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March 8, 2016

Henrik Stenson

Palm Harbor, Florida


BRIAN DECKER: Welcome Henrik Stenson to the Valspar Media Interview Room. Henrik, 4th place here last year and just one shot out of the playoff.

Do you feel like you're in a good position to get one better and maybe try to win the tournament this year.

HENRIK STENSON: I hope I can put myself in a similar position. Of course, that's always the goals for Sundays. It was pretty, pretty close chance last year so, yeah, we'll see.

I can't say I'm coming in with the same great finish at Doral that I had last year so might have to work a little bit more on my game this week and hopefully step it up a notch, really didn't get out what I wanted last week. That's the way it goes.

I think it's a good golf course for me. I played it for the first time last year and got to hit some good iron shots into the greens and that seems to suit my game pretty well. Yeah, we'll see if we can have a similar experience.

BRIAN DECKER: Second in the FedExCup last year and three straight Top-5 finishes here in the Florida swing. Do you feel it's the right time of year to pick up your game and get back in contention?

HENRIK STENSON: I don't think I played super, super well in the springtime over here previous but last year was definitely a change in that. I just want to get on a good roll and play some good golf. It's the right time of year to pick up leading into Augusta and I did that last year.

Unfortunately, I got sick, got the flu and kind of halted that momentum that I had. But, yeah, I'm working away and, you know, you're only just one week away from playing great. That's always the case. Hopefully this week can be one of those.

BRIAN DECKER: Is the Match Play the only week you're off between now and Augusta and is that just because that's where it fell, that's where you felt like you needed to take a break?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah. Easy enough. Yes, yes and yes. Yeah, absolutely. I'm coming off three weeks off. Played some in the Middle East, had a few weeks off and yeah, I didn't feel like I could play six weeks in a row leading up to Augusta. Something had to give and it was the Match Play week this time.

Q. The injury that kept you from playing Qatar, can you just give us an update on that?
HENRIK STENSON: I had knee surgery in December, had the meniscus cleaned up and yeah, it was just too wishful thinking to go after three straight weeks and it would have been with -- starting on the Wednesday as well, it would have basically been 10, 11 straight days of walking from doing nothing really.

I played two times 9 before I teed it up in Dubai. It was the first full 18 I played. I guess I took the wise decision to rest that week and yeah, I'm still not a hundred percent but it's good enough to play and it doesn't hurt hitting shots and so on but just limped out of the car now driving, took a little bit longer than I expected, just over two hours from Orlando.

A little stiff when you're sitting in a static position like that but hopefully gets better and better and within three to six months it should be -- done and over with.

Q. Henrik, why is this an event that you like to keep on your schedule and, you know, as you said, there's a lot of big events coming up in between on the way to the Masters.
Why is this an event that you like to play?

HENRIK STENSON: Well, I played it for the first time last year, this is only my second time here. I kept it on because I think the golf course really suits my game. It's close to home and it fits really well in the schedule and also, obviously, Valspar is putting on a good show here and looking after us well.

It was a pretty simple decision for me to keep it on and play this time around, too.

Q. You probably been asked this question a dozen times before. With this first sort of unofficial tournament, the Olympics, how excited -- how exciting is the prospect of representing Sweden in the Olympics?
HENRIK STENSON: I think it's great both as a sports fan -- I've never been to an Olympics. Just showing up is going to be huge and to participate, obviously, and if I can do something rather good and represent my country and myself well and hopefully walk away with a medal, Gold Medal wouldn't be too shabby at the end of it.

I'm really excited and it's an interesting summer we've got ahead of us.

Q. How do you feel about a Bronze Medal (laughter)?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm sure you'll be pretty pleased at the end of the day anyway but not as happy as with a Gold. The medal -- normally we don't -- we get a nice check for 3rd and 2nd but at least at the Games you get something more sustainable from finishing on the podium.

Q. I always thought it was an unfair comparison to ask top player would you rather win a Major or a Gold Medal.
HENRIK STENSON: You can ask it anyway.

Q. Is it a fair comparison? Would you rather finish 3rd at Augusta or get a Bronze Medal?
HENRIK STENSON: I'll take a Bronze Medal over 3rd at Augusta. Winning, then, that one might be juggling chain saws. I don't know. We'll leave that to Jamie Donaldson.

Q. Did the Olympics get you started growing up as a young fellow in Sweden?
HENRIK STENSON: I watched a lot of sports and Sweden I guess is more of a winter nation for the Winter Olympics but watched a lot of Summer Olympics as well and got a lot of memories.

I was asked the other week about the whole growing up thinking about participating and my sport was not in there at that time so I didn't really have those kind of ambitions when I was growing up to be an Olympian. All of a sudden, that kind of kicked into gear in the last couple of years. So, I think that would be a nice one.

Q. When you find your way into the main dining area with the other athletes is there one athlete let in the world in any sport you would like to sit and maybe share lunch with?
HENRIK STENSON: You're not going to have access -- we can't have lunch.

Q. You know where I'm coming from.
HENRIK STENSON: I guess Usain Bolt would be kind of neat to have lunch with. I'm sure he eats a lot quicker than I do. I can't him there, either, or maybe that's the one area I can catch him. We kind of used to as golfers to have lunch on the run a little bit. Maybe I can actually enjoy a tight race on that one.

Q. I'm not sure if you saw but the Tour announced last week it's going to collaborate with the LPGA TOUR on some business type things and one of the sidelights of that, they might try to have a tournament together, men and women, whether it be competing as a team or just playing at the same venue.
Do you have any thoughts on that and how that might work? Would you be in favor of a team event with the women? They used to have one here years actually, actually.

HENRIK STENSON: On the European Tour we're allowed at certain venues to wear shorts and the PGA TOUR says that wasn't going to happen, right, so maybe skirts (laughter) will be a possibility going forward. I don't know. That's kind of interesting.

I think that could give a lot of fans something great to watch, you know, if you played like a mixed tournament or something, if there's room for that on the schedule.

I know there's been -- was it something in the past where I think Sorenstam and Parnevik played?

Q. Here.
HENRIK STENSON: So, I'm sure that would be -- if there's room for that on the schedule I'm sure it would be something both for the television viewers and the fans to watch then I'm sure -- both LPGA and PGA TOUR is kind of striving for the same goal, I guess, so yeah, why not help each other out in areas where you can.

Q. You saw the way that Jordan was able to springboard his win here last year into just an unbelievable season.
How much can a win this time of year really get you on your game and get you toward that kind of season going?

HENRIK STENSON: Winning on any Tour anywhere is always a confidence boost and, you know, as golfers we don't get to do that that often given how many participants you have and how tough the competition is.

Win at the right time is definitely huge for your confidence and why not make it here. It started last year kick started last year for Jordan and yeah, I wouldn't mind getting a win. It's been a little while and I came close a few times last year so I'm -- I feel like I'm ready for one.

Q. Just to clarify on the Bridgestone, you're not still playing at all that week.
HENRIK STENSON: No. That's one of my weeks off, yeah.

Q. Have you changed your schedule at all late in the season because of the Olympics, the Ryder Cup and everything going on?
HENRIK STENSON: I think it's just going to be some time off after the Ryder Cup. Virtually from U.S. Open all the way through to the Ryder Cup is going to be a lot of golf and not too many weeks off.

So, it's going to be a tough stretch and when that's over I think most of the guys are going to need a little bit of time to recover and then I got some of those tournaments in the Far East and Middle East on the back end.

But there's a few events that would have probably been on the schedule that I didn't do it due to the Ryder Cup and scheduling issues this year.

Just take it as it comes and probably back to normal next year.

Q. Given an obscure one here, how long was it you lived in Dubai and what were the benefits or the biggest benefits to living in the Middle East?
A Well, I was based there for ten years, early 2000s until 2012, something like that. I mean I played mainly on the European Tour in the beginning so we had those tournaments in the Middle East.

When I had my time off in the wintertime, conditions perfect, 75, 80, clear blue skies and good practice facilities.

Also the traveling, if you went down to Asia, to Australia, you could also fly direct to Dubai with Emirates Airlines. It was very convenient to be there and I felt to keep my game at a high level I wanted to be somewhere where I could practice all the way through the wintertime.

Sweden was certainly not one of them. Either Southern Europe, Dubai or Florida. Given I played mainly in Europe at that time, that felt like a very obvious choice for me.

Q. How much time a year were you there, would you say?
HENRIK STENSON: Probably during -- I was constantly on the move more or less but the winter months, October until end of February we were based in Dubai. Then we came over here for a couple months and back to Sweden when I played in Europe in the summertime and little hop here and back again.

So it was traveling circus and the more kids you add to that and school and everything else, it comes to a point you need to make up your mind where you're going to be based. That fell on Florida since -- about three, four years back.

BRIAN DECKER: Thanks very much.

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