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March 7, 2017

Henrik Stenson

Palm Harbor, Florida

HENRIK STENSON: It's good to be back. It's a golf course I think suits my game pretty well as the two previous visits I've shown, and I hope I can be there on Sunday afternoon with a chance to win. That's always what we come out and try and do, and it's the beginning of a few stretch of tournaments leading into Augusta, so we want to try to get to the Masters in the right direction with where the game is at and what we need to keep on working on leading into the first major of the year.

Again, good to be here. It's a good golf course. It's a second-shot golf course. A lot of times, you have to position yourself off the tee.

The game, got off to a good start in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I think the game is in decent shape. Like I said, it the first week, or one of the first weeks here on a big stretch, so I hope to kind of play my way into some good form.

Q. Players this time of year are talking about wanting to peak for the majors. Is it possible to control the timing of when you play your best golf, and if so, how?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's very easy, as you know (laughter).

No, I don't think you can, in particular, exactly say when you're going to peak. I think you can just give yourself the best kind of opportunities to do so. And with experience and time, you work out what kind of schedule you want to work around and how you want to prepare. The only thing we know is that when it's time to play well, then your preparation must have been done beforehand.

A lot of times, I think it's wise to have some time to have things if I some practice, I need a couple weeks to work my way into it. I very rarely play my absolute best the first week if I'm coming from two weeks off going into a three-week stretch of playing. It's normally not the first week I peak; it's second or third week. And then down to scheduling, if you want to play the week before a major and all the rest of it.

I mean, over time, you kind of figure out what works for you and you just want to try and get the work done when you think it needs to be done. Then I guess it's all left to be seen. And not uncommonly, I think you have a goal in mind to play well at a certain time. If it doesn't happen then, you're not going be to surprised if you're playing well a week or two after that, as well.

Yeah, of course timing is important. I think when I look back at my season last year, I really peaked at the right times at some of the tournaments I wanted to play well at, but I didn't necessarily play as good or as great as I did for a four- or five-month stretch in '13. It's down to timing and playing well at the right times, also.

Q. Could you tell the week of The Open that you were peaking and that you had a CHANCE to win, or is it still hard to predict?
HENRIK STENSON: It's hard to predict. I knew I was pretty happy with my game. Very important I came with a win after the U.S. Open. My play started to pick up some good form at the U.S. Open and then had to withdraw at that one, and then I won in Germany the week after. That kind of momentum carried with me, I think kept me in a good spot mentally and I kept chipping away, working away on my game, and came into The Open feeling really happy with all the different parts of my game.

Q. Can you give us a time line of the last week and if you had to see doctors?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I really haven't have to see much doctors. I'm not 100 percent, but I wouldn't say -- if you have a stomach upset or bug, it takes a little while to complete. I'm eating some probiotics, and we can still feel a little rumbling here and there. I don't think we need to go into more details than that.

Unfortunately it was a lot of players, caddies and other people around that got I think upset stomachs last week. That's just the way it goes sometimes. It shouldn't be, going forward, I shouldn't have any issues with that I hope.

Q. Coming into Augusta now, and you'll be introduced as The Open Champion when you get there, how different do you think you'll approach the tournament and your chances there, as a Major winner now?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, the difference I felt playing at the PGA last year is really when you got one, you certainly want to have another one. Not that there was any lacking of wanting before I had The Open.

I think it could just help you go after it a little more aggressive if you have the opportunity. That's what I felt at Baltusrol; that even coming into the last six holes or whatever, I was two or three shots back and I really needed something to happen. I think because you have that one, then you're willing to maybe play a little more aggressive and take greater chances if you need to to try to have a chance to win a second time.

So that's possibly one thing. Augusta, in particular, I've had my challenges there. I've played, this will be my 12th year in a row I'm going there. Still haven't cracked the Top-10. I've got some work ahead of me, and I've got my ideas how to try and make it happen. But there's constantly been kind of tweaks and different approaches, and so far, we haven't found the right one obviously.

But you know, we're not giving up in the first minute here.

Q. How do you think it's different, having worked through and playing like you did last year in The Open, at this stage of your career, having had other opportunities before that, than maybe a young guy who breaks through and has a week like that? Do you think you handle it differently as a veteran?
HENRIK STENSON: It's hard to tell, but I think -- I mean, it certainly gives me the confidence, going out and shooting a 63 in a final round when it matters the most. Of course, if I'm a couple of shots back going into Sunday, I know I've done it before. So I know I can do it again.

Of course, that's a nice feeling to have; that at least you know and you've done it. So it's certainly not impossible.

Q. Do you feel like the placement of the México event has at all diminished the field of the Florida Swing?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think it's just a busy time of the year. Once we kind of hit this date, like last week, or Honda time, really, and onwards, it's six, seven, eight good tournaments in a row, and you're not going to get all the guys playing the same weeks, really. It's more down to what we talked about earlier, scheduling and preferences, how many tournaments you want to play in that time span, and in what order you want to play.

You can't really be disappointed that certain players take certain weeks off, because that's the way it's always going to be. If the TOUR had 25 tournaments, you're probably going to see most of the guys playing all of them. But when there's 40 tournaments or something to choose from, you're going to have guys taking weeks off.

So I don't really think that's affecting it that much.

Q. Two things. Do you like the format of match play, or do you prefer the single elimination?
HENRIK STENSON: That's an easy question for me. I prefer the single elimination.

Q. Is that the reason for your decision the past couple years or --
HENRIK STENSON: It's a combination.

Q. If you look at the top six, and really almost seven, guys in the world, that are so --
HENRIK STENSON: Young? So young, players? (Laughs).

Q. You're 41 --

Q. How is the outlook different for you, do you think, than it is for the rest of them? Do you have any more sense of urgency or has that crossed your mind?
HENRIK STENSON: Of course I'm on the back nine of my career. I'm not going to play forever; I know that much. I haven't really set a time and a date on that. I hope to be around for the next Olympics. That will be kind of around the time where I would potentially to have a look in the mirror and see if we want to keep on going or if we want to try and wind down. I don't know.

For me, I love the game, I love to practice, I love to compete, and I think I need a combination of all those things to keep going, really. Staying healthy, as well, injury-free and so on. So I'm not sure if at this stage, traveling around the world, trying to fight it out for 30th, I don't think that's going to be that interesting given where we've been for a number of years.

I really need the combo of those things to keep on going. But you're not going to get rid of me that easy, so I see myself being at it another four or five years hopefully.

Q. Which do you enjoy more, practicing or competing?
HENRIK STENSON: It's the competing. I don't think there's much that beats that when you're in contention and you're up there, and it's a bit tense, it's a bit tight, and just to see how well you can play when the pressure is the most.

Q. But you can't do that unless you love to practice, right?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, you've got to practice to stay up there. So that's why you kind of -- they kind of go hand in hand. As long as we can keep up on all front, then we'll be around.

Q. Kind of a broad question but there's bound to be a lot of attention on Jordan coming into the Masters and what befell him there. I was curious, in your experience, what was the process like trying to come to grips with the very public disappointments that are inevitable in golf, and how difficult a process is that personally for you and how did you eventually come to grips with it?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, when you're a competitive player and you're up there and you are playing to win, and when it doesn't happen, and it's special, I think when you feel like it's some of the wins that you let away yourself; you make a mistake at the wrong time. Of course it's going to sting for awhile, but you've just got to get back up and try again. That's the nature of it.

I mean, I've had my little bag of heartbreaks in terms of losses on the golf course, and you know, you just -- but I think it still motivates you. If you're competitive, then you're going to take that as fuel to try and become better and then to not make the -- learn from your mistakes and do the right things when you need to in the future. That just comes with the game. And of course, that was a disappointment for Jordan last year to not win the Masters.

Q. What's your playing schedule through the Masters?
HENRIK STENSON: So I'm playing here, I'm playing Bay Hill, playing Houston and Augusta. Keep going? Going to try and carry Justin around New Orleans. I hope my back can cope with that. And then I think it's TPC and then going back to Europe.

Q. Can you elaborate on the decision to skip Austin?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, the scheduling is a big part of it. I was not that keen on the Round Robin. I suggested, actually the other week, if you still want to keep the guys, guarantee that you keep them there for awhile, you can always look at the option of British Am, U.S. Am format of playing a couple of rounds stroke play and then that would lead you into the seeding and maybe a 32-bracket or something like that, and you could potentially even put another couple of guys in the field if you want to to start with. Then you get to making sure that everyone is around for a little bit.

But to me, match play is do-or-die: Either I win or I lose. I kind of like that format. But given that I want to play the week before Augusta, I've played in the Middle East, I've had a couple weeks off and then I need to pick up some pace and play a few tournaments. Then I have this stretch of three weeks, I need a breather at some point, and that's the week I need to take off then.

Like I said, you're not going to have everyone playing every week.

Q. You mentioned you've had some other points in your career where you've had some really hot years, and good streaks, but you're on a pretty good, sustained run since your win before The Open Championship, a lot of Top 10s, a lot of runner-ups and wins. Is this maybe the best golf of your career in terms of consistency?
HENRIK STENSON: I think summer to end of '13 was the best four or five months I played. I felt like I was pretty much in contention every week that I played, and certainly by the end of it, the energy levels could feel that, too, because it takes a lot of energy out of you being in contention; that extra focus and pressure. You're just giving it your all mentally more than anything.

I'd say that's my best stretch, but it's hard not to rate 2016 as my best year given that I won The Open and played well at the Olympics and won in Germany and a few other good -- quite a lot of other strong finishes.

Yeah, I feel like my game is in a position where a lot of times if I'm playing good, I should be there or thereabouts.

Q. Another scheduling question. This is your third year at this tournament. Has this become part of your schedule, or is it still year-to-year?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think a lot of times for me, I mean, as you know, I'm a European and I play some in Europe. I play very much a worldwide schedule. As I mentioned, I'm 41 in April, so I'm not really looking to add any tournaments at this point.

So if anything, I'd like to keep it at maybe 24. I've been playing roughly 26 the last couple of years. But as long as there's no massive changes in the schedule, there's a fair chance -- if I look at my schedule the last four or five years, it's pretty much been the same, the same rhythm and the same schedule I've played with a few exemptions, and I guess one of them was to add this one about three years ago.

Yeah, I like it. I like the golf course. Like I said, I've had two good showings and it suits my game. I definitely see myself playing here a few more times.

Q. Why do you feel this course suits you?
HENRIK STENSON: It's because of the second shots, both on the par 3s and the par 4s, a lot of times it's those kind of mid-irons. It's the 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-irons into the greens, and when I'm hitting it well, then that's the strong part of my game. So it's going to set up a lot of birdie chances. Then of course, if you're looking at the courses and the schedule, you're not going to pick courses that do not suit your game, either, even though that sometimes happens.

This is one that definitely suits me, and here we are again.

Q. After you withdrew, did you leave that day?
HENRIK STENSON: I went back to Orlando that Friday and had the weekend at home. Just kind of regrouped a little bit. I was feeling better. My caddie started to feel worse, so he was not in a good state on Friday evening. He's not here to give you all the details; don't know if you want them.

Like I said, it was quite a few guys struggling. I spoke to my coach earlier, who was in México, and he's not in the best shape, either, back in England. There's certainly a few people getting that bug.

Q. Have you practiced at all since?
HENRIK STENSON: I did a couple of smaller sessions, yeah.

Q. Will you go back next year?
HENRIK STENSON: I think that's something we'll think about when those decisions are to be made. Don't push your luck now (laughter).

Q. Curious what you thought about some of the proposed rule changes, and if there was any other rule that you think needs to be looked at?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm sure there's always one or two. But again, actually, the boys with R&A and our rules staff in Europe, they try to keep us updated. But I missed one meeting and then I got an e-mail, but I was actually busy moving. So I didn't really take the time to sit and read through it.

So I kind of passed on answering or give comments on it last week, because I just haven't read through it. I thought it's for 2019, so I figure I'll have enough time to get my head around all of it before it happens.

So I haven't really -- I've skimmed through it. I don't feel I would give you a good comment since I'm not up-to-date with it.

Q. I was going to ask you, having gone with Phil Mickelson those last two days at Troon last year -- did you see the interview last night?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I didn't see anything. I saw the Dustin one in México, the top 5. That was pretty much it.

Q. I'm trying to remember what last year looked like, the Swedish Masters, the Nordea, two weeks before the U.S. Open or one week?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't think it's been played the week before the U.S. Open. The last, should I say, the last three or four years, it's been Memorial week, which is normally two weeks prior, right? So it's the same dates this year again.

Yeah, I mean, you can't be everywhere all the time apparently. So again, I have to miss Memorial because I'm needed back in Sweden that week. We'll see in the future. I hope we can find maybe a different date for Sweden and I could be back at Muirfield Village again.

Q. You played so well in Houston and you won, and then last year you finished second. Are you surprised you haven't carried that over to Augusta more?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, they are trying to give us good opportunities to prepare for Augusta at Houston, but still, it's not the same golf courses obviously. I've got a number of reasons why I think I haven't played as well as I would have liked to at Augusta. I'm not going to bore with you all of them, even though you're curious to hear them all.

I remember one time, probably when I played my best in 2013, it was two weeks, Houston was actually earlier, and so it wasn't the week before. It was two weeks before. So then of course I went home and tried to reinvent my game again and came back to Augusta and played much worse than I did two weeks earlier.

Bottom line, I think for me, it's more important to in play mode and playing the week before in Houston. That's important. They are trying really hard to give us the same kind of setup, even though it's two slightly different golf courses. Playing is important for me. It might not be just to carry on as much from the golf course in Houston to Augusta. But we're working on a few things.

Q. Curious, what do you consider to be your worst moment in golf or biggest, disappointing moment in golf?
HENRIK STENSON: Which one of our talks or which one of our -- (laughter) set yourself up for that one.

Worst moment in golf? I don't know; if Doral is one of them.

Q. For us or you? Maybe Jordan or Adam Scott at Lytham --
HENRIK STENSON: I remember, I was still an amateur, and I was doing really well in The Challenge Tour tournament that we had in Sweden. I think I was leading by one or two with two to go, and I hit a terrible shot and ended up making double on 17, and then missed the playoff by one I think. But yeah, I wasn't happy then.

Like I said, we all carry a few of those with us. That's part of it. There's been a couple. Like in 2015, it was a disappointing year. I played really well throughout the year but I didn't win a single tournament, and I had plenty of chances. Some of the times, there was this kid from Texas that rolled in 50-footers when I hit it to four feet and things like that in Atlanta. And another time, I hit an up-shoot into the wind in Boston and hit it in the water and Rickie then took advantage of one of my mistakes.

Yeah, I'm sure there's a few others, as well, but I think -- I still think I've got more positive memories than bad memories over time, though.

Q. Scheduling issues aside, do you feel like there's any extra onus on the top players to play Bay Hill this year specifically?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, you can definitely argue for that. Absolutely. But again, it's a lot of things that you weigh into your scheduling, and being an Orlando resident, it's a great week for me, anyway, to be able to stay at home and sleep on my Tempurpedic mattress, registered trademark (laughter) and just drive across town.

Of course, there's going to be some special tributes to his life and honor. We're putting some umbrellas on our bags and things like that. So I'm sure it's going to be a great week, and we're going to do our best to honor him throughout the week.

DOUG MILNE: Henrik, we appreciate your time, as always. Best of luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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