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February 19, 2008

Henrik Stenson


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks for coming in and joining us. And welcome back to the scene of your wonderful triumph of last year. Let's start there. Talk about last year and the win and what it meant to you in your career.
HENRIK STENSON: It's the biggest tournament I've won so far. Obviously it meant a lot, both as a presentation to the broader American crowd, I guess, and also put me in the top-10 in the world at that stage, and I wouldn't mind another win. And just wonderful to be back at the course and relive some of the memories of last year.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Your game is in pretty good shape, with three top-10 finishes in the tournaments you've played on the European Tour so far. You must be feeling confident coming in.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, game-wise it's not bad, but preparation-wise, it has been a mis-hit there. First I had a cold for a week, then the whole family caught a stomach bug and we were flat out the rest of the week. I played 18 holes in Dubai, and that was it.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Feeling better now?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, today is the first day I feel a little energetic. I played 18 holes today and that felt fine. At least we should be up and running again.

Q. Can you kind of talk about the feeling of coming back to Match Play being the defending champion? Is there more of a comfort level or confidence level for you?
HENRIK STENSON: I think coming back to any tournament that you've won is always great. It's always nice. I had that in Dubai, obviously. When they announce you on the first tee, the defending champion, it's always something special. And I think that's going to be pretty nice feeling tomorrow again. And just coming back at a venue where you won is always very nice.
And I think this one in particular, I mean, that I won it, it's great and every time when I think back of last year's tournament and the matches, there were so many times that I could have gotten knocked out. And you just understand how small the margins are. And Geoff did a fantastic run at it last year, being the defending champion, to make it to the finals. If I can do anything near that, I'll be very pleased.

Q. Can you talk about just the difference of every week going against 140, 150 golfers, and now this week having to beat one golfer but on six straight days? Is that a harder thing to do?
HENRIK STENSON: I think in a sense it could be a harder tournament to win, because you all know you can play great and still get knocked out. If you make a bogey at the wrong time there, then it's all over. And in a stroke-play tournament you can finish with a bogey on 18 and come out and do five straight ones the next morning, but you're sitting on the plane the next morning if you made the bogey at the wrong time.
It's a harder tournament to win, but then again, it's a completely different format. It's something I enjoy because I think it's so obvious what you need to do. You go out with your opponent and you need to beat him. You need to be one shot or one hole better than he is. And it's sort of very clear what you need to do and I really enjoy that.

Q. Speaking with Stuart Appleby this morning, and he said on the first day it's almost like having 32 different tournaments, and it's kind of difficult not to scoreboard watch. Do you find that to be a problem? Do you find that to be the case?
HENRIK STENSON: I always try to keep a little bit of a look on the scoreboards when I play in regular events. Here it doesn't really matter who wins or loses the other 15 matches or -- well, it's even more than that, it's 32 matches, 31 matches in the first round. Second round is 15, plus yourself, right?
SCOTT CROCKETT: You've got to get through to 15.
HENRIK STENSON: Exactly. So it's just something that you pay attention to, if you're waiting for a putt or something. And it's like, oh, he's 4-up against him and this and that. But that doesn't really matter in this competition what the other guys are doing.

Q. You just made me think of something you might find interesting. Do you watch college basketball?
HENRIK STENSON: Not too often, no.

Q. So the whole concept of brackets and all that really doesn't apply?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, the thing is anybody can beat anybody here, and it's been shown time over again. So it's like it doesn't matter who you're going to get in the first round. I got Robert Allenby tomorrow. But if I would have had somebody else, it wouldn't have made any difference. It's all down to whoever is playing their best that given day.
So last year it was either Nick O'Hern or Tiger, and obviously Tiger is the No. 1 player. I mean, he got beaten, and then I managed to beat Nick and it's -- only the stars can tell if it would have been a different outcome if I had played Tiger instead.

Q. Kind of changing gears here a little bit. Martin Kaymer is in the field this week. Can you talk about your relationship with him, and have you followed his progress coming up?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I didn't know much about him until last year on the European Tour. I saw that he made some really good progress on the Challenge Tour the year before and then he came out. I wasn't paired with him at any tournament last year, but he shot some great numbers and had a fantastic score at Valderrama and the Volvo Masters. He shot 5- or 6-under on a windy day.
Then I played with him in Abu Dhabi and he won that tournament and played very solid. He's a solid player, and he's got the game and he's got the head.

Q. What was it like to have someone 23 years old -- that's a pretty big event he won. To come in and be paired with him, what was that like?
HENRIK STENSON: I was trying my hardest to catch him but I couldn't do it. I didn't have maybe my very best game. But I had a good week. I was fighting my long game a little bit but I was scoring well. I just tried my best to try and catch him. But he had a -- what did he have, like a six-shot lead, five or six shots coming into the Saturday. He was rock solid and then didn't move in the wrong direction. So it was just hat off; it was his week and he deserved it.

Q. Being amongst the top golfers in the world, can you talk about how you handle the pressure of playing in these tournaments and playing amongst the tops, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and all those guys?
HENRIK STENSON: I think from my own point of view, I just try to give it my best and try to play my best shot, especially when I play with these guys. I just try to be as good as I can be. A lot of times I manage to pull some good golf off. It's the same when you come down the stretch in the Match Play here. Every day it's almost destined to be tight, because either both guys are playing good or both are playing average. So you seem to -- there seems to be a pace within the game that both players seem to follow a little bit. So almost every time you go into the last two or three holes, it's not very often that there's wins of 7-6 and stuff like that, because it tends to be tight. And then it's pressure on.
You just -- that's what we play for, really. You've got to love that pressure. Some days you can't hold up and other days you do and you hit the good shots at the right times, and then it just feels good.

Q. What's the most pressure you've felt in a tournament, the most pressure? Is it different in match play or maybe Ryder Cup? Was that a lot?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think Ryder Cup wasn't as bad as I expected, actually, maybe for a couple of different reasons. But I think we had a feel for it on the first tee box; they were the ones that played in the morning, I wasn't first off. I didn't play in the morning on the Friday, and you sort of get a feel for that, and you are down by the first tee. And then you come down in the afternoon and it wasn't as many people, so it was a little bit less traumatic.
And then I think at that event in particular I was very focused on what I wanted to do, so that sort of blocked the nerves out quite a bit. But I think it's probably when you want something really bad, you want to win a tournament, but your game is not quite there and you don't quite trust it. That's when it's actually more pressure, because you don't trust yourself. And you're not quite sure what's -- where you're going to hit the ball or so on.

Q. With it being a Ryder Cup year, does that change your schedule any? Do you play more events in Europe to be closer to your teammates or do you stay here?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I changed my schedule this year a bit, for a couple of different reasons. One was to try to cut down on the number of events. I played 30 weeks in '07 and 31 in '06. I wanted to get down to 20, 25-ish. That's the main reason why I dropped my PGA TOUR card this year.
And then of course I wanted to -- I loved playing the Ryder Cup in '06 and I'd be very unhappy not to play again. So obviously trying to qualify, your playing a bit more in Europe will hopefully help that in the right direction.
And then just being more prepared for the big events, the majors. I didn't do good in that year; that was sort of a disappointment in '07. So if I get a few more weeks to practice and prepare, hopefully can help me make some better results this year.

Q. Sticking with the Ryder Cup a little bit, what does it mean for a European player growing up and the significance of the Ryder Cup? Do you think it means more to a younger European Tour player than maybe an American guy?
HENRIK STENSON: It's kind of hard to answer. Possibly that -- we've got the Ryder Cup -- you've both got the Ryder Cup and The Presidents Cup. If you've got two, maybe that's taking away some of it from when you compare to when you just have one. I grew up seeing all my golfing heroes playing in the Ryder Cup. As I said, I enjoy match play, and with the crowd and everything it's just fantastic.

Q. You talked about relinquishing membership of this TOUR. You obviously feel that you can fulfill your potential without being a member of the PGA TOUR?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, I played in '06. I think I played nine events over here. I played all the majors and WGCs. And this year I will do the same. I played Hawaii and then I'll play TPC, as well. Where I play the regular events is not going to make that much of a difference, if I play them in Europe or play more over here, all the big tournaments. No, it doesn't feel like it makes a huge difference.
It's more travel-wise, if you want to play more in America, I almost need to be here more rather than going all over the world. So it's for convenience reasons, as well.

Q. Didn't you buy a house in Florida?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, we've got a house there. I will be here, but I will do some of my practice and presentations for The Masters and Doral and those tournaments, I'll be over there sometime. But not all the time.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.

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