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March 20, 2007

Henrik Stenson


STEVEN FRANKLIN: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. With me is Henrik Stenson, the winner of the last WGC event and current No. 1 on The European Tour Order of Merit. Maybe you can explain to the guys, four weeks ago, biggest career win to date, have things changed for yourself?
HENRIK STENSON: More media interest. It's ten people instead of eight. (Laughter)
Other than that, not too much.
No, I mean, obviously it was great to win The Match Play, and as you said, the biggest win in my career so far. Hopefully I can produce something better in the future. But up to date, it's the biggest thing, yeah.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: What does it do for your confidence?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think it just gives you a boost, knowing that you can do so well in such a hard tournament with all of the matches and long, long days, and it was tight matches. Especially to be able to turn it around like I did in the final, I was 2-up during lunch and then after like eight holes I think in the second round, I was 2-down.
So things were not looking that good. But I managed to pull myself together and come up with some good golf in the last couple of holes and close the deal. So I think that gives you some good confidence for future tasks.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: And I think you were third in the event last year, but this was your first taste of Doral?
HENRIK STENSON: No, it was two years ago actually in San Francisco. But first time in Miami and this course. It seems to be just like being back in Scotland. (Laughter) Windy and rainy.
No, it's a good track. I just played the back nine today and going to play the full 18 I think tomorrow. It's a tough test, a fair test of golf. The course looks to be in good shape, and they forecast strong winds; it's going to be tough on Thursday, I believe. I think it could be a week where you really need to dig deep again and just be patient and try and be there when Sunday arrives.

Q. Sometimes at an event like this, we look up and down the range and we see people who we really have no idea who they are. Is that the case for players here, or do you say, "Well, I know that guy"?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think I've played this type of event a couple of times and I've also played in Asia, South Africa, Australia. I've played all over the world, so I think I recognize most of the other players. And they might not be as well known to the American fans, but if any of them can go out and win this week, they will also be a bit more familiar with the general crowd.

Q. Could you talk about your length. We've seen the stats and everything. Just who hits it past you, if anyone?
HENRIK STENSON: No, there's quite a few guys who hit it past me. I think I might not have been hitting it as far as I did sometimes last year as well. I played with J.B. Holmes last week, and he was definitely lashing it 25 yards past me at times.
No, there's quite a few guys who can hit it further. I think my strength is when I swing it well and hit my driver well, I hit it both long and really accurate as well. So I think it's more the combination at times that gives me the advantage of being both straight and long off the tee.

Q. With Augusta coming up in a couple of weeks, have you been there this year? Will you go in the next -- after this event?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I will go after this event. But it will be another week before I go there.
No, I haven't done any preparations on site this year. I went early last year. Before TPC last year I went in and played a round. I think the three days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, is going to be enough to get familiar with the conditions of the course. I don't know if it's still -- only being my second Masters, if I will know the place enough. But hopefully a few things moving in the right direction: Me playing well last year, and having Fanny on the bag, and hopefully playing a lot better than I did last year at the Masters as well. Hopefully those three things can push it in the right direction.

Q. What was your first recollection of the Masters on television; do you remember?
HENRIK STENSON: I've got a long memory, a long back when Sandy Lyle played it out of the bunker on 18. I think that's one that sticks from way back. Is that '88? Yeah, I think that's probably the first year when I played golf in '88. So I think that's probably my first memory from Augusta.
Other than that, I was there at the practice round in '99 to have a look around, so it wasn't all new last year when I came there --

Q. Where were you in '99?
HENRIK STENSON: My wife -- we had some tickets for the practice round and drove up on the Tuesday and had a look around. I had been there before, but it's still special as you drive in when I did last year a couple of weeks before TPC and you know you're going to play Augusta. It's just all there.

Q. Did you do the whole nine yards in '99, the practice rounds, get the pimento cheese sandwich and buy a shirt in the clubhouse and all that?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I had a look at Olazábal and I was going to place a bet and I forgot and he won. (Laughter).
That's the memory I have from that time.

Q. Did you have sort of a welcome-to moment at Augusta National, when you went out and played for the first time and realized it's a lot different golf course than you'd played before?
HENRIK STENSON: Like I said, I had been there before, so I had seen the slopes. I think that otherwise that's what you don't really get on the telly, how much the greens are sloping and how much some of the holes are and going up-and-down, as well.
Just to be able to go out there and especially, I think it's very special to go there and play and just have the opportunity. But then when you know you're going to come back a couple of weeks later to play in your first Masters, it's something special. So there will be a few guys having that feeling this year.

Q. You probably didn't do yourself that much justice last year. Do you feel it's an itch to scratch, like it's something you really feel like you want to get back?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I missed the cut and didn't play very well last year. So if I can have a bit of form coming in there, I think I can have a good tournament. I think it's still a long way to go talking about winning the event. But of course if I can stay patient and play well and be in there with a chance on Sunday, I'm going to do everything I can to take it obviously.
But there's been a few suggestions that, you know, your game suits perfect, you're going to win the Masters. But I think just from making that statement to actually win it, it's quite a long way. And I wasn't the one making the statements.

Q. Realistically, do you think Top-10 now?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think I've said that. I think if I go in and play well, I can get a Top-10. I'd be pretty pleased with that I think. As you know, if you're playing well enough to be up there and be in the Top-10, you're probably playing pretty good to have a chance to do something better, as well. So we just have to see what happens.
I just try and put myself in good positions on Sundays at golf tournaments, and I managed to win a few in the last year. I think that's the whole key. Just put yourself in the right position, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It's just try and keep being in the mix.

Q. Can you quantify the advantage of having Fanny Sunesson on your bag this year, and have you spoken to her much about the Masters already?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we had a slightly different approach. We had discussions earlier in the year about what type of shots we need to have around the greens and stuff like that.
So, you know, maybe like last week, or the week before, Bay Hill, I was supposed to practice at Lake Nona and maybe work a little bit harder on those shots, and then I got sick. So obviously that wasn't ideal.
That's definitely in the back of my mind, some of the shots I need to have, and also her knowledge about the course, having been there so many times and won twice with Nick as well. It's definitely an advantage to have her on the bag, and I hope that can bring something to the end result.

Q. You hit the ball farther than Nick, though, don't you?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, a few yards. (Smiling)

Q. Was that a factor in your decision to hire her?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think just when I split up with my old caddie, I was looking around thinking who I should call. I think it was more looking into somebody with, you know, being Swedish both of us, I think we think alike and personality is a good match. Also having somebody work so hard and got the experience. So it was just, all of a sudden the name came up and contacted her, and yeah, she was available.

Q. Do you think that you have another major that you might be more likely to win than the Masters?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think so. When I grew up, I looked at Ryder Cups, I looked at the British Open. Those were the two main events outside of Augusta. I always had winning the British Open as the one thing. But with the experience I've got now, I think U.S. Open or US PGA might be more suited for my type of game and the type of golf courses we play.
But I've said that probably ten times. I wouldn't give any of the other ones back, either.

Q. Is there a point in your career, the last year, two years, three years, where you went in your own mind to being a very good player to being a guy who can win majors or events like this?
HENRIK STENSON: I thought I really established my game in 2005. I had so many good finishes. I didn't get the icing on the cake with a win or two, but that came in 2006 instead. So I really felt that I sort of put myself in a good position by the end of 2005. And then I managed to press on in 2006 as well and move up in the World Rankings and sort of establish myself within top 20 or just above that.
Obviously now being Top-10 is nice, but I just felt that was the key season in 2005, and also to make the Ryder Cup Team and get the experience of playing in the Ryder Cup is also -- I think that makes you grow as a player, as well.

Q. You appeared to have made steady progress all along, like one step after another. Were there any stumbling blocks?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, there's always been a few stumbling times. A couple of years back, I wasn't playing that good, but there's always going to be ups and downs in a career I think, and most guys have had it. You just try and work your way through it and become a better player once you get through it.

Q. You spoke about Augusta there a moment ago. How much is that playing on your mind this week?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I've got Peter Cowen over and we're working on my game, trying to get things in the right direction. Of course, that's always there in the back of the mind. I'm working on a certain type of shot that I think will have some extra use at Augusta, just little things like that.
Again, I mean, then the U.S. Open is the next one after that. So it's always an ongoing process, and I think long-term, you just look at it trying to develop yourself as a player and become better, and then you're going to do better in the big events because it's just harder, smaller margins when you play and tougher conditions.

Q. What type of shot are you working on?
HENRIK STENSON: Oh, I knew that would come. I feel like I've been playing my draw pretty good lately, but my fade maybe hasn't been there as secure. I think there's a couple of tee shots where you really want to have a strong fade, like the first and maybe on the second as well, to try and avoid that left side.
So that's one thing I'm working a little bit extra on now.

Q. Short-game-wise?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think you're going to short-side yourself a few times, and then you've got to be really precise where you land the ball, so it's just more working on that, trying to land it on a dime, really. Might only be a five-yard shot, but you've got to land it very precise to make it go in the right way.

Q. At least from kind of a mainstream American perspective, the longest time, our introduction to Swedes was Jesper; enough said, Per-Ulrik Johansson. It was this wackiness in dress and you think Swedish golfer, those two especially were what we thought of. You are fairly regular, if you don't mind me saying, and Robert (Karlsson) as well. Just wonder if you ever had to battle that stigma, even in Europe or when you came over here, of the typical Swedish-looking golfer.
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't do the dip thing. No, I mean, I just try and go along with my game and focus on that and let the results do the talking, really. You want to dress nice, but I'm maybe not that person who likes to stick out that much and maybe wear the tightest clothes and the most extreme colors. So I let some of my fellow countrymen do that job.

Q. But you could if you wanted to.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I could. Wouldn't look good though, would it? (Laughter)

Q. Who is bigger in Sweden, you or Annika?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't think there's any competition from Annika -- she's been the best female golfer in the world for, I don't know how many years now, and I will have to win a few more big events before I get close to reaching her height I think.

Q. Who did you look up to when you were a kid playing in Sweden?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I was looking up for Faldo and Seve. They were the two ones that I was following and rooting for, watching the Ryder Cups.

Q. Why?
HENRIK STENSON: Everybody likes Seve, and just watching him hit it sideways and then try and make it up from there on, it was just great, great fun.
I think Faldo for just being that patient, sort of just fairways, greens, really steady player. As I said before, I think if you can combine the two, you've got a pretty good player.

Q. Faldo said in a Golf World Magazine, that horrible European curse that we never ask you about --
HENRIK STENSON: No, go ahead, ask us.

Q. He said he thinks you might be the one. When you hear something like that, is it something that inspires you or an expectation you could do without?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it's always going to be expectations from all different directions. I think as a player, we always put the highest pressure on ourselves to perform.
I don't think it's going to make any big difference. I try and stick to my own things and I know where I want to be and how well I want to play, and that's all I can focus on. You know, if it's there to be, it's going to happen. Otherwise, I can just try my hardest and it's not going to make a difference whether -- but of course, if Nick says that, it's still flattering that he thinks good of my game. You know, he wouldn't have said that if he didn't think I could have a chance obviously.

Q. But he also mentioned your grip --
HENRIK STENSON: There's always going to be one good thing with a bad thing, isn't it?

Q. You've played all around the world. Would you like to see one of those World Golf Championships somewhere else other than the United States?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we played this event last year in London, and it's been in Ireland twice before that I think. So, yeah, I think it's kind of nice when they move around a little bit as well. Might do the schedule easier when it's all in the one place. If you play more in America, it's obviously a little bit easier to have all of the big ones here as well. But it could be fair as well, if it's a World Golf Championships, to have it somewhere else in the world. We've got lots of good places to go and play as well, but there's many factors that weigh in before you come up with the venues I guess.

Q. If you have a bad day at the office, how long does it take you to get over it?
HENRIK STENSON: Just a couple of months. (Laughter)
It all depends. I think if you blow up at a tournament, you think, "I could have won that one." Both Carl and I felt that way about the World Cup. All of a sudden you make a bogey on the last and you sit there in the evening being a bit grumpy (hanging head down). Next day, still grumpy. Next day, it's a little less grumpy.
Really, if you feel like you blow a tournament, you could be annoyed for a day or two, but if it's just a bad round, you wash it out in the afternoon or the evening really, so it's not too bad.

Q. What's the longest you've ever been annoyed blowing a tournament or losing a tournament? A couple of months? --

Q. What was the occasion?
HENRIK STENSON: Scandinavian Masters two years ago. That one, I was annoyed a week later, even though I didn't feel like I did anything wrong. I was just annoyed that I didn't win it.
STEVEN FRANKLIN: Thank you very much, Henrik. Good luck this week.

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