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April 4, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. It's a pleasure to welcome Henrik Stenson, his 11th Masters appearance.
Henrik, congratulations on your fabulous performance last week, it was tremendous. The 2009 PLAYERS champion has had success throughout 2015, finishing runner‑up four times, including second at THE TOUR Championship. Henrik also performed well at the World Golf Championships events with a tie for fourth at the Cadillac Championship and a tie for sixth at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Welcome back. Before we open up to questions, would you like to share your thoughts on how your preparation for the tournament has gone?
HENRIK STENSON: It's been pretty good. I was here to have a look at Augusta a week ago. Last Monday I stopped by here and played 18 holes, a little bit less people than it is today. It was a very nice day. It's not often‑‑ it is such a difference coming here before the tournament week, it's all quiet and very peaceful and just go around in your own time and have a good look at the course and look at the greens.
I did that and then flew onto Houston and picked up some pace, I think, on my form. I played quite solid, even though I always want to ask a little bit more out of myself, my game. I had a good week last week and played a really good week, and especially that Saturday round put me in contention. I think I played a pretty solid last 18 yesterday, but got beaten by somebody playing just that smidge better than I did. It was a pretty packed leaderboard, as well, so it could have been any one of six, eight guys. If it's your day, anyone can come through yesterday really. I was happy with my performance. Came up a little short again, which is always bittersweet.
But all in all, I feel like my game is going in the right direction. A big year this year, a lot of big events and this is obviously one of them. A good time to start playing well and firing.
Q. The way the course is playing, some of the players are already saying that it seems to be more difficult than normal; that perhaps they don't want somebody shooting another 270.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, it's still‑‑ I haven't been out now. It's always different when you're here. A week earlier it was a bit softer and the fairways were a bit longer due to some rain when I was here a week ago. I don't know how it's playing out there now and if it's been a dry or a wet week when we were in Houston.
If it's soft and a little wet, then it's going to play longer for sure. In terms of setup, I feel like it's been a fairly similar setup the last five, six, seven times. It's been pretty similar.
The one that stands out was back in 2007, when Zach won when it was ridiculously hard and we had very hot temperatures earlier in the week and then it was a frost delay, if I remember correctly, on that Saturday and we were pretty much giving everything we had into the four hole. I think it was 3‑irons or 4‑irons into No. 1, so it was a cold, northerly wind blowing. Other than that, it's been fairly similar.
Last year I thought the fairways were just a little bit longer, so the ball didn't really‑‑ it made it harder to putt if you were outside the greens, but the ball didn't, on the other hand, roll off the greens as much if you missed and it was a little bit more set up for pitching. Yeah, that could be one thing that might change, I don't know.
Q. Why is patience so important at this golf course? So many players speak about how patient they have to be at Augusta. Why is that? How is it different?
HENRIK STENSON: You've always got to be patient I think when you're playing tournament golf and major championships in particular, and Augusta in particular. It's just the margins for error are so small.
On a regular TOUR week, if you've got good numbers, you always feel like you can fire at the pin. If it doesn't really work out, you're in‑between clubs, there's always a place where you can, okay, I'll go 20 feet left here and try and give myself a chance for a birdie, otherwise I'll 2‑putt and take my par and go onwards. Those kind of strategies are kind of a little bit out of the window here because the targets on‑‑ the areas on the greens where the pin position is are normally quite small, and if you're off there, then that 20 feet away is going to end up where a poor shot would have ended up anyway.
I think my strategy is to play a little bit more aggressive this year and shoot a bit more for the pins, because I feel like I tried to play a little too defensive in the past, and if you're looking at the leaders and the winners, they all tend to make about 20 birdies this week. There's no point going out there with a strategy to try and make 14 birdies and no bogeys. That's still going to come up short.
But on the other hand, you can't take stupid risks. I think the patients is more if you end up in trouble, you want to try and minimize it, make a bogey. Double‑bogeys are always hard to make up for in major championships.
And also, if you don't get on a good run, you've just got to stay patient because you will have a good run at some point if you're going to have anything to do with the final outcome.
Q. How is your level of motivation affected when you have a taste of it, when you've had a close call, like at a Valhalla or a Muirfield? How does is that ramp that up? And then I have a following question.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think‑‑ well, I know I've got a game that fits well for major championship golf, and you know, I've just got to keep on putting myself in the final groups or in the last couple of groups. The more times I do that, the better the chances are for the outcome that I want to have.
If you are there and thereabouts, of course you want to get there again and you want to go all the way. So I'm certainly motivated to make it happen.
Q. And then you've had a couple of close runs at it, and you've played it at the level you've played for a couple years, is it easy to fall into a trap of thinking that you're due or that you're owed one?
HENRIK STENSON: I think if you look at it, it seems that the guys who are up there often, even if it doesn't happen in the early stages, then it will happen eventually. So you've just got to keep on believing and keep on doing the right things and it will happen.
But the ball doesn't know that I was T‑3 at Valhalla (laughter), so I've got to teach it again this week where it needs to go. You're not going to get a given just because you had a close call in the past, that's for sure.
Q. With so many of the top players playing so well right now, including yourself, does this have more of a wide‑open feel than maybe some of the others that you've been attending?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think we see that on a weekly basis; that it's hard to, it's never been easy to predict winners in golf, but it's certainly not getting any easier. I think it's the same for all the major championships. It's been numerous different winners in these last five, eight years.
Yeah, it is an open field, that's for sure.
Q. Of the four major championships, when you were younger just getting started out playing professional golf, was there one that you thought that you would fare the best in of all of them; one that you thought was perhaps well suited to you?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think growing up and watching these championships on television, it was more a question of wanting to get there and be part of it, and then you kind of learn more what your strengths are and what suits.
I think I've got a great game for this golf course, but unfortunately I haven't been able to bring my AGame here. I feel like in the past, I mean, ten times, really, it's not that many times I come here playing well. It should suit pretty good, and other than that, I feel like The Open Championship has been the one that I've been the closest at.
Q. Why do you think that you've come in and you haven't fared well here if it suits you?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, we all‑‑ I mean, playing well once you get there is one thing, but out of four‑‑ I don't have a great answer. If I would have had that, I probably would have tweaked it a long time ago.
I always used to play very well in the Middle East in the early part of the season, and then kind of had a little bit of a slow spring and then through the summer, normally picked up in the fall time again. I guess that was kind of the cycle I was running after.
I think I managed to change that a little bit though, and I think prep‑wise, it's all about doing the right stuff earlier. It's not what you do the week before necessarily. It's what you do the three, four weeks prior, or even a month and a half before the event, that will get you in the places you need to get to and playing well at the right time. I feel like I'm closer in that stage than I've been in the past.
Q. You mentioned wanting to play more aggressive this year. How much is that a product of last year, in particular, with what Jordan did and there have been some other recent ones?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I played with Jordan the first two days, and he was playing great. His putting was outstanding and he also had those ten percent of luck. There were a couple of times when he swayed a little bit and he got the right bounces and then followed it up with a great shot and a great putt and walked away with a birdie even though it never looked like one off the tee.
We talked about that‑‑ did he make 28 birdies last year?
Q. Something like that.
HENRIK STENSON: That takes some golfing to beat 28 birdies around here. That's certainly one part of it.
But then also my final round last year, I went more aggressive and that's the lowest score I've shot around here. So that kind of put me in that direction; that I need to play a bit more aggressive. But you've still got to play well, otherwise you're not going to get the score that you want to get anyway. It's the combination, but that's the starting point at least.
Q. Is part of that aggressive play driver more often?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I've always hit a number of drives around Augusta regardless. There's a few holes that's always driver. There's a couple that might, depending on how the golf course plays and the conditions we play, but this is definitely a golf course where I will air the driver more than a regular week, I'd say.
Q. There was a time when Europeans were winning, it seemed like, once every year here at Augusta, and now not since 1999. I think you of all people might seem to provide the right answer.
HENRIK STENSON: Thank you for that for that confidence (laughter). Well, we'll make it happen this year then.
But no, I think your guess might almost be as good of mine, which says a lot (laughter).
Q. Jim Herman entered last week 191st ranked in the world and pulled away a win at Houston. How does that change his life and what does that mean for the game of golf, seeing him have success?
HENRIK STENSON: Meant that I finished second, I guess (laughter).
Of course it's huge. I read somewhere that his best finish prior to that was fifth, so of course huge for Jim to get that first win and get a spot here in the field and everything else that comes with it, exemptions and being in some nice tournaments and all the rest of it. He did it extremely well.
Like I say, when you're winning, a lot of times, there's one key moment. I didn't see it, of course, since I was busy playing golf myself, but he took advantage on 16 and chipped in from a difficult lie and that proves to be kind of the tie breaker. But then he played the last two holes really solid, as well.
18 is not the easiest hole, and when you're one back, I felt like, I want to give myself a chance for birdie, but more than anything, make a par and it's still down to him to finish with a 4, and I think he ripped a monster drive down the middle. I turned around and thought, okay, well done, mate. He was right in the middle of the fairway and far up there.
Yeah, had a little bit of luck maybe on 16 that you need to have, and then he did some great stuff after that. So all credit to him to finish off in good style.
Q. How have you managed to stay patient with yourself with so many close calls since THE TOUR Championship in 2013?
HENRIK STENSON: I think I've done pretty well. It was a bit frustrating after the FedEx last year. I had three runner‑up finishes. And in particular, the one in Boston, I made a late mistake and had a great fight with Rickie all the way around. Then you make a mistake on one hole towards the end and there's not room to make up for it, and similar at the Arnold Palmer last year. Those were the two that were kind of stinging a little bit.
A lot of other times, I feel like I played average or just above average and I put myself in great position. I don't feel like I'm overly confident, but I'm still up in contention and not necessarily have all the gears in the gear box when you're really there for the tight moment. Then you've got to also cut yourself some slack that you've not been able to pull it off. But I think I've proven to myself and others that I've won plenty enough golf tournaments.
I've been going through a stretch here where it hasn't happened, but before you know it, you can win two or three in a short period of time, as well. I'm still here and still staying patient.
Q. Are you a glass‑half‑full guy?
HENRIK STENSON: It's always half‑full, yeah.
Q. In a game that beats you up all the time, do you find it easy to stay positive?
HENRIK STENSON: Not always. There's been the odd occasion.
Q. Seen some of them. Do you look at all the runner‑ups as failing or putting yourself there? Do you look at the fact you haven't won a major yet, again, that maybe you're one of the best to never win a major or that you're considered good enough to be at least on that list? How do you look at things like that?
HENRIK STENSON: Like I said earlier, I finished second in Munich last year on The European Tour. I was, I think, 11th going into the last round and shot 65 to finish second. It's not like you can leave there with an unhappy feeling by any standard.
It all depends on, I think I'm quite hard on myself. If I feel like I've made mistakes where I didn't want to make mistakes, hit bad shots at the wrong time, I'm going to be pretty hard on myself. But if others do great stuff, it's kind of hard to, I can't control what they do. I can only look at what I do.
As I said, I don't feel like I've played anywhere near my full potential a lot of these times when I've put myself in contention. And then it's a bit unjust to be super hard on yourself, if it doesn't come off on a Sunday when you don't really feel like you're playing your best anyway. You hope it's going to do, and that's why I keep on working on my game to get it to the stage where I know it's going to happen on a Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.
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