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May 10, 2009

Henrik Stenson


LAURA HILL: Henrik, congratulations, 2009 PLAYERS Championship champion, and you did it on a tough day with absolutely no bogeys. Talk about your round and winning this tournament.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously a great feeling to have won this championship, and it's a golf course I really enjoy playing. I've always said it's been one of my favorites since I came here in '06 the first time, and back then I managed to tie third with an incredible short game and not such a good ball-striking as I had today.
You know, I've always liked to play it, and it suits my eye, suits my game, and I just handled myself very well throughout these four days, putted well and given myself plenty of chances and stayed very level-headed.

Q. Could you just describe what it is about this golf course that fits for you?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, I just like the whole concept of risk and reward. You see pretty clearly what you can do, and if you pull off the shots, you're going to get rewarded, and if you don't, you're going to be in trouble a lot of times. I think it's a very fair and square golf course in that sense. It just suits my game off the tee. I mean, I like to hit my 3-wood a lot, and that club just matches perfectly around here, a little right-to-left shape a lot of times, and I had the ball in great position today, and it's easy to play from there.
As I said, I found the feel on the greens early in the week and I was rolling it beautiful all week.

Q. Can you talk about your pre-shot routine where you take the opposite end of the club, and do other players ever ask you about that?
HENRIK STENSON: No, but if I don't tell you, you're going to be annoyed, right?

Q. Absolutely.
HENRIK STENSON: That was just a thing. I was practicing with a shaft back in November, and it's just basically to -- I sort of paint the swing, really paint the path of the swing, and it's easy to do that without the resistant of a club head. Then I can obviously get the same feel from turning the club upside down, and it just gets me on plane.
I did that when I won the World Cup with Robert in November and Sun City tournament in December. I didn't do it earlier in the week, but I just kind of picked up the feel again this morning on the range and went out and played again as I did in Sun City.

Q. Did somebody recommend it to you?
HENRIK STENSON: It was from my coach Peter Cohen back in England.

Q. As well as you were playing, could you have hit the ball with that end and still won (laughter)?
HENRIK STENSON: I probably could have putted up from four feet on the last, or three feet.

Q. Where do you put this round under the circumstances in all the rounds you've played? And secondly, if there is such a thing, was there ever one pivotal shot that really swung things today for you?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I kind of felt I had to go out there and be very patient again, and I didn't make any birdies early on. I had a chance to make something of two, and I didn't make that, and then I saved myself well on 3 and just lipped out on 4, and a great save on pretty much 5 and 6 and turned around and made a putt on 7 and two-putted on -- hit a good shot into 8, missed that one. We were on the clock there and I didn't feel like I quite had the time to make a proper read at it.
Then on 9 I got it on the front edge in two and two-putted for birdie and I felt like I was right up there.
Then on the back nine it was really the putt I made on 11, and on -- then I hit a great shot on 13 with a 7-iron and released down from 11 feet. From there I felt like if I make pars from here on in I should be up there.
Then saved par on 14 from the rough and then birdied 15 and 16, and from there you hope you should take care of business with a four-shot lead.

Q. And then how this round ranks?
HENRIK STENSON: Definitely after -- not having had time to analyze it yet and compare it to other rounds, but obviously Match Play final was a great comeback. I was leading in the morning and fell behind and then came back and won it in the end. It's definitely up there, if not the best final round I've done. It's just going to give me a lot of confidence to go out there and control myself and play as well as I did today on the last day at TPC Sawgrass and to hold off such a strong field. It's just going to give me a lot of confidence going into the majors, and obviously if I can play as well as I did today, I surely can do it on a Sunday at the majors.

Q. The way you blew past the field, it almost looked like you were playing a different golf course than everybody else. Did it feel as easy as it looked?
HENRIK STENSON: No, it was still Sawgrass, I promise you. No, I just managed my game very well, and it was going to be tough. I knew that before we started yesterday that the greens were going to be even firmer and it was going to be hard to get close to the pins and so on, and the course kind of got back at me a little bit on 16, 17 yesterday because I played good yesterday, and I just finished off badly there. But I still felt like I was in good spirits, and I told whoever was out there after the round yesterday that I was going to go out there and finish strong today, and I did. So I'm just very happy with how I handled my mental game this week.

Q. Your mindset was you were up despite the poor finish yesterday?

Q. And it didn't have any bearing on your mental state today?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I probably controlled myself as well as I've ever done. I felt like even if I wouldn't have played as well today and won this tournament, I still felt like if I can be in that good state of mind and control myself as well as I have done this week, I'm bound to win some great tournaments further down the line.
Again, my game was a little bit off at times early in the week. There were a couple of wayward shots here and there, but that's going to happen for everybody, and it's just how you manage to get back from them.

Q. It looked like you basically won it on the weekend with your tee ball. You hit 13 out of 14 today and 13 out of 14 yesterday and obviously were in the right spots. Was that not a point of concern with you earlier this year and maybe one of the reasons why the Rotella connection was made, to try to get that thing back in the short grass?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I was just struggling at the Match Play there the first round. I was quite wayward, and I contacted Bob to have somebody to chat about different things and get some tips on focusing on the right stuff.
No, I wouldn't still say that I'm 100 percent confident with my driver, and obviously that's why I like this golf course as of now, because I don't need to hit that many drivers, and the ones I hit, they were good. I'm fortunate enough to be fairly long and have a strong 3-wood, and that kind of suits perfect around here.

Q. Do you think you benefitted at all today from not being placed in the final group and not being paired with Tiger Woods?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, if I would have had in the final group, I wouldn't have been playing with Tiger anyway. I don't know. I mean, it's a bit like do you want to be one behind or one in front. A lot of my wins have been from leading going into the last day. Other guys need to play better than me to win then, so I don't mind having a lead. But sometimes it can be easier or harder being in the final pairing. And when you play with Tiger, there's obviously more going on around outside the ropes, there's more people and so on. So at times it's an advantage not to be paired with him.

Q. When you think back to what happened at the 2001 European Open for you and seeing how accurate you were off the tee here, is it hard for you to fathom how much things can change in this game?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I mean, it's quite a long time back, and obviously I was in a bad spell there and I played really bad. But I felt like that's way in the past. Even though everybody in this game kind of falls back at times, it can feel like the easiest game on the planet and then it can be the hardest. That's just the nature of the game, how things can swing around. It's like you can be 50th one week and I was, I think, second in my last tournament on the European Tour and now I won this event. So great things can change in a short time, a lot can happen in a short period of time.

Q. Do you have your schedule set going into the U.S. Open, and if so, what is it?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I'm going to go to the Bahamas tomorrow, practice some bunker shots there for a week (laughter), and then I'm heading to England to play our PGA Championship back at Wentworth, and then the European Open the following week in London, as well, and then coming in for an off week here, and then the plan is to play Memphis and then the U.S. Open. Then head back to Europe again.

Q. Are you surprised what a big deal the incident at Doral became, and will this push that into the background?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I mean, yeah, I was surprised. I thought I was going to see the picture a few times and get a few nice comments and so on, but you guys turned it into a worldwide thing. It was just flying everywhere, 143 articles when I Googled it. It was just everywhere. A lot of publicity for the game obviously, a lot of publicity for me, and I managed to get a few new fans, which is nice. I guess I got as much attention off that thing as from my results the last ten years. That's the way it felt like.
Yeah, I mean, this is obviously going to be the latest thing on the resumé.

Q. Did you hear from the TOUR off the thing at Doral?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I did not.

Q. Any consideration to strip down and jump into the lake for old time's sake?
HENRIK STENSON: I'll save it for a day with a bit of drizzle (laughter).

Q. Talk about walking in with your caddie and the impact that she's had on your game.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, I've been very lucky to have Fanny around for the last two and a half years now. As I said, we kind of pulled her out of retirement. It's just been a great journey. We've had some great wins together and she's a great support. We have good fun on the golf course. I think it helps that we can both speak Swedish and nobody else knows what we're talking about. We can just go there and speak, and we're all safe. No, we just have a great time, and obviously with her experience being out there for 20-odd years and winning some great championships with some great players, I know that she's spot-on with everything she does. I couldn't have a caddie that's more prepared than she is when we tee off.

Q. Two questions: What was the conversation on the 17th tee, in English?
HENRIK STENSON: On the 17th? I was just going to go with a controlled pitching wedge at the middle tower behind there, just left edge of the bunker and try and get it on top. If it rolls down, it rolls down to the pin, otherwise it stays on top. As I said, with a four-shot lead, two to good, it's just about not making anything stupid. It was never going to be a problem reaching unless I hit the big ball before the little one (laughter). It was more a concern not to -- you're a bit pumped up and if there's a tad bit more breeze, it was just not to go long is the big worry, if anything. I hit it a bit short left, but no danger. I could have afforded a bogey on that one and still bogeyed the last to winning. It's all about winning the tournament, not in what fashion, really, from there on.

Q. This comes with a five-year exemption on TOUR. You gave up your membership last year, I think, or the year before?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, well, I picked it up in '07, and then after the win I had three years, and I dropped it in '08, and I didn't take it up this year, either, and obviously now I've got a few more years to figure out what I want to do.
You know, it's a lot of things. It's scheduling. I'm in the tournaments I want to play, where I want to play them in the world, where you want to base your family and so on. But you can count on I'll let you know what my thoughts are going into next year.

Q. I'd be curious what you would see as a benefit for playing this TOUR.
HENRIK STENSON: Just the travel, you're in one country. We've got a lot of great events over here in the States. It's probably more that I'm brought up on the European Tour. I kind of like all the changes, playing in different parts of the world, and also I'm based down in Dubai and have those tournaments down there. So I'm kind of happy to follow the sun, to be in that part of the world between October and February and then be here in the spring and be back in Europe over the summer. So I've kind of been able to take the best of both worlds.
But still, I'm going to have a proper look at it, and when I have the schedules for next year and so on, we'll see what our plans are.

Q. So you dropped U.S. membership because you just didn't want to spend half your life in the air travelling?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, partly. I guess if I would have taken up the membership, I would have spent less time in the air in one sense, but I would have been stuck with you guys the whole time (laughter).
No, it mainly comes down to the number of tournaments. I felt I played in 06, I think I played 31 weeks; in 07, I played 30. But it's playing the worldwide schedule that's been wearing on me. I wanted to get down to about 25-ish, and having the 15 as a minimum in America just made me -- I wasn't getting enough rest after the journey, after the long travels to practice and prepare. If you add something on, you have to take something else out, and I'm just going to have a look and see what I'm doing.

Q. You mentioned that you knew about the four-shot cushion on 17 tee. Were you aware of the scoreboard all the way around, including, say, your second shot on 16?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, I saw that Ian was up there and he made a par putt on 14 and then there was a bit of fist pumping there when he made one on 15, so I took that was for a birdie, and I managed to top that one. I kind of expected him to make birdie on 16, as well. I had a good position, middle of the green and two-putt birdie.
When I rolled my eagle putt down the hill, I saw that he had a pretty good chance on 17, as well. He got his shot there. He also knew what he was going to do, and he's a winner, and when he gets the chance, he's firing at the flag when he has a chance to win. You know, it was obviously a bit calming for me that he didn't make 2 on 17.

Q. So your second shot on 16 wouldn't have been affected one way or the other how you played that shot?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't think so. I was in good enough numbers, and I was going obviously for the left part of the green. I wouldn't think of hitting a high draw over the water with a 4-iron there at that time. No, I felt like it was the right way to do it.

Q. You've talked quite a bit outside and in here about how well you handled yourself, emotions and everything else. Was that ever a big, big problem with you?
HENRIK STENSON: I think I've always been pretty good at handling myself when I'm up there. You know, when I'm in contention, I've been able to close the deal quite a few times over the years and been a strong front runner. But then again, you've got to handle yourself to get into that position. You know, the mind always wants to play some tricks on you when you're up there, and it's a great tournament to win, this one, and obviously there's somebody sitting on your shoulder there coming into the back nine that wants to throw a few passes at you, and you want to fight him off and stick to business and do the right things, and I'm just very happy with how I managed to do that.

Q. What do they whisper to you?
HENRIK STENSON: It's looking pretty good right now, you're two ahead and it's looking pretty good. I'm like, yeah, it is, but we've got six holes to go or something like that. Stay off my back.

Q. Not getting ahead of yourself essentially?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, that's always the case. That's the good thing, that I managed to push on, and then I had that good cushion coming into the last couple of holes if I wouldn't have. One or two shots can easily go on the last two or three holes around here.

Q. Your two wins over here in the States, you beat the Top 64 in the world, and then the toughest field in golf on a World Ranking standard, what that means to you, and then secondly, what it means having your whole family here with you. Your dad said he had never seen you win before.
HENRIK STENSON: No, he probably hasn't. They came over a few days earlier, and it's his 60th, and we obviously had a great time. We rented a house on the beach that I might have to buy now (laughter). No, it's just great to win in front of your family and friends, obviously. I've managed to win in front of my wife and daughter before, even though she wasn't born (laughter). No, it's just been a great week, nice relaxed week.
What was the first part of the question?

Q. Just against those two stacked fields. You beat the best in the world both times.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think if you look at my resumé, it's been a case on quite a few occasions that I've won tournaments with very strong fields, and that's obviously very pleasing, as well. I won the Match Play, I won in Dubai when Tiger was in, played with Ernie three or four days and beat him down the stretch. No, it just seems to bring the best out of me when I have to, playing the best players, and obviously now I feel like I'm up there where I belong when I'm playing good.

Q. What degree is your 3-wood, and how far do you hit it?
HENRIK STENSON: It's 13 degrees, and I hit it far (laughter). I saw one on the ShotLink board, and I hit a good one down 18 the other day, and I think it said 318 or 313 or something like that. When you get one going on these fast, firm fairways, they can run on. But normally I'd say about 270 yards in the air maybe, and then obviously with a bit of wind here and there and how much it releases and so on. But I'd say that 270, 280 is a good number if I strike it properly.

Q. Your first real big win in Dubai and then the Match Play, your ranking keeps going up and up. Since then have the majors been any sort of disappointment for you?
HENRIK STENSON: No, last year was a great year. I felt in the past it was a little bit annoying not to have a Top 10 in a major and so on, and I definitely got to put an end to that question with a third at the Open, and then the one I really felt like I had a good chance to win going into the last day was the PGA Championship. I felt like I was one out of four or five guys that had a good chance to win it. It obviously didn't happen that day, but it's all about putting yourself in that position.
With the experience today, I know even better that I hope I can pull it off when it matters.

Q. Have you ever been to Bethpage?
HENRIK STENSON: I have not. I think I've seen some footage or some films from it.

Q. It's a good ballpark for guys who hit their 3-woods 318.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I understand that. I'll try and hit it 320 by that time (laughter).

Q. Speaking of that 3-wood, how many drivers did you even hit today?
HENRIK STENSON: Today I hit one, on 11.

Q. How did that work out for you?
HENRIK STENSON: That was down the fairway and a 4-iron just up in the greenside trap there.

Q. Before you started working with Bob Rotella, had you really worked with a similar person?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I had a very long relationship going with a gentleman called Torsten Hansson that I met through the amateur teams back in the days, probably back in '95, and we worked for -- all the way up until May last year. He obviously has a lot of credits in there, as well. He's helped me out over the years, and we just felt like it was time to move on.
I didn't see anybody from May last year until March this year, and I spoke to Doc at a tournament -- I kind of know him a little bit, and he's worked with Padraig, and also he was doing some seminars at the college where Emma used to go to school. It's just good to have somebody to chat with every now and again. It's slightly different; I've done a lot of stuff with Torsten over the years, and then some of it is still going to be the same, just in a slightly different packaging, I guess. It's a lot of common sense, I guess.

Q. Is he the Swedish national coach?
HENRIK STENSON: No, he was helping out with the amateurs, and then I've worked with him on my own. He's got quite a few other players back in Europe that he works with.

Q. One of the side stories from today will obviously be Tiger being unable to get it done today. I know you largely don't care one way or another what happened to him today, but does it surprise you at all?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I mean, I think you guys got to cut him a little bit of slack at times. He can't win every week, even though he obviously wants it. That's just the nature of the game. As you can imagine, the ups and downs of his round today or anything (I don't know the ups and downs), but he's the world's best player, but I don't expect him to win every time. He's lethal when he gets within striking distance, we all know that. I guess that's the key, for the rest of us to try and play well to keep him more than a couple of shots behind when you go into the last couple of holes.

Q. Would you ever like to be in the position where you're seen as a failure when you don't win?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think you've come someplace when you hear that, haven't you? You've moved up.

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