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November 16, 2016

Henrik Stenson

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

STEVE TODD: Henrik, welcome back to Dubai. Before we look ahead to this week, you'll notice we have a special guest with us, alongside you, Keith Pelley, our Chief Executive of The European Tour.

We would like to start the week by making a special presentation to you. So I'm going to hand it over to Keith to say a few words.

HENRIK STENSON: I thought you were going to talk about my game, hitting it close, and going to give an expert opinion.

KEITH PELLEY: Well, I did ask you what you hit last week on 18, that incredible shot. And you said you hit a 6-iron, was it?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, correct.

KEITH PELLEY: Well, listen, it's a real privilege to be here obviously with a living legends and to present Henrik with his Honorary Life Membership to The European Tour. He becomes the 51st player to receive the honour. The first was John Jacobs in 1978. He's the first Swedish player to receive the honour. ^

Obviously the epic battle and legendary win at The Open Championship at Troon versus Phil Mickelson is the catalyst for this. But Henrik is a special Member of our Tour both on and off the golf course, what he contributes to our Tour is incredible, his contribution to the Tournament Committee, and how he interacts with all the players. I call on him often to get advice, but today it's about celebrating his greatness on the golf course, and there was no greater afternoon ^ than watching Sunday at Troon.

So on behalf of everybody at The European Tour, you join the likes of Palmer, Nicklaus, Ballesteros, and become an honorary Life Member of The European Tour. So congratulations as the first Swedish player, to Henrik Stenson. (Applause).

HENRIK STENSON: That's pretty sweet. Gives you something else to talk about than the 6-iron an 18 last week I guess.

STEVE TODD: If you want to just start the conference, it's a nice way to start the week, and hopefully it's going to be a special one, but a nice way to start it.

HENRIK STENSON: Oh, yeah, it's a great honour to join that club and get Honorary Life Membership on The European Tour. That's definitely a special thing.

Yeah, I could see it coming at some point hopefully, but I didn't expect it today, this morning.

STEVE TODD: We like surprises.

HENRIK STENSON: See, you managed to surprise me. There's not many people that can actually do that but this one actually worked.

STEVE TODD: That's the product of a fantastic season so far, one more week left. Just give us your thoughts on the position you find yourself coming into this week and your hopes for the week ahead.

HENRIK STENSON: I'm in great position. I couldn't have asked for anything better. When I took off to China about, what was it, three weeks ago, I was hoping to make up some ground. And I knew I needed to have some strong tournaments here in the last -- I was playing three out of the last four weeks on the schedule, and I knew I needed to play some good golf. Managed to have a great week in Shanghai and finished second there to overtake Danny on The Race to Dubai and managed to stay ahead, as well.

That's all I wanted to do. I wanted to be in a position where I had it in my own hands knowing that if I win here, that would seal the deal and I'm in an even better position given ^ that I don't necessarily need to win, even though that's kind of my mind-set coming in here.

I need to play well, have a good, strong week, because you can ^ never rely on what the other guys are going to do. When you are the No. 1 player, then they need to play better than you do this final week to overtake you. I'm keen to go out and play a good, solid tournament and hopefully put myself in contention, and if I do that, I hope we can be here as winner of Race to Dubai on Sunday.

Q. How far was the 6-iron? Only joking.
HENRIK STENSON: About three feet (laughter).

Q. You've won so much, your first major title this season, where does another Race to Dubai title rank among that? How much motivation do you have to complete the job this week?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it would be one of my finest achievements. It was pretty sweet to be here as Europe's No. 1 in '13 and I don't think it would be any less sweet being here as Europe's No. 1 in '16 with the season that I've had and winning The Open and some other fine performances throughout the year.

I'm certainly keen. I'm going to give it my best and you know, we all have a long season behind us. Yeah, this is the final stretch, four rounds of golf. I'm going to give it my best, and whether I play great or good or average or whatever it might be, I'm going to try my hardest for four days, and that's all I can do and we'll see where it takes us.

Q. Obviously this has been an extraordinary year given your open victory. ^ What was different about this year, do you think, that actually ultimately yielded that major title at long last?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, if I had perfectly straight answers to that, I guess I should have implemented them a long time ago, right. But it was going to be a big year, '16, we had the Olympics, Ryder Cup, the majors, as always, and I just had -- my mind-set was I wanted to play well at those ones, and a lot of times over my career when I really put my mind to something, I managed to achieve it.

Not saying that I haven't tried in the majors before, but in terms of preparation and sometimes when you just know you want to peak at a certain time, you can actually make it happen. The summer has not all been my strongest playing period, but that's where we have the majority of the big events.

That was a big goal of mine and try to be ready when we hit the summer, because it was going to be a busy one and not much time for practices and breaks. I guess just doing some good practice in the springtime and being ready for when the summer came, and had that important win at the BMW International in Cologne. That was a key moment for me. I had not won for awhile, and to get that one over the finish line, it felt like, okay, ^ winning again was out of the window and I just pressed on from there.

I think that certainly helped me at Troon; that I had the confidence, had that little bit of a boost a couple of weeks earlier and I was there again at the PGA in pretty good shape. Maybe battery was a bit flat, and kind of the same at the Olympics, but I managed to leave with a medal, which was another big goal for the year, to be performing at the Olympics.

Yeah, it's been a great summer and a great year. I hope I can finish off in good style, too.

Q. You've had some great results over here on this golf course, but then there was also last year. What were the learnings from last year's performance?
HENRIK STENSON: You mean when I had to stand on my head to see myself on top of the leaderboard? (Laughter).

Yeah, mainly I put it down to me being pretty flat when I came here. I had been out for a few weeks on the road, and I think I was just running out of steam. Didn't get off to a great start, and after that, it was hard to come back.

I know I can play well around here, of course, and once again, I think I've got a good game plan in place and I'm going to go out there and try and execute it. And even if I don't play my best, I'm probably going to try a little bit harder than I did last year for the final two rounds then maybe, yes.

Q. And was last year and the way you kept playing and had a busy schedule, was that one of the reasons why you decided not to play all of The Final Series events this year and take a week off in between?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I felt like I didn't want to be out for a full month and ultimately six weeks in a suitcase. So I decided to go back home for a week. That was always my plan. Even though it's tough with the jet-lag back and forth, it felt like it was the right thing to do, and you know, I looked at it like hopefully I play well enough in the three weeks that I play out of the four that I will do it, and so far, so good.

Yeah, I'm not getting any younger. I think if anything, I would like to cut maybe back one or two weeks rather than adding to my schedule. Quality is definitely more important than quantity at this point in my career.

Q. A couple of things. Your knee, is that okay now or will you need more surgery in the off-season?
HENRIK STENSON: It's been holding up pretty good. I keep on working it and try and keep it stable and strong. I mean, there is a slight tear in the meniscus, the same one I operated last December. We'll just have to wait and see. ^ I hope I don't need to do another procedure, but I guess time will tell. I don't expect it to be perfect for the years ahead but hopefully to the that bad that I need to go in for another op^ .

Q. And over the next few weeks, you have an important role to play in The Ryder Cup captaincy. How many people do you have expect to be discussing on that, and when would you hope to make a decision?
HENRIK STENSON: I'll be waiting by my phone until it rings, and when that happens; I would presume that would be before Christmas, but I don't have any details on that. I'll be the representative from the Tournament Committee together with the previous three captains and Keith.

Yeah, we'll have a discussion when they feel the time is right and I'll be available and give my input.

Q. How many candidates do you think there will be?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it shouldn't be more than a dozen, really (laughter).

Q. Rory was in yesterday saying that world No. 1, getting back there, is a big motivation for him. Just wonder with a major under your belt now, is that a target for you in the future?
HENRIK STENSON: I think I'll have some time to reflect and look ahead when the season is over. Let's finish off this week first and then -- I said that in the past, I was very close to becoming world No. 1 in the spring of 14, right around ^ Wentworth time I think, and then Adam came back from almost missing the cut to winning in Colonial and he put an end to that rather quickly.

I always felt like for me, the World Rankings is a reflection on how well you are playing over a period of time, and I was always more keen on winning a major championship, and I'll probably be more keen on winning a second major championship and become world No. 1 potentially. They kind of go hand-in-hand; the better you play, the better your chances of becoming world No. 1 is going to be.

I'll keep on chipping away, hopefully adding those points and I think it will definitely be a big motivation if I feel like I'm within reach of it for sure.

Q. Obviously the Rolex Series and the extra money is nice. Can you tell us what you think the other advantages are of the Rolex Series?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's making our tour stronger and it's going to attract more players, I'm sure, over time. We've got slightly different setups between the PGA TOUR and The European Tour.

I think the way the PGA TOUR went with the Qualifying School kind of disappearing and going into the under tour, it makes it a longer way potentially to get on the PGA TOUR, which, again, can attract some new, upcoming players to try their luck in Europe.

Of course, for the general membership, it's a big boost in playing for more money. The top players, we're lucky enough to choose our tournaments around the world and play for those kind of purses more or less every week. It's a big boost for the Tour itself and for the general membership. And of course, the more stronger field, it attracts the more World Ranking points there is for grabs. It all kind of spirals in the right direction there.

Q. Do you feel that there is a struggle going on at the moment between the PGA TOUR and The European Tour, and that you, the players, are right in the middle of it?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, we've kind of had that struggle every two years, right? It's been like that for however many years, The Ryder Cup, even though it's not necessarily the two tours.

We know that if -- I mean, we've got two strong tours, and you've got a number of players who play on both tours, and of course, if both the PGA and The European Tour wants you to play more, like I just said, I'm not getting any younger. I don't look to play more golf tournaments. But if both sides of the Atlantic kind of pushes for that, of course some players are going to be caught up in the middle.

But I don't feel we are at that point right now. Those decisions are to be made in the future; if you bump up the numbers on both tours, it's going to force people, player, to choose at some point, but I don't feel like we're at that point now.

Q. What impact will it have on the younger players? Will it keep them playing in Europe more than going to the PGA TOUR?
HENRIK STENSON: I think that was one of the thoughts with trying to give an alternative. If you want to play the majors, the World Golf Championships, but you don't want to live and play in America, it's going to be a better option to do that in Europe, because you don't want to feel like -- if money is a driving force, then you have that option to play for big money in Europe.

Then I think as a player, it makes you a better player if you play against the strongest fields and the toughest golf courses. And to do that, I think it's been beneficial to play all around the world, both in Asia and Australia and everywhere, here and the Middle East, everywhere that The European Tour has gone has been important for my career; but also to play against the best players in the US and the strength of field that we have on the PGA TOUR.

I think that's been also an important ingredient to why we've been successful in The Ryder Cups; that we played a lot of golf in America and we've been up against the best there on a normal basis, too. It's a combination of a lot of things.

Q. And could it potentially have kept you in Europe as a younger than, than going to the PGA TOUR?
HENRIK STENSON: ^ I don't know, it's hard. It's a possibility. Again, the weather is very nice in Florida. Sweden is a little so-so at this time of the year.

Q. Try Scotland.
HENRIK STENSON: Scotland might be very similar to Sweden.

Q. A loyal more on The Ryder Cup. ^ obviously you're going to help choose the next captain. Have you thought about being captain yourself, a young 40, but with dodgy knees and a membership on The European Tour, are you thinking about the future?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, if dodgy knees is on the qualification criteria, we might have more than 12 players to consider for the next captaincy.

Yeah it's one of them, of course that would be a great honour and something that would be a lot of fun it. It's also a lot of work, as I've seen closely from some of my older colleagues that has been taking on that role.

But we'll cross that bridge when we get there, but I'm pretty certain I wouldn't turn it down if I had the offer in the future.

Q. Just to follow up, nearly every player we asked always says, yeah, they would love to do it. Is there anything that would ever put you off? As you say, it's a lot of work, and if you lose, you get a lot of criticism, but every player --
HENRIK STENSON: A proper two years with the press is probably not something you're looking forward to, is it (laughter).

No, I don't think so. We're used to winning and losing. Every captain, I'm sure, even if your team wins, you'll look back at the week and feel like, oh, maybe that wasn't the right decision, but it's like that every time; is it a 7-iron, is it an 8-iron. You've got to make your decisions and go with it. So I don't think there's anything that would put me off, not even you guys.

Q. Just wondering if you could talk us through the final few holes here at the golf course. You've obviously hit some pretty special shots coming down the stretch here over previous years.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, two that stands out, of course the slightly miss-struck 3-wood to a foot in '13 on 18.

Are we talking about the last three holes, really? Yeah, 16, it's a tricky driving hole because you've got a bunker right in the landing zone, so you're kind of going to make up where you want to hit it. At times you might feel like aim it down the middle and hit it hard and hope you miss the bunker. You have a tricky second shot into to the green, especially the right-hand pin positions, it's quite shallow and you've got water front and back on that one. So 16 is a tough hole for sure. I'd say overall, if you make four pars on that one, you'll be pretty pleased if there are a birdie pin or two, that would be the left-hand flags, rather than the right ones I would say^ .

17 is kind of similar, as well. There's a couple of really tough pin positions and the ones more in the center are quite accessible, but you know what's around that green, it's not really playable if you miss the green. So again, you've got to hit good shots in there to give yourself chances.

And on 18, we've got a bit of a snakey river going up the middle of the hole and that's to be avoided both for the tee shot and the second shot. I think the hole is much more interesting when we play it up, so players can have a go at the second shot, and it's certainly a risk and reward second shot. Yeah, you've got to play some good golf if you want to pick up the birdies on those holes.

STEVE TODD: Okay, Henrik, we well look forward to watching you play them.

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