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July 18, 2017

Henrik Stenson

Southport, England

MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome the European Tour Golfer of the Year for 2016, Henrik Stenson, to the interview room.

Henrik, it's been a great year for you. You've come back now to Royal Birkdale. You've handed back the Claret Jug. Is it down to business now for you to try to retain the trophy this week?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's been the busiest year, but also the best year in my professional career. It was certainly a dream come true winning The Open Championship last year. And at the same time now everywhere you go, up until this week, has been kind of fresh, winning The Open last year. So it's been a lot of focus on that. And I feel like it's a little bit easier to turn the page and look ahead, rather than speaking about what happened three, six, nine, 12 months ago all the time. That's kind of where I feel I'm at.

At the same time of course it's bittersweet to hand it back. It's almost become part of the family. It's been traveling with me around the world. And it also brings a lot of smiles to enthusiastic golfers around the world when they get to hold it and take pictures with the Claret Jug. It's been a fun year, but at the same time we're about ready to start focusing on what's in front of us rather than what's behind us.

Q. You sounded a bit down-hearted after the Scottish Open. Was that just a bit of frustration after the tournament and have you changed sort of your opinion of yourself the last couple of days?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the spirits might be another five percent up compared to Sunday after a couple of dropped shots coming in. It could have been a good finish or a good final round at the Scottish Open. Lipped out for eagle on 14 to go for 7-under for the round, and then finished 4-under. So it was not the finish -- I guess it was a bit of frustration on that, in one of the interviews after the round there.

But at the same time I don't feel like I've had the consistency I want to have, and to be honest I didn't think I had that last year if I compare it to 2013 for instance. Even though it was the best year of my career last year, I felt it was well timed, as well. I played my best at a few events that really mattered. I'm kind of working on that, trying to get that consistency back, whether it's going to be good enough this week or not, I can't tell you, but I couldn't tell you how I was going to win before the week last year either. In golf, I guess you're only a couple of good shots and picking up some nice solid feelings away from having a really good week.

So I hope this could be the case and more than anything I'm going to enjoy being out there. I worked hard my whole career to be able to win that championship last year, and I can't really put the pressure on myself that I'm going to win it again. It took a lot of chances to win that one, so I'm just going to go out there and do my best, really.

Q. After winning last year, do you feel less pressure at majors now because you don't have to worry about getting that first one or is that not in your nature?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, a little bit of both, I think. I never felt it was a big problem not having won one, even though I badly wanted to win one. But I never walked around feeling like, oh, I'm one of those guys on that list that potentially are the best players not to have won a major. I didn't really feel that part.

And yeah, I think once you win one, obviously that's off your shoulder. And it's more about putting yourself in contention again and trying to win a second one. Given how long and successful a career I've had, I think that's pretty much what we're aiming for, a few more chances to win more major championships. That's really where that extra spark can come from, I think.

Q. What do you remember from the last time you were here about the course, and do you see it differently now than you did that first time?
HENRIK STENSON: I can tell you the weather is a whole lot better this time. Up until now, at least.

Q. It's not supposed to be.
HENRIK STENSON: No, we'll see. I think, yeah, the course is pretty much the same. I don't even know if there's been any changes, if there's a new tee box anyplace compared to 2008, I couldn't really tell you. But it's a good track. It's one of my favourite tracks. I think you have to position yourself well off the tee. And the greens, I mean, you don't need to take silly risks into the greens. I think if you kind of go up and down the centerline, given where the pin is, you're going to give yourself decent looks for birdie. And if you putt well from there on, you can definitely keep on playing your game, and you move up the leaderboard eventually.

So I'm not looking to be overly aggressive, either off the tee or into the greens this week. And you never know, you might need to push a bit harder at some point throughout the week. But I think that's the same game plan I had last time we were here. But the weather was really tough on the Thursday, and then extremely windy on the weekend. I think I shot 77 on one, and moved out from 35th to third. It just shows how difficult it is to play it on the weekend. I don't know, if we get the same nice weather ahead of us or not, but my game plan is going to stay the same and we'll see where it takes us.

Q. How much benefit do you feel you get from playing the Scottish before coming to The Open as opposed to the years where you haven't done both?
HENRIK STENSON: It is a big benefit. Looking at my last four Open championships before this one, I went and played the Scottish Open twice, and finished second and first at the Open. And the two times I didn't go I finished around 40th. I think for me it's crucial, both to play the week before the major is ideal for me, and also playing links because you just get in kind of that mindset of where you're going to land the ball and playing the three-quarter shots in the crosswinds. It is a bit of a different game. It will be like coming from clay going into Wimbledon; you wouldn't do that. It's certainly a benefit to play the week before, when that's possible.

Q. On the Claret Jug, a lot of us know about the jet ski pictures, but were there one or two particularly memorable drinks you had from the Claret Jug or instances where you took it somewhere where there was so much excitement to see it?
HENRIK STENSON: I think we had a pretty special evening the first evening, it was pretty good. To be able to share with some family and close friends, just that first evening was very special. And it was French. It was bubbly, and it tasted rather good coming out of the Claret Jug, I can tell you that.

Then, like I said, it's an iconic trophy, so to bring that around the world, it's been many memorable moments due to that. I think the jet ski is probably the goofiest and most fun we've had with it. I've made an official promise that if I ever win the Claret Jug again, I'm going skydiving with it. And I don't know which is going to be harder, winning the Claret Jug again or going skydiving afterwards because that thought scares me a little bit. It won't stop me from trying to win it, though.

Q. You arrived in a certain bit of style with the trophy yesterday. I just wonder being The Open champion, has it elevated you both on and off the course and maybe raised your expectations, as well?
HENRIK STENSON: It's been a busy year off the course. I've been pretty good at saying no to a lot of people and a lot of things but it still kind of keeps on coming. I'm sure that's taking away a little bit of focus off what we're trying to do, and that's still compete at the highest level and try to beat the best players in the world.

I think I've pretty much stayed with the same scheduling and I don't feel like I've changed too many things in that sense off the winning. And I promise, that car ride was only yesterday.

Q. (No microphone.)
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I've always had high expectations on myself. I think when you know how well you can play, of course you want to get there more and more frequently, and when that doesn't happen, as it hasn't this year, then I think that's quite natural that builds up a bit of frustration. And at the same time you can kind of focus on your game and developing your game rather than competing. Because there are times when you can compete rather good, even if you're only 75%. And I think that's what both makes and breaks you a little bit. I have that perfectionist on my shoulder at times, I want to do it my way and the best way, and if that doesn't quite happen then I can get a bit frustrated, should I say, yeah.

Q. The final round last year, obviously one of the best rounds in history, but I'm curious from your standpoint and just the way you struck the ball that day, has that happened often in your career, just without the scoring result? Has it happened much since or it that just a standout?
HENRIK STENSON: No, it was certainly a standout in terms of how we played, but also how I putted that day. If I would have hit the same amount of shots, but I wouldn't have rolled in as many putts from 10, 15 feet, obviously the score would have been a whole lot different. So there's different parts of the game obviously that needs to work together. I've had a lot of good ball-striking rounds throughout my career. And possibly have had round as good as that one, for sure, in the past, and hopefully in the future.

But the combination of really solid midrange putting together with hitting a lot of iron shots into those distances is a good combination. And I hope we can have a few more of those.

Q. Would you mind giving an answer in Swedish for us?
HENRIK STENSON: Ja. Ja (laughter).

Q. Coming in as the defending champion, what was the mindset? Do you feel more pressure because you have something to defend or do you come in more confident in what you can achieve on a links course?
HENRIK STENSON: (Answer in Swedish.)

Q. English, please. This championship has produced the most older winners than the other three majors for about 20 years now. Do you have any theories as to why this championship produces players in their 30s and 40s winning more than the other three majors?
HENRIK STENSON: I think the type of golf that they play on links courses and also when the conditions and the weather gets tough, I think experience and having done it over the years certainly helps in that aspect.

I think when you're coming out, you can be a great young player, but if you haven't been tested in those elements a number of times, I think you've got less chances of succeeding. That being said, it doesn't have to be so, but I guess the age of the winners kind of speak that language. And I think that would be the -- just being tested on those conditions for a long time, it certainly helps, when you're standing there on a Saturday or a Sunday and the wind is howling and the type of shots that you need to play, you don't always necessarily need to play those shots in the modern golf. It tends to be more we give it a full rip off the tee, and wherever you have it, you can try and hit a 9-iron or pitching wedge on the green a lot of times, and that doesn't always work in these conditions and on these golf courses, I think.

Q. The 6th hole has played the hardest, can you talk about why you think it's so hard, and how you're going to play it?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm pretty sure it will be that case again. It hasn't got any easier. I guess for the members it's a par-5, and we play it as a par-4. You've got a tee shot that you want to -- you've got two options off the tee, basically, you can either layup on this big bunker there straight down the fairway off the tee, and that's going to put you even further back and a bit of a blind shot for your second. And I would guess it's probably 3-wood, 3-iron, something like that, if you go that way. Or you can go left and challenge that bunker and potentially another fairway bunker down the left-hand side and hit it a bit further off the tee, and that might leave you maybe a 4- or 5-iron second shot. So it's just a long hole and you've got to hit two good shots to get it in position.

Q. I would like to ask you if you --
HENRIK STENSON: About my relationship with Justin Rose?

Q. Not this time.
HENRIK STENSON: Not this time, no.

Q. If you don't mind to tell us, if you play golf with your wedding ring?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't. It stays in the bag. Yeah, it weighs about three kilos, this one, and it's just not comfortable, so I don't play with a ring or a watch.

Q. Do you think like Rory, he just got it on his fingers, and do you think sometimes this can disturb the game?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't think -- is he playing with his ring on?

Q. Yeah.
HENRIK STENSON: I don't think he would with do it that if he felt like it was being a problem, really. So obviously it doesn't hinder him. He's probably got a smaller ring, not in the same kind of bracket as I am (laughter).

MIKE WOODCOCK: Thank you for joining us. Good luck this week.

HENRIK STENSON: Thank you. It was a good one.

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