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March 13, 2007
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Henrik Stenson, thanks for joining us here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. You're fresh off a win at the World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship a couple of weeks ago. You had some time off, moved up to No. 5 in the world. Life is pretty good for you right now. Maybe some opening comments.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, except that I haven't played much golf since the Match Play. I had a couple of days off and then I got sick. Seemed to catch the bug like a lot of others. Played 18 holes since the Match Play. Maybe a little too much rest. You know, hopefully be up and running by Thursday.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: A couple of comments about the golf course.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I played the front nine today. I'm playing in the Pro-Am tomorrow. Rough was pretty thick. Keep it on the short stuff and I think it's pretty tough test.
Q. What's been going on back in Sweden for you in all this? Has it been crazy, or do they recognize that you're the highest-ranked Swede in the history of men's golf?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that's nice. The victory at the Match Play definitely had an impact back in Sweden. There's been a few interviews over the phone.
No, the interest, yeah, just like that, has been pretty busy with the media over the last few weeks. So definitely made a big impact in Sweden and that's always nice.
Q. Are you going to be able to walk down the streets there without getting besieged?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't think I'm going to have to walk. They will probably carry me around. (Laughter) A little crown on my head.
Q. Last week Jesper mentioned that you're probably the first guy, top-flight world golfer from Sweden who could be called a power player and might really have the game to take it to the next level and win a major. Is that a fair assessment, and what do you think now with these majors coming up this year about your chances?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, it's going to be really, really tough to have a chance to win one. But you know, if I can play well and put myself in that situation, I hope I can take the chance. That's what it's all about, creating the chances. I haven't been Top-10 in a major yet, so you know, I like to take things step-by-step. I think that especially for Augusta, if I can play pretty good and make it to the Top-10, I think I'll be pretty satisfied when the week is over, playing only my second Masters.
Not saying that if Sunday comes and I'm in a good position, I'm not going to try and take it. I know I can shoot some good numbers and I've proven that I can win some pretty big golf tournaments. So hopefully I can continue to do so.
Q. Will that experience in Dubai this year with Ernie and Tiger chasing you help you when you get in that situation?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think so. I mean, the more times you put yourself in the situation to win tournaments and the more time you win, the more experience you gain from it and the more confident you get. I mean, I've lost tournaments and I've won tournaments, and it's just about giving yourself the chance. If it's your day and you do the right things, then you come out on top.
Q. Some of your wins have also been against formidable players with Ernie and Tiger and Padraig. Just how much more meaningful does that make the victories and how much does that build your confidence?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, definitely going head-to-head with some of the best players in the world, that's a confidence-builder. As to say, most of the tournaments I've won, there's been good fields and I think I always tend to raise my game a little bit when I play with the best in the world.
So that's always been triggering me to bring that little extra out of my game.
Q. There was a story about I think Adam Scott was talking about, you had hit it like 60 yards by him and I think Retief, and he said something to you and you said something about, "Yeah, I got that off the heel." I was wondering, where do you get your sense of humor and how does that help you?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I'm Swedish. All Swedes are known for their sense of humor, you know that. (Laughter).
No, that's the way I like it, when you're out there and you can have a bit of fun with your playing partners. And obviously I didn't hit that one too much off the heel since it was 360 yards or whatever. So it was pretty pure.
I mean, those are the type of comments you can say when you're out playing with your friends, isn't it.
Q. I think if I remember correctly, you called that shot a "missile," that was the word you used.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, was it? It was probably a double-missile. I wonder what that one is now. I need that one now. I haven't hit many 360-yard drives lately.
Q. Similar to giving low a handicap for amateurs, it's easier to get from 15 to 10 and 10 to 5 gets harder and getting to scratch gets harder. You're No. 5 in the World Rankings right now, looking especially at the names of the guys ahead of you, how realistic for you and is it a goal for you, a realistic goal for you to get to No. 1?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, Adam is right ahead of me I think. So I need to hit a couple off the heel to get past him. (Laughter.)
No, if I go in and look at how well I've played in the last year or year and a half or two years, whatever, and improved my World Rankings enormously, I know what average number I have now. When you look at Tiger's average number, I'm going to have to play some extraordinary golf to get there, that's for sure. I'm not sure if it's possible, but I think if I can keep on developing my game and play well, maybe reach No. 3 or No. 2, I'm pretty sure that, okay, you just keep on looking up.
But the World Ranking sort of reflects how you've been playing over the last couple of months or the last season or whatever, and you know, it's very nice to get up to such a high number as I have done now.
Of course, I would like to keep on going up, and time will tell what direction we'll go, hopefully it is the right one.
Q. Chris DiMarco had mentioned that when you guys went head-to-head in that last group, that would have been Abu Dhabi last year I guess it was, and you walked off the final green and he kind of exhaled and said, "Wow, I really needed that, it's been four years since I won." And your response to him was, "It's been a while for me, too." You were going through a stretch right there where you had a bunch of seconds. Were you getting kind of beat up a little bit in the press for sort of being the new Padraig Harrington there for a stretch? He couldn't close there for a while, either.
HENRIK STENSON: Careful now. Padraig might be waiting for you outside. (Laughter).
Q. He may be. He knows; he's heard it many times before. You won the next week, and since then, you've been kind of a different guy.
HENRIK STENSON: It was nice to get that victory and the week after in Qatar because just as you said, I had a couple of seconds there. Maybe I didn't feel that I did that much wrong, you know, to end up second. And that's the way it goes sometimes. Somebody else, I mean, I lost to Mark Hensby and drained a 30-footer on the last to take it to a playoff. I mean, eight times out of ten, I would have walked away with that tournament in Sweden. You know, things just didn't fall my way.
And so that was the thing in '05. I played some really good golf but I didn't get a win. I managed to turn that around in '06 with two wins. And especially coming that close in Abu Dhabi, of course, you feel like great week, but everybody knows the difference between winning and being second.
I just went out, I knew I had some good game in the bag, so I went out there and managed to win the next week, so that was good. And also coming back to Qatar where I finished second the year before where I shot a decent last round score in tough conditions, and Ernie shot 65 to win by one. So, you know, it's not entirely up to you out there what's going to happen.
Q. 65 is pretty good.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it was in those conditions.
Q. Does it get a lot of play over in Europe, that it's been since 1999 that a European has not won a major, and do you have thoughts on why that has happened?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it's been a lot of sleepless nights. I'm crying myself to sleep. I think we're getting over it.
Obviously it's been a while, but I think we can turn it around in the near future. I mean, I wouldn't mind being one of them to do it. Yeah, I guess we've had this question and this conversation a few times now. So we better get the gear on and try and do something about it.
Q. Every golfer seems to have some low point story in their career, and I know 2001 has been written about a little bit, just how tough was it and did you ever imagine then that you would get it to the point where you've take ten now?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I mean things look definitely different today than they did back then. It was some tough times, I was low on confidence for sure like many, many other pros have been during points of their careers. And it was just to dig deep and fight hard for basically two years to try and come back. That makes the rewards even sweeter when you get them.
Q. Did you ever at any point think, man, I don't know if I want to do this, or is this worth it or anything like that?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, I don't consider myself as a quitter. So, you know, when things are really bad, you don't want to leave it when it's bad. I don't think quitting was an option and as I said before, if that would have been like a really strong thought in my head, I don't think it would have come back and been sitting here today.
Q. You work with Pete Cowen?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah.
Q. I also understand that your agent also represents Claude Harmon III, Butch's son. Do you know him at all, have you ever played golf with him, and if so, have you ever talked about the golf swing with him and has he ever even looked at your swing and commented?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think I met Parnevik at Loch Lomond a week before the Open, it might have been in 2002, I think it was 2002. I was struggling and Claude was there, and Claude tried to help me out a little bit there for a couple minutes on the range.
I've never really worked with Claude. But I've spent a fair bit of time with him. He's a great guy and, you know, we've had a few laughs; at the bigger tournaments, we've stayed in the same house and stuff like that.
Q. What do you think of his sort of knowledge of the swing?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, I know that he normally comes up with conversation with Pete about golf swings and stuff I think. But I haven't really been in those kind of discussions with Claude but I'm sure he's an excellent coach, and he's been working with some of my colleagues in Europe.
Q. Is he working with Mikko (Ilonen)?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think he's been working with Bradley Dredge and he's been -- he was working with Trevor for a while, wasn't he? I think he was working with Immelman. Yeah, a few other guys. I really can't remember right now.
Q. Tiger's name has come up I think twice during this press conference, and I think this is also his second stroke-play event here in the U.S. this year. How much of a shadow does he cast over the field in a tournament? Are you cognizant of what he's doing in the middle of an event?
HENRIK STENSON: No, he's the world's best player, I mean, he deserves all of the attention that he gets. I mean, when he plays, it's a different golf tournament, no question about it.
And he's the one that everybody tries to beat. So, you know, I like to play with him. He's good fun to play with. You know, we've got a bit of that Swedish connection. (Laughter) I enjoy playing with him and I enjoy watching him play. I try my hardest to beat him every time. It hasn't happened that many times, but I'm trying.
Q. Has he picked up any Swedish yet? Can you throw something at him and make fun of him and he might know what you're saying?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, in --
Q. All the bad words?
HENRIK STENSON: Definitely all the bad wards, yeah. That's what everybody knows in all the other languages, right? (Laughter).
Q. There's been a real shift, except for Tiger and Phil maybe, in the axis of power in golf from Americans to international players, and obviously the Match Play was a large international field; Ryder Cup has been dominated by you guys lately. Do you have any sense for what it is that's making the difference and why so many prominent Europeans in particular are stepping up?
HENRIK STENSON: No, it's always hard to come up with the solutions and conclusions on why things go the way they do.
Golf worldwide has just been growing and growing, and I mean, you can tell sort of in the amateur tournaments I used to play when I was an amateur, all of a sudden countries that wasn't on the map when we were playing ten, 15 years ago, all of a sudden they are producing good players. And it's growing worldwide and more and more players coming up from countries that we didn't even know had golf courses ten years ago. I think that's a factor. I think it just keeps on going.
The PGA TOUR is the tour that everybody tries to get on, and of course there's going to be good players that wants to come out here and try and compete with the best in the world. I think you have to ask somebody else why it's not, you know, more Americans Top-50 or this and that. I can't really come up with the answers for that.
Q. Just following that up, that golden era of Seve and Faldo and Langer and Lyle and Woosie, how much did they captivate you?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, those were the guys that were really in their prime when I started to play. I always used to follow Seve and Nick. Hopefully I can take the best parts of their game and be the consistency of Faldo and then do some of the other crazy stuff that Seve used to do.
Q. Do you have a favorite Seve or Faldo memory as a child or growing up?
HENRIK STENSON: I just remember when they won the majors. I mean, obviously Faldo at Augusta and when Seve won British opens, and even the Masters. But mainly British Open I remember. It's been playing, the famous victory gesture he made at Lytham I think. It's just good fun to watch those old golf tournaments.
Q. What's you've probably articulated this before, what's the plan as far as splitting the difference between the two tours? I guess it's going to be a while until your house is finished up in Nona, the fall; probably too late for this season for all intents and purposes, but maybe this year, and next year when you've actually got a place to stay here.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, this year obviously six of the big ones are here in America, and then I'll top it up to at least 15 events and play some in Europe as well, and I've already played some on The European Tour schedule.
I guess it comes down to half-and-half sort of between the two tours, and then we'll just have to see how things are going and what to do for next season. Still, this is my first year as a full member, so I guess I will have some thoughts.
Q. You might be Rookie of the Year, couldn't you?
HENRIK STENSON: I could be, if I keep on playing well, yeah, there's a chance. (Laughter).
Q. People have said power-wise you have the game made for Augusta, do you feel like your short game and your putting and everything is where it should be to sort of close the deal on that place?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I've improved my short game a lot over the last couple of years. So that's definitely raised a level or two. If I hit the ball well, I can see being in good position off the tee. And I think it's the biggest thing to get used to, I think it's the breaking putts. Maybe not so much the speed all the time, but to be able to hit the shorter putts with a lot of break.
You know, you can have a 5-footer and you need to go two feet right or left of the hole and I think coming from Europe, we're used to slightly flatter greens and I can hit it with a little bit more pace going for the kill a little bit more straight at it. There you need to be careful.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Henrik, thank you very much.
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