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April 26, 2017

Justin Rose

Henrik Stenson

Avondale, Louisiana

MARK WILLIAMS: We're here at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson as one of the top teams in the competition, given their past history. They're both major champions and they are the only team that consist of two major champions and also of course the gold and the silver medalist at the Olympics. If you could just talk about how you guys got together, obviously you had some history in the Ryder Cup, and I'm assuming that's part of the reason that you're playing together this week.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I think we paired up pretty nicely at Gleneagles for the first time, and we had a really successful week there. We really enjoyed ourselves on the golf course. Obviously Henrik and I get along really, really well. We've lived across the street from one another at Lake Nona for a couple of years, and our caddies obviously get on incredibly well, but going back to Gleneagles Henrik and I paired up beautifully there, we had an awesome time on the golf course and a record-setting time on the golf course, too, so we had a couple of really hot days and have enjoyed each other's company.

MARK WILLIAMS: Henrik, who approached who when the format was announced?

HENRIK STENSON: It was Justin. He just can't live without me. I can't recall exactly. I mean, we got this new rule in place where you're supposed to play a new tournament, so I was looking on my schedule, I'm quite limited for new events, so this was one of the ones that was kind of very handy, and then it turned into a team format, so I think we kind of discussed that. It might have even been our caddies that were discussing it at one point and they kind of tricked us into it.

MARK WILLIAMS: This is your first appearance here, and I was going to say Justin, this is your 11th or 12th. The last four or five years you've had some really good form here. Have you given him any advice on the golf course?


HENRIK STENSON: He told me which holes I was going to hit on. I guess I'd take that as advice.

JUSTIN ROSE: Or direction, or a directive. But yeah, it's a course that I've really learned to love. It's grown on me over the years. I've learned how to play it. Pete Dye stuff can sometimes take -- there's a lot of tricks to it sometimes. It's a course that I have really begun to play well on. Henrik and I obviously, I think it's important that we play the golf course this week, especially it's going to be windy, it's going to throw up some different variables. It's important that he feels comfortable on the golf course.

Obviously how I see the golf course is important for me, but he also needs to feel comfortable, too, so I think after today when we've played the golf course again and we can then sit down tonight and build a strategy for the week.

Q. For Henrik, earlier Justin was saying he believes that very little research went into the pairing of teams in terms of guys for professional reasons. Looking at which other players' games they respect and how those games would complement their own and it's more about the curiosity of wanting to team up with a friend and have that experience. To what extent do you agree with that?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think in a team format, obviously your partner and how you get on, the chemistry and everything around that is of big importance. If you don't get along, it's going to be a long four days out there. I know that much. It's good to be next to someone that you enjoy their company, and of course to team up with a player of Justin's caliber is hopefully going to make that journey a bit smoother, as well.

Like he touched on, we've had some great success in the past, and we play also a very similar game. He's played really well at this golf course and won this event, so if I look at my schedule, I'm pretty confident I can always go somewhere where Justin has done well because we play a similar game, and those golf courses kind of suit me pretty good, too.

Q. Justin, last time we saw you was obviously at Augusta that Sunday. Not the result you wanted but a good show. Just curious how you kind of spent the past couple weeks, how long it took you to sort of get over that and maybe what you took away from the day.
JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, obviously the Masters a couple weeks ago was an incredible week, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt really in control of my game and my emotions all week and really felt like I had an opportunity to win, as obviously I did. It's an opportunity that I feel that -- certainly one that got away. I felt that it was mine at points on the back nine. But really, I sleep well every night. I'm absolutely fine. I feel like Augusta is the one major where the fact that we go back there year on year, you can build on that performance and you can build on that experience. I think other major championships you have your opportunity on a golf course that you may love and then you may not see it again.

I feel that the Masters is one that I can keep coming back to and keep creating those chances. From that point of view I'm incredibly positive, and also I think it's only really revealing at the end of the season. A major championship year is a career year when you win one. I might have the opportunity to win a couple more yet, so I'm not even willing to look back at this with any sort of regret until the season is done, and then we can reevaluate and assess actually what it meant. It was a great week. I wish I'd have been one stroke better, but it was -- for me it was another step forward in my career and my self-belief.

Q. Where do you keep your medals, your Olympic medals?
HENRIK STENSON: Where do you keep yours because I was told to bring it so I have mine in my pocket, but he didn't bring his, so I'm not going to show off a silver when there's no gold around.

JUSTIN ROSE: Actually now is the time to show off a silver when there's no gold around.

HENRIK STENSON: I've got you.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, mine is in the hotel room, I'm sorry to say. Yeah, just -- I'm forgetful.

HENRIK STENSON: There's one on the team organized and planned and one that's going to keep for getting stuff.

JUSTIN ROSE: And one that's not boastful.

Q. The players have talked about the ball; how similar is the ball you guys play or different, and how big a factor is that? For most of us, we play what's on sale or what we find in the weeds. Tell us, what's the big deal?
HENRIK STENSON: It's not a big deal at all because we always play my ball when we're playing foursomes, so for me it's very simple.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, so obviously I'll be -- that's a good question because when the conditions are fairly benign, it's probably not much of a factor. You get the feel of it within a day or two, and in calm conditions, most products are fairly similar. The spin rates are probably going to vary a few hundred rpms at the most, but a few hundred rpms might be a bit different, so today is going to be a good test for me. I probably should get a couple of sleeves of Henrik's golf balls and hit some into the breeze, certainly hit some shots into the wind and get comfortable with what I'm seeing and if it's going further or shorter than my own ball and definitely adjust accordingly, so that's definitely something I'll work on today.

HENRIK STENSON: I'm not worried about the golf ball, I'm more worried about this tent. But it's actually a good thing to look into. Is it the one-ball rule, because at the Ryder Cup I've been informed there's not a one-ball rule. At the Ryder Cup we kind of played around a little bit with it, so if it's a hole where -- now we're going to tell everyone the secrets, but then I can hit Justin's ball off the tee so he gets it for his second shot, and he can use it on a par-3 and vice versa. You can kind of limit the impact that the different golf balls might have by flipping it around a little bit. But don't tell anyone about that one, please.

Q. Henrik, is this a recurrence of what you had in Shanghai a few years ago?
HENRIK STENSON: It's actually coming off now. No, I just -- it's the coaches have a wake sort of thing, Phil Midge with Callaway the other week, so I just bumped my elbow a little bit getting up on the boat, I think. Nothing major.

Q. Do you think Thomas will be looking at how you guys perform this week in terms of going forward to Paris?
HENRIK STENSON: It's quite a long way. I feel like he knows the way Justin and I can play in foursomes and better ball. But I'm sure he always watches. I mean, he's the captain. I'd be watching every week what everyone does, I guess. It could be another reassurance that we're a good team going ahead.

Q. First official team event on the PGA TOUR since 1981, and curious if you believe that this is a long time coming and whether you'd like to see the TOUR adopt more outside-the-box formats.
JUSTIN ROSE: I think that it's been a -- you've just got to look at the strength of field this week and the excitement that it's brought from a player's point of view. I think that guys at the top end of the World Rankings enjoy a week like this where we can pair up with friends and obviously we can strengthen our own skill set by adding another strong skill set. That's an exciting opportunity. Or someone, for example, like Brooks who can do something very cool and have a great experience with his brother. There's a lot of dynamics at play, and I think that's exciting for the tournament.

You know, it offers some guys at the top end of the World Rankings an opportunity to play and get FedExCup points and maybe not increase their World Ranking divisor by playing a new event, which is a decision at the beginning of the year of how you choose to plan out your schedule, so it offers that unique opportunity. But I think it should be a unique opportunity. I think that I've always believed that 72-hole stroke play is the purest form of the game, and that's how you often get the best champion and the truest winner. That should be protected, I think, for the most part.

But having one a year, not many more than that -- if something else cool cropped up, sure, we'd all look at it, but I don't think it should become the norm. I think it's great to have this as being unique and special.

Q. You shot 22-under when you won here, and I think that was the most on this course. I'm just wondering what kind of score do you expect this week, and especially in best ball, how low do you think the scores will go?
JUSTIN ROSE: Well, I think that we're looking at the wind this week as being probably the limiting factor. I think that's going to probably keep scores higher than we're used to here.

But 16-under par is usually a pretty good total around this golf course for a day, so if you can keep it -- if you can shoot that type of score in -- and I see the opportunity for me and Henrik maybe not so much in the better ball but maybe in the alternate-shot, if we can both play really, really well get into a good rhythm and shoot a good number in the alternate-shot, I think that's probably where versus the field we'll probably make the biggest inroads. Obviously you can always have a pairing that gels and dovetails and makes their birdies on the right holes and can shoot 10- or 12-under better ball for sure. We're probably going to see that once this week. But I think that this golf course has enough teeth and there's enough demanding tee shots or long par-3s that alternate-shot is going to be a really good test of golf, especially in this wind.

Q. You don't see 59 on the best ball rounds, do you?
JUSTIN ROSE: I see it's possible, yeah. 13-under is possible in best ball for sure. But I think if we have calm conditions, I would say it's likely that score is going to be a hell of a score.

HENRIK STENSON: I understand there's a couple of par-4s where you can move the tee boxes up, and if you make your play a bit easier, as well, then obviously you're going to throw a couple more birdies out there.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see if they change the setup from previous years based on the format, so four-ball better-ball day, I'm not sure, but maybe 16 holes, like 16 you can move the tee up and that can become driver ball, whether four-ball would be a great day to have those changes in setup. But we'll see.

Q. For background at Gleneagles, did you two suggest that pairing or did Paul put you together? And the pairing worked so well; what's the mix do you think of chemistry and like games kind of gelling together?
HENRIK STENSON: I think you said it there. We play a very, very similar game and we like each other. That's a good start, right?

JUSTIN ROSE: I think if you add the caddie dynamic, too, it becomes four of us out there rather than just me and Henrik with two guys carrying our bags. The caddies are a big part of the whole team.

Q. Did you guys go to Paul and ask him about playing together there?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we were suggesting towards that, and he was kind enough to listen.

JUSTIN ROSE: Yeah, I think Paul -- certainly the feedback I got from Paul was that he really felt that I would be my best standing alongside another really great player. You know, he just felt that that was the way I was going to bring out my best, and he kind of gauged that through -- I don't know how he gauged that. He seemed to know me better than I know myself, but Paul was very thorough, and he had a plan for everybody in the team. He had a plan for me. He had a plan for Henrik. He had a plan G-Mac two weeks prior to the Ryder Cup. He knew he wasn't going to play him on the Friday or the Saturday morning, which he knew G-Mac might be despondent about, but he said, G-Mac, you're leading the team out on Sunday morning. You're going to have No. 1 in the singles. And when a player kind of knows, okay, wow, that's my responsibility, then they know what they're working towards. He had such an in-depth plan going into it that I think a few weeks before he kind of had us identified as his lead or strong pairing.

Q. Both you guys play a bunch on the European Tour. What's been your reaction to the change in format of some events over on that Tour, and do you have any out-of-the-box ideas if you were commissioner for the day that you'd like to see on the PGA TOUR?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm pretty much on the same page as Justin. I mean, I'm open to see one or two different tournaments on the schedule, and you can try it out and so on. But to try and make it a bit more interesting for the fans at times and quicker, get to the final holes quicker by playing shorter matches or whatever it might be, but at the end of the day, we're out there playing 72-hole stroke-play tournaments most of the time, and that's kind of where we figured out who's the best player for that week, and all the big events are made up that way.

I mean, I don't know if the tennis guys would have been happy to go somewhere and play like three games to see who's the best for the day. I'm kind of for the five-setters.

JUSTIN ROSE: I think if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I think the European Tour had the opportunity where maybe there were tournaments that weren't as successful as they would like, so the PGA TOUR seems to have a very strong calendar. There were gaps on the European Tour schedule where there were opportunities to do something different and strengthen weaker tournaments by creating more fun and excitement around them. I think they've done a great job of identifying those tournaments. But they're not messing with the strong tournaments on the European Tour. They're not going to take the BMW PGA at Wentworth and change the format.

Q. Your thought about chemistry between you two and maybe four, is there any connection beyond friendship? Maybe something else?
JUSTIN ROSE: He's very handsome. He's wearing pink.

HENRIK STENSON: I took it just for you.

JUSTIN ROSE: I don't know, it comes down to -- for me the most important thing on the golf course is not feeling a burden to say sorry if you hit a poor shot, to know that we're both giving 100 percent, to know that we've both got each other's back. If one makes a mistake we'll try to recover, and just having that freedom to play your best, I think that probably comes from a mutual respect, really, more than anything, and confidence in the other guy.

HENRIK STENSON: And you know you're going to try your absolute most. You're out there with a good friend and a great player, and you just want to try and play your best, and like I said, there's no stories. I know he's trying his hardest, he knows I'm going to try my hardest, and if I hit a bad shot, he's just going to hit it and then we'll find it and we'll hit it again. You can't -- it's not going to be a good environment if you're standing over the ball feeling like, oh, I hope I don't miss this or he gets mad at me. It's not going to work.

Q. Is it spiritual?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know where we're heading with this. Maybe on Sunday.

MARK WILLIAMS: Thanks, gentlemen. We appreciate your time, and good luck in the tournament.

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