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March 16, 2018

Henrik Stenson

Orlando, Florida

Q. You have not struggled with making birdies this week. What changed?
HENRIK STENSON: Putting more than anything. A combination of putting and my shots, I've been hitting a few really close this week both days and if you're rolling it nicely you're setting up some good opportunities from three, four feet and then, yeah, today wasn't as good as yesterday, obviously, but the important part for me was 16, 17, 18 I scrambled for par all those three holes after hitting some not so good golf shots. I kept patient and when I got on a string, I made three in a row on 5, 6, 7 coming home. So 3-under around this golf course is not a bad score.

Q. We have been talking a lot about the speed of the greens. Are these the fastest you've seen all year?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, given that it is my second tournament of the year. They were pretty quick in the Middle East on the European Tour at times, but these Bermuda greens and when you're on the high side there, putting down the hill, down grain, it's, they're definitely slick and you got to be careful every time you're on the high side and that's why it's so important to leave your approaches on the lower side of the hole.

Q. How was it out there in comparison to yesterday?
HENRIK STENSON: It was very cold this morning, even though I don't think it was as cold as it was yesterday for the boys, so it took a little while to get going. I made a lot of solid pars in the beginning of the round, which was good. Then I had a stretch where I was struggling there on the end of my front nine which was 16, 17, 18. I made some great par putts and a bunker up-and-down, so that was really key today to keep the round going. I didn't drop a shot, where I could have easily dropped three shots on those holes and dropped down. So that was crucial. Then I started playing a little bit better on my back nine and yeah, just got on a good little run there, made birdie on 5, 6 and 7 and, yeah, pretty interesting scorecard in that sense, although you could always take one or two more birdies, right.

Q. Absolutely. Plenty this week so far and we hope that will continue for you. We know you hit your irons with a lot of height and impart a lot of spin on the ball. How important is that here at Bay Hill particularly with the greens firm and fast and set to get even more so?
HENRIK STENSON: It's definitely an advantage, even though today my round I was kind of in between clubs and that's when you feel like you need to club up then into the wind and you know you're going to come in with a slightly flatter trajectory and it's going to be harder to hold the green as well. But if it sets up good numbers it's certainly an advantage to be able to stop it here on these quick Bermuda greens. So, yeah, I plan to do more of the same and hopefully keep on moving forward over the weekend.

Q. You played last week at Valspar, but how fresh mentally do you feel? We know you play a lot traveling around, how fresh are you here and relative to the run up to Augusta National looking forward to a bit of momentum?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that was always the plan, I planned a lot in terms of my playing schedule here and then this month too to get ready for Augusta. I like to play the week before a Major, so I'm playing Houston, I'm passing on the Match Play next week to get a little bit of a breather and some more practice and so far so good. Just keeps on going, these seasons is one jumping into the next one, so for me I feel like it's important to get these kind of longer breaks throughout the year and I got two or three of those where I have three, four weeks off and you can really get some rest and still have time to prepare and be ready when you're heading out again. So, yeah, I like the way my schedule looks this year.

Q. It took a little while but you were able to jump start this round later on. How were you able to do it?
HENRIK STENSON: Well I stayed patient. For me it was really key to keep the momentum going with three great par putts and some good bunker play on those last couple of holes on the back nine, which was my front nine today. So 16, 17, 18, I could have easily racked up three bogeys and managed to scramble three pars, so that was key. Then I stayed patient and played a little bit better coming in and I was sticking iron shots in pretty close and made some birdies coming home.

Q. Your track record at this tournament in the last few years has been outstanding, everything but a victory. How are you feeling about the prospects on the weekend now paced on your previous play at this event?
HENRIK STENSON: I know it's a golf course that really suits my game. You got to hit a lot of fairways and greens and putt well and that seems to be working pretty well for me at the moment. So I'm just going to keep on playing my game, sticking to the same game plan and hopefully keep on making birdies. It's a packed leaderboard, a lot of strong players closely behind, so yeah, I certainly got to keep my foot down and keep on pressing on if I want to get a victory.

Q. I would think you saved your round on the front a little bit.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it was slightly different round today. Obviously cold in the morning, even though I think we still got the better end of the draw, it warmed up pretty quickly, but the first couple of holes it was pretty chilly, I had four layers on when I started walking off the 10th and I made some solid pars early in the round and that was good. And the key part was really I saved some good pars on 16, 17, 18, it could have easily been two or three, even three bogeys on those three holes and got away with pars on those and stayed patient and played a bit better coming in and racked up three birdies in a row there on 5, 6, 7. So 3-under, I'm pretty pleased with that. It wasn't as maybe beautiful as it was yesterday, but still a solid round around here.

Q. What happens if you don't make those par saves? As much golf as you've played, when something like that happens is it hard to push forward the back nine the rest of the round?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's definitely one of those key moments for a round when you manage to hang in there and then you kind of get rewarded for that as well. So, yeah, it's always hard to tell. Hopefully I would have made three birdies even though I made two or three bogeys on the back, but it's certainly got to come harder, the birdies, if you drop a couple of shots. So, yeah, like I said, those two areas of my round today, those three par saves and then three birdies in a row on the front nine, my back nine. So, yeah, all in all I'm pleased with that and I thought I stayed very level headed and made the putts that I needed to make.

Q. With it warm this afternoon the way you played this morning and the guys this afternoon, do you think you can be caught? Is the golf course receptive to scoring?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know, it was certainly a 64 out there yesterday, so then I'm sure there's another one out there this afternoon. It's good conditions, not too much wind and it's heating up nicely now, so I would imagine if you're looking at the scoring averages, that is lower scores in the afternoon than in the morning. So I don't know. I'm not a fortunate teller, unfortunately, so I'll just stick to my practice and play my game and we'll see what the other guys do.

Q. Was there a point in your round today where you could feel your body kind of warming up thanks to the warmer temperatures, where you started to kind of --
HENRIK STENSON: Well it came pretty early, actually, I started off the 10th and then already by 12, 13 I started peeling layers off and I was into just a polo shirt and a light sweater on the 13th. So it actually warmed up quicker than I expected and that was nice, even though it took a little bit longer for me to warm-up.

Q. How important is it, you're playing well at the start, getting good feedback for your game going into a Major?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that's always going to be a huge thing for your confidence. I don't think I've entered Augusta too many times with good confidence, I wouldn't say I'm overly confident at this point either, I still have to do a lot of hard work out there and commit to my swings and my shots, but it's certainly on the right direction and on the right path there and, yeah, I would love to obviously get a good result here this week and get some more practice and then carry on with some form in Houston heading into Augusta, because it is the Major that I have performed the least over the years in and possibly the one I want to perform the best going forward.

Q. If you're just playing golf with friends, how cold is too cold for you to play?
HENRIK STENSON: This morning would have been definitely a couple of hot chocolates and sitting out for half an hour.

Q. It's supposed to be more typical Florida weather tomorrow and Sunday it might even get into the high 80s. Do you embrace that kind of heat?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I live here, I make Orlando my home, I certainly prefer 75, 80 compared to 45, 50 playing golf. I might be Swedish, but I've gone soft, I lived in a nice climate for too many years. So, yeah, give me heat rather than cold I would say.

Q. Curious to see these greens are not overseeded this year, just your approach of overseeded versus not overseeded.
HENRIK STENSON: I can't, I don't think they were last year either, if I remember correctly, every other year before then it's been -- yeah, I think it just makes them a little bit quicker because you got more grain and you can easily get them firmer as well. So, no, I mean the greens are great, they're rolling super quick and smooth and it's just a slightly different approach on your short game shots and your approaches, Bermuda versus over seed, and obviously in Florida you don't necessarily need to do it, but it's kind of a guarantee backup to over seed your greens and if you get a cold winter and everything goes a bit dormant, then you might be struggling if you haven't done it. So, yeah, every course kind of takes their own decision and these have been great these two years when they haven't been overseeded.

Q. (No Microphone.)
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think it is. I think they do that as insurance to make sure they're going to get it good even if the temperatures drop throughout the winter.

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