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May 4, 2010

Henrik Stenson


COLIN MURRAY: We'd like to welcome our defending champion, Henrik Stenson, to the interview room here at THE PLAYERS Championship. You've had a lot of success here in the past, obviously never finishing out of the top 25 and then with the victory last year. If you could give us a few opening thoughts on being back here and we'll open it up to questions.
HENRIK STENSON: No, it's great to be back. It's a course I love playing, and it's even sweeter to return as defending champion. And I will try my hardest to have a good week this week, and I could be the first one to go back-to-back, I guess.

Q. After the first round at Bay Hill, you hit a couple of rough spots, and then the Masters wasn't probably too enjoyable for you. But then you kind of bounced back and you played well in China. What went on those last three rounds of Bay Hill and then at Augusta with your game?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I've been kind of struggling most of the year. I mean, I didn't have a great start in the Middle East, either. I've been off sort of across the board, both with the long game, short game, putting has not been great, either, and obviously confidence is not on top, either, then.
So it's kind of across the board, but I'm feeling I'm moving in the right direction, and yeah, I'm getting a bit more happy with my game. So I'm looking forward to this week.

Q. Did something click in China where you saw -- where did you see improvement?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, kind of -- I played all right in China and Korea, and then had a couple of good sessions with my coach. And, yeah, it just feels like it's shaping up in the right direction.
Normally it kind of goes across the board, as well, because if I start hitting it good, I normally pitch and bunker pretty well, too. It goes hand in hand a little bit. I guess that kind of shows in the results, and the last couple years it's either been on or off, so not too much in between.

Q. Can you remember how you were playing coming in here last year?
HENRIK STENSON: I know I came from Korea, so I had the same setup this year, Korea, one week off, PLAYERS, Bahamas was in there. I did Bahamas again last week. I did it afterwards last year. So all the right ingredients are here this week.

Q. Did you do Sea World?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I didn't do Sea World. That wasn't part of winning THE PLAYERS formula. No, I think I was just playing average really coming in here last year, I think. So I've got every chance then because I have been playing average.

Q. Talk about just the condition of the course and if you've been out to play.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I played the front nine yesterday. Greens are running at a good pace. They were a bit softer than expected, but I guess that comes down with the cold winter and sort of growth issues. That's been around all over Florida.
So yeah, I spoke to the guys out on the course, they said it was going to firm up, so I expect it to be playing close to what we had last year by the weekend.

Q. Did you notice any difficulties on issues in some of the chipping areas?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, it was a little bit bare on a few. Short of 1 was a little bit sandy, and I don't know. I mean, I played quite all right, so I hit most of the greens yesterday, so I didn't have to pay too much attention to the chipping areas, which was good.
But obviously the rough is a bit less, as well, a bit patchy and less severe than last year. It will play maybe a fraction easier, I think, overall with those things in mind.

Q. Can I just go with the course is easy this year?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the course is easier. (Laughter.)

Q. You might have noticed they had to do some resodding on the back left of 17, and they might not use that hole position. They might have two up front. They haven't completely decided. But how do you think over the balance of the week having two front hole locations on 17 will pan out?
HENRIK STENSON: It's just one of those you've got to go with -- as I said, I only played the front nine yesterday, so I haven't had a look at the back nine yet. But if that's the case that the green is a bit bad in the back corner there, you're just going to have to go with it.
I don't know if it's -- I don't see that as a big issue. Obviously you would like to play the normal four pins, but if that's not possible you just take it as it comes.

Q. Is the front location always the easiest one on that hole?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I would say so. I think so. As long as they keep it on the front. Yeah, that's a tricky hole as we all know. And I guess -- yeah, I guess the hole would play a little bit easier with a front pin, because with a back one there's always a bigger chance of going big if you try and land it on top.
And I think on the short one people try and use the backstop a little bit more, and if the greens are a little bit more receptive, that's going to make it a little bit easier.

Q. You've had some luck in the WGCs and obviously won here last year. Which is bigger? I ask because Westwood sort of said that in his mind, speaking for himself, the WGCs might have jumped the pecking order over this one?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think this is bigger in my mind than the WGC win I had in '07. But they're both great tournaments, and it's all up there. We've got the majors, the four majors, and then we've got this one and then the three WGCs inside of my Order of Merit.
But I guess you can always debate whether it's the WGCs or this one back and forth. I'm lucky enough to have won both, so I can say whatever I want without being biased, right?

Q. What do you use to measure that?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think just obviously the one that I did win was the Match Play, which could make it a little bit harder to compare, since it's a match play and a stroke-play event. But just going off the field, the strength of this field and depth of this field compared to a field with the best players in the world at the WGC might be -- you've got the top 50 and you've got the top 50 here, but then you fill it up with the whole depth of the PGA TOUR.
And the other one you have a few guys from all over the world, and then it kind of ends at 75, 78 players, and this one goes all the way down. So it would make it a harder one, this one.

Q. Can you see a different perspective on that, depending on if someone is from overseas, depending on if someone is U.S. TOUR member, that someone in that category might see this as another good, strong U.S. TOUR event with a lot of money but a world event having some type of ownership to it?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I mean, I think it's got all the tradition and the history from this event, and I had watched it a lot before I came over and played it the first time, and I think that goes for everybody that's a keen golfer. Especially if you're a professional golfer from whatever corner of the world you come from, you will have seen this event and know what great history it's got and what great champions you've got from the past. (Laughter.)
Talking about not being biased, right?

Q. Is it diminished by being in May as opposed to March when it was the big start to the season? We all came out of winter with this tournament? Is it diminished now?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I don't think so. I think this spot is good, especially given the cold winter. I don't know if it would have been very pleasant to have played it in March instead of May. So I think we found the right spot. Yeah, that's all I can give on that one. Tough one for me to answer completely.

Q. Were you talking at all about Rory McIlroy at the start?
HENRIK STENSON: Talking about being biased again? (Laughter).

Q. I was going to ask you about Ryo Ishikawa.
HENRIK STENSON: No, I mean, obviously delighted for Rory that he won last week and did it in such great style. I watched the highlights. No, he played tremendously on the weekend, and good to see him in the winner's circle.
And then obviously Ryo obviously playing a fantastic round in Japan. They're the two bright stars for the future for sure.
God, I wish I was 21 again.

Q. Would you like to see a fifth major, and if so, do you think THE PLAYERS is poised to be the fifth one?
HENRIK STENSON: Speaking about being biased, I'm not going to answer that question. (Laughs.) Everything is good, I think, the way we've got it. You can always debate whether to twist and turn on all these issues, but I think, like I just said, when I read the welcome phrase for the television, anybody who wins -- who lifts that trophy on Sunday is really proud to be THE PLAYERS Champion.
Everybody knows how much that means, and regardless of being labeled the fifth major or being a fifth major or whatever. It's a great tournament, and I'm very pleased to have won it.

Q. I can't remember whether you're a PGA TOUR member at the moment.

Q. And is your schedule exactly where you want it?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I guess it's more that I've got a little bit of a pressure in terms of my results since I haven't played that good. I mean, I was sick at the Match Play, had to pull out there, didn't have a great week at Doral even though I kept my clothes on. (Laughter).
Yeah, I mean, I'm in need for a couple of good weeks to make sure I get far into the FedExCup, otherwise I might have to do a bit of reshuffling. It can all turn around easily in this game, and I hope the summer to be my summer.

Q. Just one more thing on the topic we were on a minute ago. Ogilvy had said from an Australian perspective that if he had to pick one tournament to win, the Aussie Open or this, he'd win this. But at the end of his career if he didn't have an Aussie Open he'd want to trade it just from an emotional standpoint. Is there any tournament like that for you, that's maybe not as recognizable as a biggie but it would be for you?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, obviously, at some point I would love to win the Swedish European Tour event. I lost in a playoff in 2005 to Mark Hensby, and he had some funky caddie on the back, Fanny Sunesson, I think her name was (laughter), and that was very painful at that time. I would love to win the Swedish one.
Yeah, so now you put me in a great spot. If I'm going to have to trade this one, otherwise they're going to think I'm a bad guy if I don't say I want to trade it for the Swedish.
No, I would love to win the Swedish event. But looking at the tournaments that I've won, I'm very pleased with the number of events that I've won and the stature of them. Yeah, I would like to add a major or two, but other than that, I'm very pleased with -- I've won this one, WGC, I won Dubai, a couple of good ones in Europe. So it's -- World Cup, yeah, so I've got some good events on there. I'd just like to try and add a few more.

Q. As well as Rory played, Tiger kind of struggled on the opposite end. Did that kind of surprise you, especially given how he showed in Augusta?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I mean, I don't know, it's always hard to -- for me to guess what it's like for him at the moment and what's going on in his life and how to deal with everything. So yeah, I guess at times it must be hard to focus on golf and perform well.
We're just going to have to wait and see how that all works out.
COLIN MURRAY: Henrik, thanks for your time. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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