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February 25, 2007

Henrik Stenson


RODDY WILLIAMS: Henrik, only the second European to have won the WGC Accenture Match Play. Pretty exhausting day. Tell us how you feel right now.
HENRIK STENSON: Tell me about it. It's been a long week and a good week for me, and now I'm just exhausted. I don't know what's up and down and back and forth, really.
It's been such a long day and such a hard day, and I'm just delighted to come out on top. I was struggling big time with my game and especially in the second round here when we started and didn't feel comfortable neither off the tee or with the putts.
Somehow I managed to fight my way through the round and keep -- not letting Geoff run away with it, and then all of a sudden turned around and finished with some good birdies.

Q. It's been a big week on so many fronts. You go to No. 5 in the world now, top of the European Tour Order of Merit.
You win some FedExCup points, and also $1.35 million in prize money. How big a week is it for you?
HENRIK STENSON: It's a big week, moving up the World Rankings again. Be the first Swede to win a World Golf Championships and also be I think the highest ranked that a Swede has been ranked in the World Rankings.
So obviously a lot of great things happened for me this week, and I'm just exhausted, as they say, and it probably hasn't even sunk in 100 percent yet.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Let's go straight into some questions.

Q. When you're talking about being exhausted are you talking about being mentally exhausted?
HENRIK STENSON: Everything. It's everything. Playing -- see, I don't know how many rounds, seven rounds in five days? I mean, feet are aching, head is aching, wallet is aching.

Q. Too heavy?
HENRIK STENSON: (Laughing) but just to play that much golf in five days, I had a lot of tight matches. I mean, probably everybody had the same. I mean, Geoff was tired, as well. I know how much he would have liked to defend his title.
Obviously he's devastated with that. I'm happy with the way I managed to play the last couple of holes there.

Q. We look at the World Ranking now and it goes Tiger and Furyk and Phil and Adam, Henrik, Ernie, Retief. Do you feel like you belong right there?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think I've established myself within top 20, and then just recently moved into Top 10. So, I mean, I can't say that I go straight out and say I should be No. 5 or No. 6 in the world, but obviously that's where I am at the moment.
But I feel like I've established myself as a top 20 player.

Q. Secondly, I know two different things here, but I wonder if you could just talk about the difference of emotion, your previous match play memory, so to speak, was holing the winning putt. Talk about the difference from then and now.
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, the winning putt at the Ryder Cup wasn't that much of a deal. I mean, I was proud to be part of that team, the winning team, and we would have won the Ryder Cup with or without my putt.
It would have been a different thing if it was a decider, and obviously winning individual events is a bit different, as well. So both the experiences are ones that I cherish very much, and they're different.

Q. I know that the story has been told in Europe, and we're sort of familiar with it but not really. Could you go into what happened in 2001, how your game got to the point where you were so discouraged and how you worked your way back?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, I probably only heard it a couple thousand times, this question, and I normally don't try and think about what happened five years ago, six years ago. I try more to look into where I am today.
But of course, I mean, I've had great help from my coach, Peter Cohen, and my sports psych Torsten Hansson, and everybody else that's supported me throughout the years. It's been a lot of hard work from everybody involved, and from me, as well.
That's what really got me back. I wasn't really into the thought of quitting because I think if I was I wouldn't have been here today.

Q. Did you just lose your swing?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, sort of lost the swing and then obviously lost the confidence, and one thing leads to another. The first couple of provisional golf balls don't bother you that much, but after a while you start -- (laughter) when your caddie is rattling in the pocket to see if he's got a provisional when you're standing over the drive, you know you've got some sort of a problem (laughter).

Q. Many congratulations.

Q. It looked a couple of times like a couple of prize fighters in the 12th round of a world title fight slugging it out trying to land a killer blow. Is that what it was like?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it was just hard work coming out there. I mean, I thought I played really good in the beginning of the first round, and then he came back and then I sort of held a small lead at the turn.
Then I just felt pretty bad about my game going out to the second round, and the putting, as well. I made some bad mistakes early on and let him into the match way too easy.
Then it was just fighting from my own side to stay in the match, and I thought if I could hang in there and get a chance in the end to maybe turn it around, that's the way it happened. I sort of hit a couple of really good shots on the last couple of holes.

Q. Do you think the format is maybe a round of golf too far?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know, it feels like it right now. No, I think it's a good thing with a 36-hole final still though, because you really need to -- 18 holes might be a little bit more decided over bounds, but I think on 36 holes it probably in the end gives you the one that fought the hardest and so on.

Q. Given the way your match ended with Nick, what was your thought standing over that eagle putt, as long as it was, on the 17th?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, I just tried to obviously hit a good putt, and since Geoff wasn't that close, I mean, it's one of them things in match play. I mean, I've got to expect that he's going to hole that putt. But still, it's a fairly long-range putt.
But I was just trying to lag it down there and hopefully give myself -- leave myself an uphill putt so if he makes his I could be aggressive on the next one. The worst thing would be to leave it short. I just took aim and made a good putt.

Q. Any moment during the course of that traveling 60 feet that you knew that you made it?
HENRIK STENSON: It looked good when it was finding its way down there. I thought that the pace was good. At least I thought I did the right thing, and I was going to have a -- I don't know, a short uphill putt coming back for birdie. So that felt pretty good.

Q. What did you hit at 16?
HENRIK STENSON: 8-iron. I think Geoff did the same. It was two great shots, and his putt just slipped by. Obviously that was the -- partly the nail in the coffin, and that put me in a great position coming into the last two holes.

Q. Have you been able to tell if your prominence in Sweden rivals that of Annika in recent years?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know. I mean, I'm not back in Sweden that often. But, I mean, Annika's career has been fantastic, and I think I would need to win a few more tournaments like this to be able to close in on hers.

Q. You're bigger than her in Dubai, though, right?
HENRIK STENSON: In Dubai, I hope so, even though she won there, as well (laughter).

Q. Are you more emotionally drained now than you were after the Ryder Cup?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know. I mean, normally it hits you a day or two later. I don't think it's going to be too much happening tomorrow or on Tuesday. But yeah, I don't remember when I was this tired. I'm too tired to be happy almost (laughter).

Q. I wonder if you can just talk about winning your first WGC event hot on the heels of holding off Tiger Woods and Ernie in Dubai?
HENRIK STENSON: Obviously winning back to back is something I haven't done before, and it's two great tournaments, as well. Dubai is a great tournament, one of the most prestigious ones, I think, on the European Tour. Winning a World Golf Championships is as close to winning a major without doing it, I guess. It's two great tournaments I won just recently.

Q. Do you think we're seeing a changing of the guard regarding the young European players coming through with Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke losing this week and not having won for a while, and yourself, Paul Casey, Justin Rose playing very well?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we've had some great young players playing well this week. I'm not sure if I'm in that category though since I'm four or five years older than they are. But I think definitely there's always sort of progress, young players coming on, and some of the older ones are having tougher times keeping up, I guess.
It's always been that way. Trevor played great this week, Justin Rose, Paul Casey. It's been a lot of good younger players playing well this week, and I think it might just be some guys out there not willing to accept that the younger generation is moving on.
I'm not saying it's the older players, but maybe some of your colleagues (smiling).

Q. In tennis when Bjorn Borg was at the top it really boosted the sport in Sweden. Your victories and Annika's sort of position recently, has that helped the development of golf there?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think it helps any nation if you have some good sporting persons to look up to and to follow, and obviously the more success I have and Annika and all the other Swedish players, I think that will boost on golf in Sweden.
We've been a strong golf nation over the last, I don't know, 15 years, and I think that comes down to the accessible -- accessibility of playing the game in Sweden and also having good players on the world's Tours.

Q. You said after Dubai that you wanted to come over to America to get ready to go after the big ones. Do you think after today now you're ready?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, it's still four majors to go this year, so I'm just going to try to prepare. Obviously this gives the confidence, a push in the right direction, and I can only just try my hardest every time, and that's what won me this tournament.

Q. What are your thoughts about the course and just Tucson in general throwing on this world-class event?
HENRIK STENSON: I wasn't expecting frost when I came here, so I've been struggling with clothing a little bit (laughter). It's been so cold on the weekend here.
But other than that, I mean, it's been a good week, good place, good golf course, and I think everybody has been pretty happy about it.

Q. Do you have any sense as to how much more there is to come from Henrik Stenson? And when you get to my age and you're old and you're looking back and you're a grand dad, how would you like to be remembered in golf?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I wouldn't mind being the first Swede to win a major championship. You know, that's the two sort of childhood dreams that I had: Playing in the Ryder Cup and winning the British Open.
If I win any of the other majors I won't return, so (laughter) any one will do.
As I say, I mean, it's a tough one. We've got the world's best out there for the majors. We know a few of them sort of put in subscriptions on the tournaments, as well (laughter). It's not obviously big chances that you're going to win, but you can just try and put yourself into position coming Sunday, and if it's there, it's there.

Q. You and Geoff hadn't played before this match today. Do you have a feeling anywhere that maybe you and he are going to meet again on a few Sundays at some tournaments?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I hope so if he keeps playing well because that means I'm playing well then. No, he's a great player, and I think it's remarkable thing that he made it to the final being the defending champion.
It's not often that that happens, being undefeated 11 matches coming into this one. Hats off to him for a great week, as well. And as I said before, I know how much it would have meant to him to win, as well. Unfortunately only one of us could do so, and I was the one that picked the longest straw today.

Q. When you talk about struggling with your own swing, is there any consolation looking over at Geoff and realizing that he's going through some battles, as well, with it?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, we weren't playing great in the afternoon. But I think, as well, a hard and tiring week like this one, it just wears you down. Every day, every round just wears you down a little bit. In the end you've got nothing left in the tank, and still, I managed to find some on the back nine today.
But it's really hard, and we made some silly mistakes, both of us, and sharing holes with bogeys and making bogeys from the middle of the fairway and stuff. I think that's sort of mainly down to us being really exhausted.

Q. What was the tougher tournament to win, a really strong field 72 holes at Dubai, or beating six guys this week?
HENRIK STENSON: I'm much more tired now for sure, much more.

Q. Which was harder to win do you think?
HENRIK STENSON: Can't we have any easy questions at this time of the day (laughter)? I'll go for this one.

Q. Physical?
HENRIK STENSON: And also down to it's only one shot at the wrong or right time and you're knocked out. Obviously in a stroke play you can come back a little bit easier if you end up in trouble somewhere.

Q. How does this one compare to the victory in the Benson & Hedges in 2001? It must be the biggest victory surely of your career.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, this is the biggest victory so far, but I never like to sort of compare the wins on the European Tour because they're all different and all special. I won my first year on Tour and then I was struggling and then the second one is sort of a comeback from that tough period.
I've had almost three wins within 12 months before here, so it's very hard to compare. But this one is definitely the biggest one of my career.

Q. Just on the major championships, what memories have you got of Jesper Parnevik's attempts to win majors?
HENRIK STENSON: I still remember, it wasn't that long ago, maybe a year or two ago, I watched the Open back that Nick Price won. And coming down the last two, three holes watching the tape I still thought Jesper was going to win it.
It was just like -- it was unbelievable. Price did some great things and Jesper was a bit unlucky. That was a close call for him, and hopefully I can grab one.

Q. How do you say match play champion in Swedish?
HENRIK STENSON: Match play champion (laughter). Matchlekmästare.
RODDY WILLIAMS: Henrik, congratulations.

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