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July 15, 2016

Henrik Stenson

Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland

MIKE WOODCOCK: We're joined in the interview room by Henrik Stenson.

Henrik, you're one off the clubhouse lead, currently in at 9-under par. You must be placed to have compiled such a good round of 65 in challenging conditions today?

HENRIK STENSON: Absolutely. I mean, I was five back of Phil from yesterday, so of course I was hoping to gain a little, and the way it turned out I gained quite a lot. It's still early in the tournament though. We're only halfway through or not even there. So we'll see what happens the rest of the day.

But so far so good. I'm happy with the way I played of course. It's not easy out there. Yeah, it's a great result, really.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Was there a particular key for you today in the conditions?

HENRIK STENSON: I think I timed it quite well. It was quite playable the first five holes before the rain hit the first time, and I managed to pick up three birdies on 3, 4, and 5. Then it eased off and I birdied another one on 7. So I think timing was good throughout the front nine. Only bogey was a bit of a soft one: I missed the second shot right on 9 and didn't get up and down. Then the fun really started. It was blowing a bit more and starting to rain quite heavily, and I birdied 10 in those conditions.

Then I was hanging on for dear life on 11 and 12 really. They were playing tough, and got away with a couple of pars, and then finished up quite tidy with another couple of birdies on the way home.

Q. Henrik, you've come close in the past in an Open. Are you getting good vibes this time?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm always having good vibes. Yeah, as I said, my goal was to put myself in contention. I've done that halfway through. The day is not over yet, so someone can go crazy out there, you never know. But we should be down thereabouts when we hit the weekend. Got another 27 to play before it gets really interesting. So that was my goal. I haven't been in contention for the last six majors and that was a big, big goal of mine to try and be up there and give myself a chance. So far, so good. Yeah, so far, so good.

Q. You put the Scottish Open back on your schedule this year for the first time since 2013. How helpful was last week in preparing for this week?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's always helpful to play some -- what did you want me to say last week? You wanted me to say I was second at The Open due to playing at Castle Stuart and now you're heading there again. You're a very loyal Scotsman, aren't you? (Laughter).

No, it's just good to play. You've got to get some rounds on links. Whether you go somewhere and play five rounds or three rounds on links courses or you want to compete. For me it's always good to compete because it gets me into that competitive mode. I sometimes have a bit of a hard time going from practise mode to competition straight away.

So, yeah, it was good to be back. Certainly had a tough test on that Thursday up at Castle Stuart. So, yeah, of course I owe everything for me being in good position here to playing at the Scottish Open (laughter).

Q. Henrik, little bit about the Olympics: Can you talk about your motivation for being there and winning? And also do you feel like your chances have gotten better and better over the last few weeks with the withdrawals?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I've been excited to go and get a feel of the Olympic atmosphere for a long time. Of course I want to try and play well and do myself and my country proud by hopefully bringing home a medal. I think after a pretty long and successful career, it would be pretty cool to have an Olympic medal hanging next to some of the nice trophies I have at home. So I'm going to try my hardest.

Yeah, of course, there's been a few guys not entered and yeah, potentially, it's going to make it a little bit easier for the medal fights. But it's still a strong, strong field at the top and you've got to play some good golf if you want to walk home with one of those. But I'm looking forward to it. It's a busy summer, and yeah, we'll see what it brings us.

Q. Did you ever have any concern about Zika?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I said that last week. For once it's a competitive advantage to be 40 and not looking to have any more kids.

Q. If you look back at the majors, where you've had close calls, which one do you feel has been your best chances? And how do you like your chances being 1-back this week?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, there's been -- I'd say there's been two or three majors where I've been right up there. Muirfield was one of them. I can't recall exactly, but I was fairly close. I know I lipped out a birdie putt on 10, and I think that would have been tied for the lead or if I was tied at the moment, I can't recall. But I was right there at Muirfield, and then Phil had a great finish, as you all know, and won the tournament, very deserving.

Then there's been a couple of PGAs where I've been up there. I had a good chance in '14. But the way Valhalla played, the course was very soft and I was out probably about an hour four or five holes before the leaders, and it was always a case that you felt like there was always a chance to make more birdies. Certain majors you'd be happy to be in the clubhouse on a score and the other guys would have to battle to try and match that one. At Valhalla it was so soft and you could attack. So at that stage you felt like you needed to be 1 or 2 ahead when you finished.

But there's been a couple of chances, and I'm sure if things would have gone my way I could have had one or two of these, but not to this date. Probably the PGA that Dufner won I ended up in a divot on the 15th hole in the final round and took a 5 instead of potentially a 3 on that short par-4 there and things could have looked differently as well. But you get some good breaks and some bad breaks. If I keep putting myself in position and knocking on the door, I hope I get a couple of good breaks at the right times.

Q. And this week from this position?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, still a long way to go. If it would have been Saturday afternoon that we finished up now, of course you feel like you're right there. But we've still got a full day tomorrow. It could be tough conditions. As soon as you let a few go, you can drop shot easily. So it's still too far away. Let's see when we come into the back nine on Sunday, if we're there, and we'll try to tackle the thoughts on the outcome then.

Q. When you mention not being in contention in six straight majors, is it any more discouraging when you're coming off a stretch in which you were in contention in a lot of majors?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I just wanted to turn things around because I know, like I said, I'm 40. I'm not going to play these tournaments forever and ever. I don't have another 50 goes at them. It might be a dozen or 15 in total. So I better start putting myself in position and giving myself chances if I want to make it happen. After six tournaments not being there, it's certainly time to get going.

Q. Secondly, even though you've correctly mentioned we're not even at the halfway point yet, when you have someone like Phil who opens with 63 and then starts piling up more birdies, what goes through your head when you see the board? Does it matter that it's Phil instead of someone else who is not as accomplished?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, you know Phil's not going to back down. He's got a number of majors already and he wants to have another couple I'm sure. So he's not going to take his foot off the pedal. He's going to keep on trying as hard as he can, and he's a great player. I've played a lot of golf with him this year. It feels like we've been out there every second week. I enjoy his company and I'm looking forward to the challenge, if, like I said, we don't know. We might not even be 1 and 2 at the end of the day. It's still 50-50 I'll be out with him, I guess.

So whatever happens, happens. I'm looking forward to the challenge over the weekend.

Q. Can you explain the extra pressure on a caddie in really wet weather and how a good caddie can really help you, just for the layman?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't think a caddie can have any pressure, can he (laughter)? It's just I guess the pressure for the caddies is when you're coming down the stretch. They want it as badly as we as players want it, and for them not to make any errors is obviously key that they stick to their routines and keep on going. But today it's more difficult. Whenever you have tough conditions like you have, it's time-consuming. You've got to, after the player hits the shot, you have to wipe the shaft and make sure to try to keep the bag dry as much as you can. Our yardage book was pretty soaked. That's going to take a hair dryer to get that one back in business tomorrow.

Yeah, just takes a lot of patience, and it's time consuming. But we're all used to it. So whatever comes our way, we've just got to deal with it.

Q. Is Scandinavia the new powerhouse of world golf? Because the leaderboard certainly looks that way at the moment.
HENRIK STENSON: The powerhouse? Well, Sweden and Denmark in particular have created a lot of or produced a lot of good players on Tour for as long as I can remember. So, yeah, I guess it's only natural to see a few Scandinavians up there. Yeah, we've got Swedish House Mafia, we might have another powerhouse on the way, I don't know. We'll see.

But it's good to see some of the other Scandinavians playing well as well.

Q. Henrik, nice round today. If you had a choice of two or three of Claret Jug, Olympic gold medal and Ryder Cup, which of those two would you take? Obviously all three would be best. None would be presumably a failure for you. But what's the pecking order there?
HENRIK STENSON: How long did you think about this question? See, if I say I'll take Olympic gold and the Open Championship, I'm going to have 11 guys kicking me when I walk outside.

Q. In answer to your question, about three seconds.
HENRIK STENSON: So I'll take the Ryder Cup then for my teammates, and then I'll take the Open Championship as of now. That's the one I'm looking the best to fulfil right now, I think. I've got a better chance here since we haven't started in Rio yet.

Q. But a gold medal for Sweden would be special?
HENRIK STENSON: It would be. It would be big outside the golfing community as well. It would be to the broader sports crowd and to the whole country. So of course that would be massive as well. But let's focus on one thing at a time.

Q. Did you have any concerns about going to Rio?
HENRIK STENSON: No, there hasn't been.

Q. You spoke a little bit about this last week, but how important was the win in Germany after sort of a frustrating 18 months of a lot of near misses?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it was important. Hopefully that can help me if I end up in a similar situation here on Sunday. I've got that one over the finish line. I mean, I certainly can't take the blame for not winning on all of the other occasions, but I felt like I had a bunch of good chances. And a few of them, I either missed the shot at the wrong time or didn't play good enough on a few of them. You'll have some youngster holing it out on every other hole from 40 feet, so I mean, there's only so much you can do at times. But it was frustrating not to get a couple of wins out of those chances I had. So it was important to get that win in Germany, and hopefully that will put us in the right frame of mind when we need to.

Q. Phil mentioned before that he feels less pressure now that he won at Muirfield. Do you feel that he has an advantage coming into the weekend because of that?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, he's 1-ahead. That's an advantage. Of course if you want -- what does he have? Five majors? Yeah, it's going to be easier in that way. It's always harder to push the first one over the line, I would imagine, than the fifth one. But at the same time he's six years older than me, so I should be a little stronger, shouldn't I (laughter)? We'll see if that has anything to do with it. But still a long ways to go, as I said. There is no point starting to think about outcome at this stage, really. Even though you keep on asking me about it all the time (laughter).

Q. In terms of your chances over the weekend, would you rather see more conditions like you had today, a bit of wind and a bit rain or a bit more like yesterday in terms of you against the rest of the field?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, if you could hook us up with two days like yesterday, that would be nice. I'm sure you'll be frequently called in from all sorts of places. But it just feels like, I don't know if I've got better or worse chances in different conditions. But as a general rule, it's kind of nicer to play golf when you don't have to be running in and out of umbrellas, and if you don't battle two elements at the same time. If you've got strong winds and that's enough on its own. If it's raining, it's nice if you can hold an umbrella at the same time. So hopefully we'll get something in the middle and sunshine never hurts either.

Q. Was there something particular with your game that you were most proud of today?
HENRIK STENSON: I hit two beautiful bunker shots on 4 and 16. I had some fairly half long bunker shots and I hit them close, both of them. The one on 16 looks like it wasn't too far away from going into the hole. So had two great bunker shots and pretty solid on the greens as well. Kept it in play most of the day. So all in all it was a solid day.

Q. When you went to bed last night, were you expecting it to be worse today than it was? And what do you consider some of the better birdies you made today?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think we were expecting possibly a downpour from when you pulled the curtain up in the morning, and it wasn't. You always felt like it was going to start at some point, but it was nice to get the warm-up out of the way. Like I said, I played five holes and took advantage of three of them to have a couple of birdies up before it started to rain.

Possibly the one on 10 was a crucial one. I just made a bit of a clumsy bogey on 9, and then it started to get a bit nasty there, and running out from the umbrella and hit an 8-iron to about five feet, so that was definitely a good shot given the circumstances.

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