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June 21, 2017

Henrik Stenson

Cologne, Germany

NEIL AHERN: Delighted to welcome The Open Champion, and of course the defending BMW International Open Champion, Henrik Stenson.

Obviously different course this year from 2016. Nice to be back?

HENRIK STENSON: I guess it doesn't matter which one we played on. Yeah, it's good to be back in Munich. It's a lovely city. Had success here in the past and obviously been a big part of this International Open for many, many years, and been successful and yeah, just good to be back.

I guess I can talk a little bit how important this win was for me last year. I came off, I'm not sure how long, probably almost a season and a half winless and I had had a couple of close calls to win some tournaments. It didn't happen, and then I managed to win up in Cologne last year and that really gave my confidence a boost, and we all know what happened a couple of weeks later.

It was really key I think in the success I had at Troon and winning The Open Championship; that I won this tournament at the right time, and yeah, it's really pushed me on to that success. Yeah, it feels great to be back and thinking back of how important this win was last year for me.

NEIL AHERN: You talked about your game, not the week you were after last week --

HENRIK STENSON: I had a nice week boating with the kids in Sweden. That's the benefit when things doesn't work out the way you planned.

Yeah, it was certainly the best I played and missed the cut for a long time in terms of tee-to-green but putting was really off and I was quite a long way down in the putting stats last week at the U.S. Open.

But long game was pretty solid and that has been the part that hasn't really been what I wanted it, so at least I tried to take the possibilities out, and the putting is the one thing that kept my game in good shape for the last couple years. It just didn't work out last week.

So I guess that's Murphy's Law, right: When you get one thing working, one thing that's solid for a long time kind of disappears for a little bit. We just hope we can have them both here this week and see if we can challenge for a third BMW International Open.

NEIL AHERN: Before I go to the floor, can you tell us about this golf course and the condition? Have you been out there yet?

HENRIK STENSON: No, we are playing in the Pro-Am this afternoon, so that will be my first time out on the course. But obviously I'm very familiar with the course.

It hasn't changed a whole lot over the years, even though there's been some updates. A couple of the holes are a bit longer than they used to be ten years ago, and 11 and 16 comes to mind where you brought the water in a whole lot more than it used to be back in the day. But I don't expect any big changes other than I think a new tee box on 13 compared to what we played two years ago.

So it's a low-scoring golf course. You're going to make a lot of birdies. Winning score is normally close to 20-under, around there. So you don't want to go out and try and make as many pars as possible, which is the normal U.S. Open course, even though it wasn't that way last week. So yeah, hopefully we bring the birdie train with us this week.

Q. When you play a course like this, is it tempting just to be too aggressive from the off, or do you have to let the birdies come to you?
HENRIK STENSON: I guess it's a bit of both. I think in my experience, there's been the odd times where you know you're at a course where you need to make a lot of birdies, and if you don't make some birdies, you're going to feel a bit frustrated because you feel like everyone else is making birdies but you aren't.

So it can be a little bit frustrating in that way if you don't get off to the start you want. But at the same time, golf is a game that you can't always -- very rarely you can force the birdies. So you've just got to give yourself chances, and if you do play well, there's lots of chances out there. Of course, the par 5s, but also a couple of the par 4s you're coming in with wedges. You've just got to play solid and you're going to give yourself lots of chances and hopefully putts will drop by the end of the day.

Q. Just a few thoughts maybe on the Tiger Woods situation. I know it's a little bit of a tough subject to talk about, but still, it's there. So what are your thoughts on that?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, obviously everyone would like to see Tiger back. We know he struggled with his back and injuries for quite a few years, and in this game, your body is a big part of it. And you're not, you know, functioning, with your back or knees, or whatever it might be is out, then you're not going to be able to compete with the best. So he's had a tough time coming back from these injuries and to play the way he can play. And then obviously it was some other issues in the later part here, and I just wish him a speedy recovery and that we can see him become out playing golf again.

Q. How would you sum up your season so far? Are you satisfied with the season, despite a disappointing weekend last week?
HENRIK STENSON: It hasn't been great but it hasn't been bad either, I wouldn't say. I've had a couple of good tournaments. I've been up in contention a few times at Wentworth and Dubai in the early part of the year and a couple other Top 10s. Hasn't been bad by any means.

But of course, it's nowhere near the way I played last summer, which you always hope and think that you can do but you've got to be humble enough and knowing that life goes up-and-down, and so does your form and your game.

You know, sometimes you are paying the price mentally and energy-wise from a very successful and busy year last year, and it always kind of drags on into the next year, as well. I mean, I don't know how many interviews I've done, how many questions I've answered about winning at Troon last year, and still you're trying to get into the mix and focus on your game again.

When you become a Major Champion or if you have a lot of success on the golf course, you're going to be very busy off the golf course. It's always going to take some focus and energy away from your game, so we're trying to manage all the different parts and just keep on working away on my game. The most important thing is to get the game in good shape and if you're playing well, your results will come, as well. I'm not really worried in that sense.

Q. You said several times, you like Munich, it's a lovely city, and last night you had a very special sightseeing tour in the Rolls-Royce. Can you tell me what you've seen and how that felt driving through Munich in that car?
HENRIK STENSON: It was certainly a few heads turned. Rolls-Royce is not the most common car on the streets anywhere in the world. It's a smooth ride, and we went to a lovely restaurant and had a good meal.

Like I said, Munich is a nice city and full summer, and temperatures are nice and a lot of restaurants and a beautiful city. We enjoy our week here and it's always good to be back.

Q. Did you bring driver or is 3-wood enough?
HENRIK STENSON: No, we always carry a driver. It's always a question of how many times we use it but there's certainly a few driving holes around here, and like I said, if you want to make enough birdies to get to 20-under, there's certainly a few holes that you've got to be aggressive and try and use as much length as possible.

I mean, I always look at the course and make my game plan and it's a balance between trying to be as accurate and really getting as much out of it with taking as little risk as possible. So it very much depends on the golf course and of course how I am playing and swinging and feeling with my long game. So I'm pretty confident we'll see the driver being aired a few times this week.

Q. Talking about the Mickelson caddie split, what is it that defines for you the perfect relationship between caddie --
HENRIK STENSON: I'm still looking obviously (laughter). I mean, I spend -- any player on Tour spends very -- lots of time with the caddie. There's long days and hours and practising and competing and traveling.

So I think getting along on the personal plane and having a good time together, enjoying each other's company is equally as important as working well together. So it's really to do a good job on the golf course and be successful in that, but I'm seeing a tough thing happen if you don't get along, either. Finding someone you're gelling well with and enjoy each other's company is crucial.

Yeah, I mean, most relationships come to an end at some point I guess, and 25 years is a very, very long one. I don't know if there's been any longer player/caddie relationship. They have been very successful together. I think it's 41 tournaments won and Bones has been on the bag for Phil's victory's since the beginning. No, they have been a great team and obviously they can still carry on as friends going forward even if they are not working together.

Q. You are paired with Tommy Fleetwood and Bernd Weisberger. Any thoughts on your playing partners?
HENRIK STENSON: I've played a fair amount of golf with them. They are two good guys. Tommy is playing great this year. He's had a lot of strong finishes in big tournaments, coming off I think it was fourth last week at the U.S. Open, and he was also second in México at the WGC, and won in Abu Dhabi. He's had a great season so far, and I'm sure he's keen and eager to try and challenge for the No. 1 in Europe this year.

And Bernd, he also won in China, I believe, a couple of months back. Also a strong player and getting into being part of the big events around the world and playing solid there. So no, I've got a good pairing and two strong players by my side.

Q. It's a pretty easy course if you look at the results regarding the last years. What are the signature holes for you? Which holes can be decisive for the tournament?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think you've got -- you've got to play well at the par 5s and both 6 and 11 got water in front of the green. It can be a little bit of -- it can be an easy birdie if you hit two good shots. It could also be a really big struggle for par or possibly a bogey or worse if you don't hit it.

So you know, you've got to take your chances there but whenever there's water around, there's always danger, as well. So 5, 11, comes to mind. And also 16 is a short par 4 I think with the changes that were made a couple years ago. You're seeing less of the players go for the green. When they move the tee box up on one of the days on the weekend normally, you've just got to watch your spin on that one.

And 18, another one you can get an easy birdie or eagle chance, but the tee shot is crucial on that one, too, to navigate that pond and still take a tight line off the tee and give yourself a shorter second shot. Par 5s are certainly the ones to look out for.

Q. Back to last night. Were you the only player that brought his own clubs to the competition?
HENRIK STENSON: No. But I was the only one smart enough to bring a lob-wedge I think. Sergio had his gap wedge, and given -- actually I'm not sure what Martin had, I didn't see that. But I saw that Sergio had his gap wedge and even though we were going quite high, I think I had a slightly upper hand and Marco and the team was also kind enough to putt the shimmy on the left side which was a better angle. They were whining about that a few times, saying, "He's got a better angle: You don't always win on the golf course. You kind of win on the setup before, right.

Q. You didn't encourage him to bring the gap wedge?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I would have had him bring an 8-iron.

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