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November 13, 2013

Henrik Stenson


SARAH GWYNN:  Henrik, welcome back to Dubai.  Race to Dubai leader, just sum up how you're feeling on the eve of the last tournament of the season.
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I felt lucky last week.  I thought it could have been a whole lot worse for my positioning in Turkey, but things worked out pretty well there, so I am still leading.  Definitely felt like that was maybe not going to be the case when we entered Sunday in Turkey.
So delighted to be back.  Made Dubai my home for so many years, a lot of friends and family faces and good to be back.
In terms of the tournament, I played well last year.  First couple of times I think I was around 20th.  Last year I managed to get a Top‑10, so hope to build on that and try something similar or better.
I haven't‑‑ due to my preparations and resting the wrist, I haven't spent any time on the golf course, two days completely off, and actually quite excited to go out and do a bit of practice and play nine holes in the afternoon.  I heard the rumours are that the course is absolutely in excellent condition and the greens are really, really good, so look being forward to heading out there and checking it out.
It's limited preparations for me.  I'm going to try to do the best with those hours that I have, a bit of putting, quick session with Pete on the short game and long game, and like I said, go out and play nine and maybe we'll walk the other nine or whatever.  I'm not necessarily concerned of not seeing more of the golf course since I've played it quite a few times in the past and I'm that familiar with it; so that shouldn't be an issue.
But again, I would have liked to be able to spend a good two days rather than one, but it is what it is, and I think it was more important for me to try and rest up and try and give the hand a little more time to settle and calm down.
And it was still a pretty good week for me last week.  I felt that I left a lot of good opportunities out there in Turkey, but I still finished Top‑10 and played pretty good throughout the week.  So it's definitely getting better‑‑ well, last week, compared to when we started in China, and again, the wrist issue came up about half a week before we started in China.
So it definitely impacted my practice and preparations leading into the first one and then I've kind of been behind ever since.  You know, it's a difference between going to the range and working on your game for an hour or sitting with the physios and having an ice bath every day after the round.
So it's not been great but just have to deal with whatever circumstances you have at the moment and do the best with that.  I'm happy to have been able to play these last three weeks, because the way it felt on Tuesday at the BMW Masters, I thought I was probably going to be on the flight home and not be able to play.  From there, it's been some good developments, and fingers crossed, it's going to hold out for these four days.

Q.  You obviously won the FedExCup, but how important will it be for your career and how satisfying it will be for you to become the European No. 1?
HENRIK STENSON:  It's always one of the things that I would have liked to achieve in golf in Europe, and growing up on The European Tour and playing here for many, many years, it would mean a lot to be the overall winner of Race to Dubai.
To be able to, to have a chance to do it together with winning the FedExCup is probably something I'm not going to have a chance to do again, and it's going to be hard for some of the other guys to have a chance to do it, as well.
Yeah, it's one of them that I really want it, but if you want something too much, that's going to make some trouble for you normally.  So we all‑‑ you know, it doesn't take Einstein to figure out that I want that to happen.  But I have to put that aside and focus on playing the best I can with my circumstances and my game for this week.  We'll see where that takes us.
I think it was very important to be in the lead.  It's always nice to have that cushion, because the other guys are still coming in here with the pressure of having to finish in the top five or something like that to be able to catch me.  I haven't looked overly much on the scenarios.
I just know that if Justin wins, I believe it doesn't matter what I do, because the difference between the first and second is greater than what I'm ahead of him.  Other than that‑‑ well, I'm not sure if it's the same for Graeme and Ian.

Q.  First three‑‑ if the first three win, they win the whole thing.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah.  Very similar situation to what we had going into Atlanta, really.  And I kind of liked that setup.  The outcome worked out well for me there.  So I hope it can be the same again.
But it's going to take a lot of good golfing.  It's a quality field, as always.  And I know that my neighbors, they are my friends, but they are not going to start making bogeys because they like me.

Q.  You may have been asked this in the last three weeks, but I haven't seen you; with the wrist, what is the long‑term solution?  Is there a surgical solution?
HENRIK STENSON:  No.  I think‑‑ so when the other guys were out playing the Pro‑Am early morning yesterday, I was at the hospital taking another MRI.  I think that we are still waiting for some reports on it, but the overall the‑‑ I did ultrasound the other day, did MRI yesterday.  The overall outlook is good.  Nothing major that comes up there.  I think it's more it needs rest to recover.  It needs treatment and it needs some work, some strengthening and so on.
I guess it's always going to be a weak point for golfers, and I'm a pretty big guy and a pretty strong guy, and you know, the wrists are going to take a beating.  You go at a pretty good speed down into the ground every now and again; it's always a chance for something to flare up.
I think I just ended up in a bad cycle after a long season, started getting a problem and there's not any time to take off, and I just kept on going.  So I hope that's‑‑ so it's nothing major worrying at this point in terms of what is showing up on the MRIs and stuff like that.

Q.  Do you have a good rest planned after this?  Do you have enough time off?
HENRIK STENSON:  I will‑‑ now I'm just focusing on getting through this week and then I will have to take a further look on my schedule.  I'm scheduled to play a couple of weeks in the next month, and I will just have to look and see if that's going to be possible or if I will have to take some more time off.

Q.  The best you've got going with Ian and the fear of being his wine waiter for the day‑‑

Q.  Poulter.

Q.  And the fear, how big a motivating factor is that?
HENRIK STENSON:  That's probably the biggest motivator, not to become his servant for the day.  No, he's certainly got going off that bet and I know he's up my tail.
Yeah, I'm going to‑‑ that's like the No. 1 focus is to win The Race to Dubai.  I guess the second would be to win the tournament and the third one would be to make sure Ian Poulter is behind me.  We'll have to see if that priority changes at some point but as of now I guess that's the way I look at it.  I know if I tick the other ones, that will take care of itself.

Q.  You've had a demanding schedule this year.  How are the energy levels, not just physically but mentally, as well?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was obviously finishing in Atlanta on a high.  But the next four weeks were quite busy to say the least.  I had a lot of things pushed forward into that period of time since I've been so busy playing throughout the summer.
You know, you've got four weeks coming up where you're going to have time off, and yeah, I'll do it then, I'll do it then; and all the extra things that came as a consequence of winning FedEx.  But I'm not going to sit here and complain about it.  It's great; it basically means you've done something great, so happy about that.
But it's been quite hectic and I wouldn't say that I'm as rested as I would like to be, even going into these four weeks.  And now with the travelling and playing three weeks in a row and the injury and all the rest, I'm looking at these four days and trying not to look further away.

Q.  Last year you finished inside the Top‑10, but even that year last year, you didn't use your driver much off the tee.  And this year, you've been using your driver quite a lot.  How much of a difference will that make in your game is on and if the driver is behaving well?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I think regardless of if your confidence is up or down with a certain club or overall with your game is, I'm still going to look at the course pretty much the same way.  It might be one or two holes where you feel like you want to push a bit harder than if you're feeling good about, you know, your driver or your game in general.
I can't recall exactly how many drives I've hit here and so on, but there's quite a few holes where you can use the driver and gain by hitting it a little bit further.  Again, there's quite a few holes where you need to be in good position and it might not be a driver off the tee.  It's a bit of a combo.  I think the course has a good variety of holes.  There are some where you can really let go and length is an issue, and others where you just want to be in position.  There's a lot of bunkers and you want to try and stay out of those, even though sand placement is pretty good lately.

Q.  To what extent will you draw on Atlanta?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I will always bring that with me, the achievement I had there and how well I played against such a strong field and the way I did it.  But again, especially the first round, it was one of them days where, you know, I could have had the same iron play as I did on the front nine another time; instead of being five inches and two feet away, you know, you can be ten feet away and 12 feet away.
Just like it worked out perfectly on the front nine.  I've never had nine holes where I hit so many good shots and they also get that close to the pin.  So I guess it's just one of those, when it's your week, it's your week, and you just enjoy it when things work out for you.
But I think the important thing was really I had such a big lead; I came back a little bit and some of the other guys made a charge.  And then the way I handled it on Sunday with the pressure and with everybody coming after me and just hanging in there.  I didn't feel the best with my game on that Sunday either, but I kind of kept it together and did a fine last round, which gave me the win in the end.
So those are the ones you would always keep in the back of your mind.  You know you can do it even when things doesn't feel the best.  I've done really well in those situations over the years, so I'll take a lot of positives out of that.

Q.  Your wrist had been troubling you‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, that was a different thing, though.  In Chicago and Atlanta, I had a bit of tendinitis on my left hand.  This other issue has been on the right.  So they are both telling me they need a bit of rest.

Q.  You've had a lead for quite some time and you have a target on your back this week.  Can you talk about how you deal with the pressure, do you thrive under the pressure of trying to hang on for just one more week?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I think I've done well in big moments throughout my career and throughout the years.  It's all down to focusing on your game and playing the best you can and not caring too much about what's going on around you.  And I feel like it's an opportunity, if one of the other guys and goes and wins this week and I don't, it's good for them.  It's about what we do out on the golf course and I can't feel like I'm losing something.
I'm in a good position to win The Race to Dubai, but if somebody else wins the tournament, good for them.  They have done something really good and I can't feel like I've lost it then.  It's down to me going out and playing the best I can and then we'll see what happens on Sunday.
But it's a great opportunity and I'm really happy to be in that position.  I'm going to try my best to enjoy it rather than feeling like, oh, got to go out and play well now otherwise somebody else is going to nick it.  That's not the right mind‑set.

Q.  On a more serious note, you have a couple of nicknames, which do you prefer, the #Stensonator, #SuperSwede, #TheBOSS?
HENRIK STENSON:  Keep on going.  I like them all (laughter).  I thought you were going to say the Iceman.  That's the old one; was it Robert Lee who gave me that one back on Challenge Tour or something (making mean face).  SuperSwede is kind of nice, too, isn't it.
Yeah, it's not any one of those that's kind of something that's been with me for a long time.  So whatever you guys make up, it's find by me.

Q.  You obviously finished second in The Scottish Open, and you were not that happy‑‑

Q.  You were not happy with that tournament.  But, after The Open Championship, I personally got a sense that you were quite satisfied even though you finished second.  Did you just feel that something had turned during that tournament?
HENRIK STENSON:  When I look back at the great summer, that was before the FedEx tournaments‑‑ when I look back at that period, The Scottish Open was the only one I really felt like maybe should I have won that one, because I had a two‑shot lead going into the last day, had my chances, didn't take them, didn't play my best and finished third in the end.  So that was the one that kind of felt like I let slip.
But The Open, it was such a tight leaderboard, so many guys out there.  Yeah, made one or two mistakes in the last round in the middle, I lipped‑out for birdie on 10 and then bogeyed 12 and 13 I think.  But then I had a good, strong finishing.
Yeah, I could have done better on one or two occasions.  And if you're going to win a major championship, you're probably going to not have the luxury of dropping one or two easy shots.
But I did my best and I draw a lot of positives out of The Open.  And you know, the way everybody should look at it was that Phil won that tournament.  It was not somebody lost it.  It was Phil that made a great finish and was a very worthy champion with the way he played, and the same at the US PGA.
Akron was finished more or less.  I said that stranger things has happened than Tiger losing a seven‑shot lead in Akron and that was probably the Titanic in 1912; that was never meant to happen.  And at the PGA, Jason played a very solid last round and I was behind him.  So for me to win the US PGA, I would have had to play something similar to my final round at Sawgrass in 2009.
It was a key moment when I ended up in a divot on the 14th, I believe, and ended up making bogey instead of potentially a birdie and that was more or less the tournament over for me.
But you know, all credit to Jason.  He played fantastic the last round.  He was bogey‑free 4‑under through six, and he won that tournament.  There's so many situations, you can be ahead and drop back and feel like you lost something maybe.  If you're playing a solid round and somebody else does something better, there's not much to do more than shake their hand and tip your hat.  That's the way it is.
SARAH GWYNN:  Thank you, Henrik, good luck this week.

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