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March 7, 2018
Palm Harbor, Florida
JACK RYAN: We'd like to welcome Henrik Stenson here to the Media Center at the Valspar Championship. Henrik, you're making your first domestic start of the season.
Coming to a place where you've had a lot of success in the past, what do you feel like you need to do this week to contend and maybe get a victory?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it's a good golf course. Like you say, I played well. This is my fourth appearance here and fourth -- just outside of Top-10. I've had some good starts. Classical golf course, you know, it's very small greens, setting up they are pretty firm and really you got to hit fairways and got to leave the ball in a good spots and if you miss, it helps if you miss in the right spots, too, because you can get some really tricky up and downs if you're in the wrong spot.
Really, play well. I guess there's no two ways about it. Wind is giving into the slopeyness (sic). If you're above the hole, you get some really, really quick putts, too.
Putting is crucial, also.
Q. Is anything easy about it?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't think it's too much easy about it. I mean winning score is normally if you're right around double figures and you're right there at the end of the week it seems and you get that wind blowing little bit, I think it's forecasted for some decent wind the first couple days at least, so, no, you just got to play well.
It's a good golf course and you got to play well. I think you see that on the winners of past and, yeah, fairway and greens, and make the odd putt and pick up a few shots everyday and be there by the end of the week.
Q. If you can tell us little bit about 2018, if there is any new thing, team, anything?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah. I'm pretty pleased with my scheduling. I played a full month, then had a month away and got some rest and family time and some practice. So, you know, I'm feeling pretty good.
I got a big stretch ahead of me. This is the first week, I'm playing four tournaments out here in five weeks and with Augusta being the last one so it's all a lead up to the Masters, of course, and I've done some good work and I guess I'm here to get some answers this week, to see what's working and what's potentially not working and how to move along for the next couple of weeks.
I'm playing here and Tampa, playing Bay Hill and the next week and the week off and Houston and Augusta. Big stretch. Feel pretty good. Big stretch.
I had a couple on the equipment side, I got a new 5-wood. Maybe the search for the 5-wood is over. Got the Rogue 5-wood and also the Rogue driver. Two new fairway woods, one driver and one fairway wood, for this season.
Otherwise, my lineup is pretty much the same as it was through the second half of last year. That's about it.
Q. You're playing with Jordan and Tiger this week. Probably two questions, you sort of embrace all that goes with playing with Tiger and also are you keen to sort of get a firsthand look at the new sort of Tiger Woods?
HENRIK STENSON: I played with him in the Bahamas, the second competitive round coming back. I did get a good look at him there and I thought he looked very promising and so if he continues to work away and play some -- and, yeah, it's always fun to play with Tiger and Jordan.
I thought I would start off the week easy and see if I can find some decent playing partners for the weekend, you know. I'm sure it would be nice and quiet out there for the first couple of days.
Yeah, I mean embracing it. You can just -- I got to go out there and play my golf and my game and don't get caught up in everything that potentially that goes on outside the ropes. You know, it just puts that extra bit of focus in, into my game and trying to beat both of them.
Q. When do you think would have been the first time you played with Tiger, any idea? I can look it up but I didn't know --
HENRIK STENSON: I think I played with Tiger in the WGC in San Francisco, '05. I think I played with Phil the first two days and played with Tiger either 3rd or 4th Round.
It was no point trying to get the crowd to stand off. He hit the shot, everyone is walking. You just got to deal with it.
Q. That wouldn't have been the first time you met him though, right? Might have been.
HENRIK STENSON: Could have been, yeah.
Q. So the point -- sorry we're not getting anywhere here. Jordan had mentioned being younger, a lot younger than you would have been in '05 the first time playing with him. He felt a little bit more nervous over the opening shot than he would have other people just because of kind of the mystique Tiger had about it up.
HENRIK STENSON: That's the difference. I'm old enough to be Jordan's father. We're talking about -- of course, I mean when I played with him in '05 he had been on top of the world for a good 7, 8 years since he came through and even though I would have liked to, I didn't quite have the same kind of early part of my career as Tiger had.
So, obviously it was a big thing to play with him in '05. I could see where Jordan is coming from, he would have been a little boy when Tiger burst on the scene and.
Q. Was there anyone for you when you first turned pro, early days, that you might have gotten paired with that just made you feel a little differently?
HENRIK STENSON: I played with some of the boys in Europe when I first came on Tour in 2001 and played with Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomery and Westwood and Thomas, all the guys who were the big players. I got to play with Seve and with Faldo when they were still active and kind of my two heroes when I started playing the game and growing up.
So, it was fun to play in tournaments, tournaments with both of them.
Q. Tiger said today he's only played ten rounds and he's still rounding into shape a little. From the other player's perspective, if he's in the tournament, do you guys still think he's competitive and he's a player to beat?
HENRIK STENSON: He looked very good in the Bahamas, I thought. Yeah, I mean if there's someone that can really get back on top of his game, I think if he can stay healthy, obviously, then he would be the last one that I would ever count out of that.
Yeah. Everyone is obviously interested in seeing how he's going to fare on a week-in and week-out basis. It's great to have him back and, more than anything, that he's feeling good and his back feels good and that's the most important thing because given where he's coming from, it seemed like everyday life was a struggle due to the status of his back and that's not fun for anyone.
I mean taking -- your golf career or your sporting career, to have to struggle in everyday life like he had there with his injuries is not fun at all.
Q. Two questions, Henrik. Would you be more inclined to play Match Play if it were single elimination the way it was or --
HENRIK STENSON: Yes.
Q. Why? What did you like about it, I guess?
HENRIK STENSON: Single elimination.
HENRIK STENSON: Want me to elaborate? Match Play, it's kind of do or die for me. I like -- either I'm winning and I'm staying or I'm losing and I'm going home. I mean I can see why they made changes. There's been some ideas.
I thought if we want to have some sort of a middle ground I could see us going to the British Amateur set-up where you play a couple of days stroke play to figure out who is going to be in the bracket and go from. There that's one option.
It's a couple of things for me. When it changed, I haven't played it a lot since that got changed and also a scheduling thing because I played a big one early and I had sometime off to rest and practice and so on and now I -- I don't feel like I'm going to play five weeks in a row with Augusta being the last one and I like to play the week before for the Masters.
So it's kind of -- it's a combination of a few different things.
Q. I don't know if you could answer this or not, it almost seems like the idea of losing players early because they get on the single elimination, now there's so many appealing players, younger, middle-aged, older that it doesn't matter who you lose to, you're going to have somebody big on the weekend.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah. Yeah. If you put the top 64 together and play Match Play, you're going to have good players all the way through but it might not -- in the past might have been one or two of the high ranked players getting knocked out early. That's the nature of our game.
It's not like we're doing 64 bracket in basketball. Top teams are going to win such a high percentage. In golf it's more anyone can do it on any day. So, it's a different set-up than that.
Q. Phil won last week in Mexico. What do you think is the edge for the old generation to beat the younger?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I feel Phil has been a world class player for 20-odd-years. He obviously still has got a great game and I know he's been working hard at his game for the last couple of years as well to get back in the winner's circle and get back to playing as well as he can.
Yeah, I was delighted for him to see him win and could see how much it meant to him and, of course, when you're one of the slightly older guys it gives us comfort, a little bit older and you still got it.
Congrats to Phil for winning a big title last week and I think as we know golf is a game where maybe the edge or the age might not always, you know, play its full part in that. As long as you can hit it far enough and you got control of your golf ball, it doesn't really matter if you're 37, 41 or 47. You can ask the same questions out on the golf course and it's all about doing it.
But, it gets tougher. We see that on a yearly basis, new players coming out, hitting it further and competition gets tougher and tougher. You got to use your experience and I think that's one big part in this game when you've been around a long time, you draw from previous mistakes and you learn and try to play smarter and maybe not make the same mistakes as some of the younger players might do. Combination of those things.
Q. Ever been to Omaha?
HENRIK STENSON: I have.
Q. What did you think?
HENRIK STENSON: It was a long travel for a short visit. I came from Sweden, delayed flight. Took me long, long time to get there. Played a quick 18 and I was out. I haven't really seen much of it.
Q. You can tell people in Sweden I have been to Nebraska.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I have been to Nebraska, one state. They've been great to me over the years. Fun relationship. I've been to Kentucky, too.
Q. I've been to Kentucky.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah. You didn't ask me about that.
Q. There's 48 more I could cover.
HENRIK STENSON: Keep on going.
Q. South Dakota?
HENRIK STENSON: I have not been there. Not North Dakota, either.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports