the putting. Short irons were really good. A couple of tee shots maybe not so good, but all in all, I kept the score together and played a really good opening round.

Q. You mentioned being on one leg; keyhole surgery on the knee, I believe, in the off-season. How is that feeling? How is the recovery? You haven't been walking a lot, have you.
HENRIK STENSON: That's the big challenge, really. The knee feels good. I'm hitting shots with no bother and walking is really the issue. But not so much for the knee; more for the foot and the hip I would say.

Yeah, I feel that I've been out there two times 18, yesterday in the Pro-Am and today. Not much more going on today than icing and resting.

Q. This is a tournament that you'd be keen to win, I'd imagine, because you've won in the Middle East; you've won the Classic, you've won in Qatar. What would it mean to put this one and make the full hat of it?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that would be great. I mean, I made Dubai my home for almost ten years and feel very comfortable in this part of the world and played some great golf, so it would mean a lot. I came very close, especially the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in 2006. I think I lost out by a shot to Chris DiMarco. It would be nice to get this one and get the full circle.

Q. What is it about these events in particular that suits you so much? Clearly that's something you love about here; you made it your home. Is there something about the courses that really suit you?
HENRIK STENSON: They are good golf courses and you've got to play good around here and I managed to do that quite a lot of times. What is there not to like: Good course, good edge we are, good practise, good hotel; how much should I keep on going? They look after us really well here, and it's always great to be back.

That's why I really pushed for it to make my debut here. Even though it's touch and go with the knee, I didn't really want to miss it. Yeah, it's good to be back and nice start.

Q. As an old man of nearly 40 years of age and two dodgy knees, what's it like to be right in there, world No. 5; how exciting is it to be fighting off these young guns?
HENRIK STENSON: It's great motivation. They all played great last year. I had a great season. I didn't manage to get some silverware, but hopefully I can change that this year. I'm going to just try and prepare well for the season and do everything I can to keep the youngsters at bay.

Great start. As you know, I haven't played well here the previous two years I missed the cut. So it's nice to get a good round in early and build on that, and as before, the challenge is walking 18 holes a day. It's a bit of a grind, especially for my foot, but knee feels pretty good, and just got to try and pace myself.

Q. When you know that you might struggle to walk around the golf course, as we were discussing yesterday, what were your expectation levels coming in?
HENRIK STENSON: They are not very high. Even though I definitely feel like I had more game with me this year than I've had maybe the previous couple years coming off the Christmas break -- mentally, at least, I've been very well rested because when you've got a rehab to take care of, you are really focusing on that and not thinking too much about golf. That's been good, if I should find a positive in having an operation.

But other than that, I feel like my putting is pretty good and that proved on the course today, and also my iron play was solid again. So that should always set you up quite nicely.

Q. Good start to 2016?
HENRIK STENSON: I would say so. Could have been one or two shots slower even, or possibly one worse off on the last, as well. Have to be lucky. Didn't hit the best tee ball there. Very happy with the opening round. I haven't played well here in Abu Dhabi the previous two years, so it's nice to get off to solid starts. I've been going about my business and working away on a few things and that seemed to be working okay on the course today.

Very happy with the start. As we know it was going to be a challenge with the leg, and it is. It's not so much the knee; it's the foot that makes a bit more of a compensation when I'm walking but we are getting there in the end. I made the full 18.

Q. You were not sure because you had not played 18 competitive holes since the surgery so how are you feeling?
HENRIK STENSON: The knee is fine. It's more the foot that's taking a about the of a strain. I think I'm walking with a bit of a compensation, as I said, and that's really the grind of making it around. Yesterday was the first 18 I walked and did another one today, so hopefully I have another three in me.

Q. Is there an element of surprise, as well as delight?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, you never quite know what to expect coming back from the Christmas holidays, and then an operation on top of that. So yeah, a great start, and set up the week nicely hopefully.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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