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February 24, 2007

Henrik Stenson


RODDY WILLIAMS: Henrik, well, advance to the final of the WGC Accenture Match Play. Terrific round out there today, especially the front nine. Give us your thoughts on how the day went.
HENRICK STENSON: Well, it was definitely an interesting one coming off that first match against Nick that I won in some sort of not ordinary way. And then it was just run straight up, get some lunch and straight back out again.
I played solid on the front nine and managed to make a few putts.
RODDY WILLIAMS: You've got a tough opponent in the defending champion. How do you feel about that heading into tomorrow?
HENRICK STENSON: You know, every match is tough, and it would be the same no matter who I was going to play tomorrow. But obviously playing Geoff that's played really well last year and gone straight to the final this year it's going to be a tough one.

Q. How important has the relationship with Fanny Sunesson on the bag been? And how did that hookup come about?
HENRICK STENSON: Well, I changed caddie after The Masters last year, and I was trying to figure out who I was going to ask. All of a sudden her name came up in my head, and we asked her and she was interested.
I think she worked for a Swede last time in '87, so I guess that could have been a reason why she was interested. Needs to learn the language again (laughter).

Q. What does she bring to the party?
HENRICK STENSON: She's very hard-working, very professional caddie. As you all know, she's got years and years of experience and major wins with Nick, so obviously she's one of the best caddies out there. She keeps me calm and gives me the right information.

Q. Five of the quarterfinalists this morning were foreign born. American fans don't see you guys on a regular basis, but does this tournament remind fans how good golf is played internationally?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, I think match play, it's good fun to have a few match play tournaments every year, and this is obviously the biggest one. I think it's interesting for the crowds to see.
I think we had almost half the field from the European Tour this year. So it's -- no, I guess that's a mark of the strength of the European Tour.

Q. The shot this morning at 18-under beneath the bush, what was going through your mind when you saw where the ball was? What did you see when you got there?
HENRICK STENSON: Well, I mean, I saw that Nick was quite far back, so I figured that he wasn't going to have the easy shot to get it close. I thought, you know, I'll take an unplayable and hopefully I can hit it to something, ten feet, whatever, and give myself a chance for par and hopefully take it to a playoff.
Things turned out slightly different in my favor. I hit a fantastic shot and got it to about two feet, and Nick short-sided himself a little bit and had a tricky pitch and played it nicely and then just missed one of those nasty five-footers.

Q. Have you ever won like that before?
HENRICK STENSON: No. There's been a few times I feel like it's been the opposite, you know, somebody has done that to me.

Q. I was just curious if your best hope was -- could you have imagined actually winning on that hole?
HENRICK STENSON: No, that wasn't really -- unless I holed it obviously. I was just looking at maybe giving myself a chance for a halve and then take it to an extra holes.

Q. How dire was the situation? What kind of bush was it under?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, it was in a cactus. Fanny almost sacrificed her right arm to get the ball out. It wasn't in a good spot.

Q. People in this room know you, and of course you were a leader at the PGA and you played at the Target. I was just wondering, the American public, which only knows supposedly Tiger and Mickelson, how do you describe yourself to them? And you're going to play over here I understand. Do you think you'll be better known?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, I think America is a big country and golf is big, but I guess to some extent it's easy to just look at the tournaments within the United States and maybe forget a little bit about the rest of the world.
But I played pretty good for the last two years and made my way up the World Rankings. I'm in a very nice position now and hopefully I can improve it over this weekend. I think just playing over here is going to make myself a little bit more familiar with the general golf fan.

Q. Do you practice -- can you practice that shot often, trying to impact spin like that off hard pan? And when you win like that, what does that do for your psyche for the rest of the day and the tournament?
HENRICK STENSON: I normally play the one off the fairway and try not to hit it there in the first place (laughter). Obviously there's been a few times when you've been on surfaces like that, but I can't say I practice it a lot, and hopefully I don't have to. I can bring that one out when I need to and just play the regular one off the fairway.
Obviously that was a great boost and gave me sort of a, you know, free ticket into the next round. I went out and played pretty freely in the semifinal.

Q. How much golf have you played with Geoff in the past?
HENRICK STENSON: Good question. I might have played with him one round or something. I can't even -- it might even be that we never played together. I'm not sure. So not that familiar.

Q. You had said at Target at the time that your goal was to get into the Top 10. Now that you get there, how much further are you looking? How good do you think you can be?
HENRICK STENSON: Well, I hope I can make my way up and -- I don't know, I mean, it's obviously going to be tough to be able to move forward and get past Mickelson and Furyk and the rest of the guys, and then especially you know who I'm thinking of.

Q. The father to be?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, it's going to be tough to raise my game as high as Tiger, but hopefully in the future I can beat him a few times.

Q. You have, haven't you?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, a few more.

Q. How about Dubai? You've had such a rapid assent. You did sort of hold him off there, yes?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, I didn't play with him and he was a few shots back, but yeah, I won the tournament.

Q. Well, certainly that was a premium leaderboard and you emerged on top. I'm wondering how much -- how important that and also the Ryder Cup experience were to your rapid assent?
HENRICK STENSON: I think definitely Ryder Cup. I mean, it's quite a lot of pressure playing in the Ryder Cup, and I think when you do it in a good way, that surely gives you satisfaction that you know you can play golf in front of a few millions watching. That was good.
And then of course winning sort of my home tournament in Dubai was a very nice one, probably the heaviest victory so far.

Q. Professionally and personally you've had a pretty good couple of months, huh?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, it's not been bad I have to say.

Q. Is this the best round you've had?
HENRICK STENSON: I think I will wait until tomorrow afternoon.

Q. When is the baby due?
HENRICK STENSON: Early July, a couple of weeks before Tiger, I think.

Q. Would you put your prize tomorrow on a European player winning a major this year?
HENRICK STENSON: Would you (laughter)? Well, I think British Open is definitely one since we played the Dunhill Links around Carnoustie the last couple years. I think all the Europeans have good knowledge of the track.
Other than that it's all written in the stars, isn't it? I hope so. We've had some good success in the Ryder Cup as you all know, and hopefully we can bring that on to the majors, as well.

Q. Is that a big goal for you personally this year?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, that's one thing I'm sort of building my season around this year, trying to be as good as I can be going into the majors.

Q. Are you going to play the U.S. full-time now? Is that what you were saying? I don't understand.
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, I'm playing about 15, 16 events this year, so it's -- I've taken up membership and I'm sort of going half and half between Europe and America.

Q. Could you just give us a sense of your schedule running up to Augusta and your thoughts about Augusta now that you have factored in a major with the PGA?
HENRICK STENSON: I'm going to play next week in Honda, playing Bay Hill, Doral, and then Augusta, so I'm playing five out of these seven weeks that I'm over here.
No, just coming back I think I learned a lot last year from playing Augusta, and it's one of those courses that you need to play a few times to get to know. With the help I can get from Fanny, as well, I think it's looking like I've got much better chances to do well this year.

Q. Did you consider or did you have a chance to play college golf in America?
HENRICK STENSON: No, my wife did, so I let her do that part (laughter). She played for South Carolina, University of South Carolina. I spent a fair bit of time over there and I was playing and practicing with the men's team.
No, I was quite happy doing school up until 19. I wasn't there much of last year anyway; I played golf all the time.

Q. Two questions: When you have a break, as you will between Doral and Augusta, do you have a home base here?
HENRICK STENSON: Yeah, I'm building a house at Lake Nona, so I'm going to stay there and practice for that week.

Q. And secondly, for those of us who have not quite made the trip over, is there any similarity at all, landscape, look, between Dubai and this type of a course?
HENRICK STENSON: No. I mean, it's much nicer. There are no cactuses at all that hit (laughter). But it's desert. If you miss the course it's sand, yeah.

Q. Is the look of it any --
HENRICK STENSON: No, it's just like more sand and small bushes. It's a bit rougher here.

Q. Just following on from that, you're building up a pretty impressive record on desert courses. Apart from the fact that you're based in Dubai, any one reason why that should be the case?
HENRICK STENSON: No, I can't say that obviously. I played very well in the Gulf the last couple of years, and I know the courses. I've played there many times and I live there, so that's definitely one factor, to know the course.
But I can't really take any similarity between there and why I'm playing well this week. I think it's more the course suits somebody who hits it quite far, and I've been driving the ball pretty well this week.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Henrik, thanks much. Good luck tomorrow.

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