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ABU DHABI HSBC CHAMPIONSHIP


January 14, 2019


Henrik Stenson


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

NEIL AHERN: Henrik, thank you very much for joining us. Happy new year to you. Welcome to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

HENRIK STENSON: Thank you. Likewise. Good to be back.

NEIL AHERN: Yeah, how are you feeling? You've obviously had some injuries, injury problems at the end of last year, middle of last year. How are feeling now? How is the elbow?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's pretty good. I wouldn't say it's 100 per cent but we're getting closer and closer and yeah, I can be back at most of the things in the gym and playing golf is pretty good, as well.

Yeah, happy with the progress on that. Played three events in end of November and December last year. Not a lot of golf the previous two months. That was -- I think it was just The Ryder Cup in about eight weeks time and then finished off with three tournaments before Christmas and kind of a shorter break and now we're back at it again.

Yeah, always feels good to come back to this part of the world, having made it my home for quite a few years in the past and yeah, this is the way I've started up my season every year I think for, which edition is this, the 14th?

Yeah, it's kind of the same old, but it's great to be back. Golf courses are good. Great course this week, as well. Great weather, practise facilities. I've got part of my team here. Yeah, good food. Good hotels. We can keep on going, I guess.

Yeah, it's a good way to kick off the season for sure.

NEIL AHERN: You've had a great record here but never that win. A couple of runners-up.

HENRIK STENSON: You had to mention that, yeah.

NEIL AHERN: Do you feel like maybe this might be the one for you?

HENRIK STENSON: I feel like I've had the same answers and I've had the same questions for the last couple of times.

Well, it's always tough winning golf tournaments, and I think it's equally as hard to try and guess or tell when that's going to happen. But yeah, I was pretty pleased with the way I played on the back end of the year, and yeah, we got some time to prepare this week here, a couple of days to go.

I've done some practise at home, as well, in Florida before I came out. I wouldn't say, given how short my break was, I wouldn't say I've been spending the longest hours out there, but at least to get going again and yeah, motivation is a big part, and feeling fresh and ready to go is always important ingredients in playing well, and a good track record is also something that can help.

So we've got I think two seconds and a third, and nice little bunch of Top 10s other than that. Yeah, we'll try and make it happen this year.

Q. Anything different on the golf course that you felt in these 14 years compared to 14 years this year?
HENRIK STENSON: No, since we're early in the week, I haven't been out on the golf course yet. So it's kind of a hard question to answer at this point.

Just in general, it's a course that's going to pay out on hitting fairways and hitting greens. I think the rough has been pretty severe and pretty thick quite a few years. I would expect it to be pretty much the same this year.

So hitting off the short stuff is going to be key. We've got quite a few holes that are turning -- there's quite a few dog legs and right around the landing zone it's turning a little bit, so it might be -- it's a good course to shape the ball a little bit. I'm not necessarily one who shapes the ball a lot, but I think it sets up good for that off the tee on quite a few of the holes.

Greens, good bermudagreens. And the golf course itself is a course that has some really good opportunities, some easier holes, some birdie holes, but also quite a few of the tougher ones.

So it's a mix of birdies and trying to avoid bogeys. It's a low-scoring golf course in general, and the leaderboard, you've got to get up there to, I don't know, 18-, 19-, 20-under par to have a win. At the same time, if the win picks up in the afternoon, it's not the easiest golf course. It's a bit of a balance there.

Q. You said that you are planning to come a few days earlier to Abu Dhabi this time and play. What did you do? When did you come and what did you do in the last few days? Or maybe you can start with the skiing trip; what has happened with you?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, after the skiing trip, well, just before I came out, I managed to squeeze my finger here with a pair of pliers. So that's one thing that's not very good (chuckles).

I just spent the last week on and off practising in Florida at my home in Orlando, and being out there at the practise facilities at Lake Nona, getting going again.

I travelled Saturday afternoon and landed yesterday afternoon and came straight out from Dubai to the range here and hit a few balls with Pete in the afternoon. Going to practise this afternoon, and obviously the Pro-Am tomorrow.

Q. The pliers, I take it you're not so hot with the DIY?
HENRIK STENSON: I thought I was. I normally am and it got rather hot when I pinched my finger there. Got pretty hot.

Q. I was going to ask you about Pádraig Harrington's appointment. Your reaction to that, and what qualities do you think Pádraig will bring to the post?
HENRIK STENSON: On my end it was very expected. It felt like for sure that he was kind of next in line and that he's up and ready for it. He's been a vice captain and he's played on numerous Ryder Cup teams. He's been a world-class player for many, many years, and a very successful one, as well.

So I think he'll bring his calmness. He's kind of even-keeled. Not really super highs and super lows with Pádraig. He kind of stays balanced.

Yeah, I think each one of the captains have got to put their own twist on it, and he'll bring his own personality and experience and thoughts on what he would like to see.

I think when you're part of that team, both as a player and as a vice captain, over time, you pick up things. You look back on certain decision-making that might have been great, that might not have been great, and all the little details, anything from, you know, shirt sizes to caps, visors, to when you notify players if they are playing or not and the whole bit. There's a lot of things that goes into it, more than you might think.

Yeah, I think he'll just make it his own and he'll be a good captain.

Q. (Off-mic.)
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know. We'll see. Possibly. Like I said, everyone brings their personalities, I guess there might be a chance of that then.

Q. The new schedules, how do they affect yours?
HENRIK STENSON: I was very positive awhile back when we were talking about these changes. The one thing I didn't -- and I still am, but I think it worked out great for all the bigger events.

And then for me personally on the schedule that I have been playing over the last five or eight years, there were some tournaments now that got completely thrown around compared to where they normally are at, and that made some small challenges and needed to take some extra looks.

But the main thing may be a slight difference compared to other years, I'm going to play a lot of golf once we hit Florida Swing on the PGA TOUR. There's going to be a lot of golfing for me up until the U.S. Open.

I feel like the season is a little more compressed, and you still have to get the same amounts of tournaments in on the PGA TOUR in that window. It's going to be pretty hectic golfing-wise for me from end of February until the U.S. Open.

Q. Skipping the Match Play again?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think we might make an appearance this time.

Q. MĂ©xico?
HENRIK STENSON: We might make an appearance in MĂ©xico, as well. Like I said, there's going to be a lot of golf played.

Being injured in the fall and missing out on the HSBC last year, that counts this year on the PGA TOUR; that was a week that I need to make up. Yeah, it's going to be quite hectic. I think I'll be at both those events.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new rules?
HENRIK STENSON: I think in general, it's good changes. I mean, most of the things are there to make it easier and better. Quicker. But of course in the beginning, it's going to be a bit of a learning curve for everyone and you need to spend a bit of time getting to know the ways of dropping and how to address in situations when we're out on the golf course; and once we're in that, that's going to be the norm, and I don't think we're going to think about what the rules were ten years ago. It's a constant development.

Of course, this last change here now is quite dramatic compared to the previous couple of rules books that's come out.

Q. Now that you've had a couple months to digest The Ryder Cup, how satisfying a performance was it for you personally and have you had a chance to watch it back?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it still feels good for sure. It will feel good for another two years almost, at least. It's as much fun as it gets. I've had some of my greatest experiences as a professional. I've been out playing on those teams and Paris was a great week. We performed well as a team, as you know.

Yeah, for me personally, as well, I didn't come in with the best of form, but managed to team up with Justin and won points in the foursomes that I played with him, and then won my single quite convincingly as well.

Yeah, personally it was a great week and for the team it was a great week. In a team event, you're even willing to sacrifice your own; I would have accepted not getting any points as long as the team wins. But when you can win your matches and the team wins, that makes it a great week.

I've just seen some small bits on Golf Channel in passing. I haven't really sat down and watched the kind of highlights of the week yet.

Q. If you had to choose only one, what would you choose: Your wife or your 3-wood?
HENRIK STENSON: That's a very easy question. It would be the 3-wood.

The time is -- yeah, she's sleeping. She's in the US. She's sleeping. I'm safe for now, at least.

Q. Just another one on the gear, actually. Have you tried the Epic Flash, and if so, what are your thoughts on it and is it in the bag this week?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Oh, you want more than that?

Q. A little bit more.
HENRIK STENSON: I did some testing in November in Dubai for The Race to Dubai final and yeah, it felt good. Got good numbers. The boys built up some drivers, and yeah, it's in the bag. I hit it yesterday here on the range, and I'm happy with the way it performs and looks and feels, so it's kind of coming straight in.

Q. Henrik, we talked before I didn't see mass about your putting, was a thing you wanted to improve on this year, and wanted to talk about whether you were going to putt with the flagstick in after Bryson's given the flagstick more coverage than it's ever had.
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think I'll leave it out for the majority of the times. Maybe on a super-long putt somewhere, you might actually feel like it's nice to just have the visual of the flag and not having to have it attended by a caddie, so it could be on a 70-foot putt or something like that, but all the rest of it, it's coming out on my end.

Q. I think you said in Jakarta during one of the practise rounds that you have just got another couple of your 3-woods remaining in the garage. Any development on that, because you were going to ask the companies probably to try and replicate it.
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I've got no backup on the one I'm using at the moment, but there will be like Ian that works for Callaway, he said yesterday -- he gave me the Epic Flash 3-wood and I said, get ready to start another nine-year love affair with this one.

There are some other newer stuff that -- I mean, it's more just that of feeling the trust and knowing exactly what you're getting when you're having that one, but some of the newer stuff, actually, it goes further for sure.

It's more whether you feel as the same trust when you're standing there on the 72nd hole and you need to hit a fairway, if you've got a club that you really, really like, sometimes it's hard to change it. I'm not worried if and when these old 3-woods that I have been using, if they run out of -- out of lifespan, it's a chance that I might be retired at the same time. We'll see.

NEIL AHERN: Thank you very much.

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