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May 10, 2017

Henrik Stenson

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

MICHAEL BALIKER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to welcome back our 2009 PLAYERS champion, Henrik Stenson, to the interview room here at TPC Sawgrass. Henrik, welcome back. Just talk about what it's like being back here this week as the defending champion and ready to take on this golf course.

HENRIK STENSON: Well, not defending champion, but pretty --

MICHAEL BALIKER: Sorry, past champion.

HENRIK STENSON: It was a little while back, wasn't it, Fanny? A few years. Yes, it's great to be back. It's one of my favorite weeks and one of the highlights on the calendar for sure. It's a great golf course we play. It's been newly renovated, and there's not too much different in how it's going to play, I think. The greens are maybe a hair bigger. Some of the undulations have made it a little bit softer, and I think that increases the number of pin positions we can see out there, so I wouldn't be surprised at all tomorrow if we're playing one or two new pin positions that we might not have played in the previous years.

12th hole obviously is the big change, and I think we start out rather cautiously on that one, and we'll see if it's worth having a go later on in the week, judging by how others succeed or fail.

There's some visual changes between 6 and 7 and so on, but the holes are pretty much the same.

All in all, it's the same golf course with a little facelift. It's a very prestigious event, as you know, it's called the fifth major and that's for a reason. We've got the strongest field in golf assembled, and it's a tournament you want to win, and we were lucky enough to do it back in 2009. Great memories to be back, and yeah, we'll see where the week takes us.

Q. What's the short answer for, you started out the season fairly well, you had a couple good finishes and everything, and lately things have not gone so well. We see a missed cut. That doesn't necessarily always mean somebody played poorly, but what's kind of been going on, and do you think you have it righted a little bit this week?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, game feels like it's heading in the right direction. I put a fair amount of work in. Well, you can always throw a couple of different thoughts on why things don't work out the way you want to, but all in all, it's ups and downs, life in general, golf certainly. Moving houses, long season, not much rest in between seasons, and kind of trying to carry on, eventually I think you tend to run out of steam a little bit.

Yeah, I mean, I can continue with certain thoughts on why I haven't played my best in the past couple of months, but I just feel like it's on the edge now heading into the summer months where it's a lot of golf and a busy time, and I'll just try to put some extra work in and try to get going again.

So far, so good. The last couple of days I feel like I've been playing pretty good, so we'll see if we can carry that on tomorrow.

Q. Has the knee had anything to do with any of this from back last year? You didn't get any surgery or anything; is it 100 percent or how do you manage it?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the knee is not 100 percent, but it's not giving me too much grief in general. I still have a torn meniscus in the right knee, and I just try and keep it strong and stable, and most of the time it doesn't give me much problem. More so if I'm walking very undulated and side hill kind of courses, then it tends to make itself recognized a little bit more.

But you know, at this point, I hope I can just manage it with those measures, and if I need to have a surgery at some point in the future, we'll just have to deal with that at that time.

Q. As someone who had to persevere before winning your first major, what was it like watching Sergio get the Masters jacket?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, it was a little tough in a way because I'm sitting here watching two of my good friends battle it out, you know, so I guess -- in a way I would have been a winner no matter what because it would have been a good friend winning it. But of course, I was very happy for Sergio. I went to his charity day the day after I won the Open last year. He had his foundation day down in Switzerland, and I know how close he has been on a couple of occasions before, and then there I was standing with the Claret Jug and getting all the congratulations for it.

I gave him a little inspirational chat at that point, and he wasn't late to mention that when I saw him in the locker room here, and we've obviously been keeping in contact over the phone. No, I was delighted for him to win the Masters.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit more about the 12th hole and your approach to that and kind of the risk-reward for guys, especially on the weekend?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, my approach I think to start with is going to be about a 4-iron and a sand iron. I think it's -- I'm not sure if the balance is 100 percent in terms of the risk and reward. That's why I'm kind of holding back a little bit. I'm just going to try and find that part out, I think. It seems like you can hit a pretty good shot down the center of the fairway and it could end up in the water on the left-hand side, and if that's the case, I'm not sure if it's worth it.

We'll see. It's certainly one where you can make an aggressive move, and as always, if you hit the right shot, you're going to get rewarded. It's more where do you place that in terms of percentages and how right you need to get it to actually hit the green there.

I think I'll start to consider it, and then we'll see if we need to -- certainly if you're two or three behind on the weekend and that's where you need to make a push, it's certainly an opportunity.

Q. When you've missed a few cuts in a row, is there a temptation to add a sense of urgency to an event to say this is the week that I need to turn it around, and perhaps make a tournament bigger than just the one week?
HENRIK STENSON: Not really. I mean, no. If you miss a couple of cuts or three or four or whatever it is -- yeah, I haven't played good, I haven't maybe had my head in the right place on a few of those occasions. It's more about picking yourself up a little bit and looking in the right direction and then doing the work and build some confidence. I know I'm not missing cuts if I'm playing well, so that's more the question -- give the game the attention it needs and work on the right things, and there's been times, I guess, where I just haven't been swinging the club the way I should or want to and then funnily enough the golf ball ends up in other places than where you want it to.

Q. What unique things have you been able to experience with the Claret Jug this year, and what are your thoughts on Royal Birkdale?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it's a pretty nice feeling to see it on your coffee table every day. I don't know if it needs to be much more adventurous than that. But it's been on a jet ski journey. That was probably last year. I haven't taken it sky diving yet. I'll probably, if I defend at Birkdale, I might take it sky diving. That could be a good bet, right?

And Birkdale is -- I'm really looking forward to coming back there. I played there in '08 and played well. One of my favorite Open venues. I think it's a little bit less kind of down to chance if you're hitting a tee shot down the fairway for it to stay on the fairway. It's pretty straightforward links in that sense.

Yeah, I'll hope I can give it a good shot to try and hang on to it. I'm sure it's going to be a sad moment when we have to give that back otherwise.

Q. What holes on this golf course are really the most challenging for you or that you just look at it and you go, I really don't like this hole. And then, other than the par-5s, is there something that's particularly easy and you go, oh, I know I'm good for birdie here, I have a better chance than average.
HENRIK STENSON: Oh, I don't know if there's any of those holes where you say, I've got an easy birdie here, especially not around this place. No, there's a couple of holes that might not look that tough on the scorecard, but the 1st is certainly a hole where if you don't put the ball in play off the tee, it can be a pretty tricky journey from there on to make sure you get a par or better. There's a couple of -- I mean, it's not the longest golf course, but you've got to position yourself well off the tee, stay out of that Bermuda rough and hit a lot of greens, and the setup is no different. It's going to be the same strategy and same game plan. I mean, I know I can play a really solid final round when needed around here, and yeah, I just want to go out there and try and put myself in a similar situation again to have a chance come Sunday, and that would be nice.

Q. The streak you had in 2009 on the back nine on Sunday to come from behind, Tim Clark had a similar run the next year, Rickie had a nice run there. Is there any chance that that back nine has gotten a little bit too easy, or did you guys just get hot at the right time, hit the right shots, and do what you had to do there?
HENRIK STENSON: I think we were just awesome. It's as simple as that. (Laughter.)

No, I mean, the back nine, I had some opportunities for sure. I mean, if you -- but again, you've got to play the shots, and I think on this golf course, that can make it stand out even more because if you play the shots and you give yourself the good birdie chances and take them and then maybe somebody else is not on their game, you can end up with quite a big change in scores on the back nine. But if you play well, 10 certainly can be a birdie chance, but you've got to hit that 4-wood, 3-wood, whatever down the middle and hit a solid approach shot. But it's not the most -- the toughest hole in the world, but it's got to be done, and then 11, of course, and now 12.

I mean, yeah, 10, 11, 12 could be three really good birdie chances, and then also 16, of course. But 14, 15, 15 is a tougher tee shot, a longer hole now. You can still birdie them, but there's still no guarantees by any way.

Q. I meant to ask earlier, do you feel that much different as an Open Champion than you did before? Has it impacted your life in any great way other than getting that major that every guy out here wants to get?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, of course it gives you a little bit of a long-term confidence boost when you achieve something like that and play as well as I did. I don't think -- even though maybe I didn't question if I could go out and play a solid final round in a major, at least I got it on paper that I can do it. That's always a bit of a boost.

But no, other than being a whole lot more busy off the golf course, I'm kind of the same, same dry sense of humor.

Q. Sergio said he was sort of surprised by the outpouring of support from players and how people have come up to him and seemed truly, as you said, delighted that he won. Why do you think people did have that reaction? What is it about Sergio?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, he's a good friend of mine and many others, as well. But I think it's more -- everyone knows that kind of -- it's part of our careers and our profession to have the disappointments, and we all know that he's had a couple of heartbreaks on the golf course in the past, and then to finally get what you really long for, everyone can kind of connect with that, I think, and feel that happiness. I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have rather put that jacket on myself on Sunday the 8th of April or whatever it was, but for someone who's been close and -- yeah, I certainly think that his career deserves a major championship for sure.

Q. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, for better and worse. Do you think that is a part of -- you guys see him as he's a genuine -- he is who he is?
HENRIK STENSON: He's Spanish, no?

Q. He's not phony, I guess. Is that part of -- do you like to see people like that succeed?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, everyone has got different personalities, and some players -- some people you can tell more where they're kind of at. Yeah, I mean, he's been part of top golf and world class golf for so many years as he came through as a youngster and up until today. I think all the fans and all the players obviously know him and know his game and know that side of him. Whether it helps you or not, you know, I couldn't really tell you on that.

MICHAEL BALIKER: Henrik, we appreciate the time.

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