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January 15, 2014

Henrik Stenson


STEVE TODD:  Henrik, thanks for joining us.  Happy new year to you.
HENRIK STENSON:  And to you and everybody else here.
STEVE TODD:  Just wonder if you can start by updating us on your preparations for the new year and telling us about Monday night when you picked up a couple more awards back in Sweden.
HENRIK STENSON:  Preparation for the week, air traveling back and forth to Sweden.
No, I came down Thursday morning last week for four days practise in Dubai, so I've been on the green stuff.  I've been hitting some shots and practising for four days before I travelled back to Stockholm on Monday morning to be at the Swedish sports award, which was a very nice and enjoyable evening for me.  Picked up some good awards, and headed back here at one o'clock yesterday lunchtime and landed about ten o'clock in Dubai and drove, made my way over and went to bed at two o'clock or something and here we are.
STEVE TODD:  A good place to start the year; this tournament, strong field, and a place where you've done well in the past, as well.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, absolutely.  I made the Abu Dhabi Championship part of my schedule ever since it first started in 2006.  I've got two seconds‑‑ and I don't know what else.  Well, we'll keep it at that.
It's the one tournament down in this part of the world that I haven't won.  I managed to win in Dubai in November at the Jumeirah Golf Estates and won the Desert Classic in 2007 and won in 2006 in Qatar.  Yeah, it would be a nice one to add to the collection here having made Dubai my home for almost ten years.
So you know, it feels at home, it's nice to be back, and it's going to be a challenge of course, preparations are a little bit shorter than they would have been otherwise.  But hopefully it won't impact it too much and we'll get going sooner rather than later, and we'll see how we get along.

Q.  You had such a fantastic 2013.  How do you better that this year?  No pressure.
HENRIK STENSON:  I don't know, I'm open for suggestions.  Maybe we don't need to better it.  Maybe we just need to equal it (laughs).  I'm not greedy.  I'll be happy with the same year.  I'll take it once more.
No, I think for me, there's two big challenges.  One is to try and keep the expectations‑‑ golf is a game that goes up‑and‑down like we know, and not that you feel or that I feel like I have to expect not playing well, but that kind of run that I had for the last six months there, that's not going to continue forever and ever.  We know that much.
But the most important thing for me is to keep on focusing on my game which is having its challenges at this time.  The demand on my time is five times higher now than it was six months ago, so it's a lot of things to look after outside the course, which is going to take a little bit of time and focus away from playing and practising.
We all know what happens when you have to kind of fight those two battles.  Normally the level of play takes a little bit of a hit.  So that's the biggest challenge as I see it, and you know, just managing my time really well is going to be key to get all things into my calendar.
Funny enough, I still need to see my kids every now and again, and the wife.  Yeah, it's a little bit of a juggle trying to get all those things together as of now, but the key thing is to keep on doing the same things that I did for the last year and a half that really led up to that great run that I had on the back end of last year to keep on developing as a player, and I still feel like there's a lot of areas that I can improve on, quite a lot in some and a little bit less in others perhaps.
As we all know, golf is a game where you never get finished.  You can always keep on getting better and keep on working.  I think that's key, the moment you sit down and you're happy where you're at, normally you start going backwards.  So keep on working hard is the key, as well.

Q.  What awards did you win on Monday, and I'm guessing that's the same honour that Annika won top athlete at a few years ago, and had a male Swedish golfer ever won whatever it is that you won?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I won kind of the Male Athlete of the Year, and Robert won that one when he won the Order of Merit back in 2008 or 2009.  Yeah, he won the Order of Merit in 2008 and he got the award in early '09, so I got the same one as he did back then.
And then I won the one that Annika won in '95 and‑‑ no, well, we can figure out what year she won it but she's won it twice.  That's the people's vote where the people can either online or by calling in, especially during the gala evening night, they have a lot of focus on; it started with 14 male and female athletes, got down to eight a couple of weeks ago and then those eight, slowly you take away three at the first stage, and one by one until there's two left.  So it's quite exciting.

Q.  So you're sitting in the room and you don't actually know how it's going to end up?
HENRIK STENSON:  No, no, no and people can keep on voting.

Q.  So it's live‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  Once your favourite have gone out, you can pick a new favourite if you want to and keep on going.  So it was a tight race.  I think I got 255,000 in the end and Johan Olsson got 235,000, so it was a tight race.  

Q.  I think you scared the world when you said that you think you have to dial up your game a lot still.  What are the areas that you are looking at when you say that?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, I think the two key areas for me, my overall putting, I definitely feel like I can gain shots in that area.  I'd say pretty much I think if I look at the stats, I myself haven't looked at them that closely but I think I'm probably about average in putting on the PGA TOUR.  So there's still big room for improvement in that area.
And then I feel my pitching is normally a strong part; my wedge game, probably 100, 120 yards, I can improve a lot, as well.  So those are the two main areas that I would try and aggressive, and if I can keep the other ones at a good level‑‑ bunker play hasn't been as good as it can, either.  So there's still room for improvement, I promise.

Q.  In Sweden, it's a big focus on a male golfer winning a major.   How important is it for you, and how will you try to reach that goal?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, of course it will be because we haven't had a male Swedish golfer winning a major championship yet.  I'm very positive it will happen at some point.  Hopefully I can be the one, but it will happen at some stage, and for me, it's going to be about good preparations.  I did some good preparations last summer and I was up there at both The Open Championship and the US PGA.  I played a lot better golf at the Dubai final and THE TOUR Championship in Atlanta.
So if I can do good preparations, and hopefully play as good as I did at those two events, then, you know, I hope to be there in the mix even more than I was at those two Majors.  But I took a lot of positives out of finishing second and third at two Majors and still feeling like there was more to give.  That's going to be key preparations.  That's what it comes down to for that.
Of course, it's the last thing kind of on my C.V. to add.  That would be the icing on the cake.  I won some great tournaments around the world, and last year, both the FedExCup and The Race to Dubai, and I played on Ryder Cup teams, I won the World Cup‑‑ yeah, I'm not going to bore you (laughter).
But it's kind of the one thing missing.  So that's going to be my main focus, to try and prepare well, and then again, we know the stars need to be aligned for you.  It's four tournaments out of a 40‑tournament schedule, and playing 30 of those 40 sort of.
So it still needs to be happening on the right‑‑ you need a bit of luck, too.  Like we saw, I was up there‑‑ if it was my day, maybe it would have been good enough anyway to win The Open, and Phil had a fantastic finish and was a worthy champion in the end.  You've got to have a bit of luck, as well, but good preparation is going to be key.

Q.  You mentioned the demands on your time off the course now, and you also‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  Don't ask me for something else, please.  (Laughter).

Q.  But you also played a lot of golf last year even with the wrist problems, etc.  Is there a danger?  Are you worried at all about burnout, playing too much golf?
HENRIK STENSON:  So far, so good.  But the wrist is a little bit of a worrying matter in the long run.  I think felt okay during these four practise days.  But we'll just have to play that one as we go along and see how it reacts.
Of course, playing 31 tournaments is going to be a bit harder than playing 24, 25.  But again, playing bother tours, it's hard; which tournaments do you take away on your schedule and so on.  But we'll see.  I'm trying to maybe make it a little bit less than last year.  Burnout, I don't know, I think I should have been burned out by now already.

Q.  How important is the Desert Swing in terms of your push for major glories, say strong fields and tough tracks?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, as I say, I'm probably one of the few, if not the‑‑ I don't know, only one, I've played every Qatar matters and Dubai Desert Classic since I came on Tour in 2001 and added this one in '06.  This has been the start of my season every year.  I've got parts of my team down here, Pete Cowen is always spending these three weeks.  It's always a great start for me to get to see him a lot and get set up for the rest of the season, also.
It's a part of the year or part of the schedule that's very well liked by all the players, because we've got great weather, great courses, great hotels, great food.  You know, everything is good and it's easy travel once you make your way down here.  It's a very enjoyable start up to the year, and yeah, it's three strong courses.  I don't think there's many other parts of the schedule where you play three weeks in a row on such good‑quality courses.

Q.  With all that money sloshing around in your bank account at the end of last year‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  You need a short‑term loan now (laughter).

Q.  Did you reward yourself with one particular‑‑
HENRIK STENSON:  I haven't had time.  I haven't had time.  It's been too busy.  So no, I haven't‑‑

Q.  But is there something you're going to reward yourself with?

Q.  And will you tell us what it is?
HENRIK STENSON:  I will tell you when that time comes.  It might be something with four wheels along the line.  I made some kind of promises to myself way back in the day, so we'll see if I keep them (smiling).

Q.  Your good run in the second half of last season was sparked by a good effort in The Scottish Open.  Is that on your schedule again this year, and if so, what do you know about Royal Aberdeen?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I think so.  I haven't written it in stone yet, but most likely it will be a similar approach to the one I had to try and go and check out Royal Liverpool and then play The Scottish Open.  That's kind of the plan now.  I don't like to make promises that I'm not going to fulfill.  So I'm not going to say 100 per cent but most likely it's looking to be the same setup.  I know nothing about Royal Aberdeen so I'll be happy to take a look later on.

Q.  How important was The Scottish Open last year in what you achieved later on?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, it was a very important part for playing well at The Open Championship, as well.  We talked a lot about that over the years; that not having a Scottish Open on a links course, even though Loch Lomond is a lovely place, it's still not the best preparation to play on a softer inland course the week before The Open Championship.  So in terms of preparation, it was very important to play that one.
The way that I look at it, preparing for The Open, it's two different ways.  You either go and play and practise on a links course somewhere else or at The Open venue a little bit earlier, or you play a tournament on a links course the week before.  So it's just make your choice, depending on your schedule leading up to it.
I like Scotland and it was very important.

Q.  I promise I'm not Scottish, but this is another Scottish‑related question.
HENRIK STENSON:  You sound very Scottish.

Q.  I'm close to it.  Can you remember the last time you played at Gleneagles?  I think it might be 2004, and obviously as you're in The Ryder Cup team, any plans to go and reacquaint yourself with the course?
HENRIK STENSON:  I think you're right, yeah, it's been quite a few years since I played the Gleneagles tournament.  As of now, maybe not, but it might be a question of‑‑ because I'm going to be in America leading up to it, so I'm thinking about maybe making my way over a little bit early to get rid of some jet‑lag and possibly get another round earlier in before everybody else gets there.
Even though I pretty much know my schedule up until August, I'm still a couple of months down the line to finalising that part of the year.  That's probably a more likely scenario that I will go a little bit earlier from America to get rid of jet‑lag and play there, rather than making a trip while I'm in Scotland.  Because if we've got both Scottish Open and The Open Championship to look after at that time of the year in the summer, it might be too much to try and put that on there, too.

Q.  Pete Cowen was saying that what lot of people look at your resurgence, they don't realise that when you had a dip in form a few years ago a blood par site was a big part of that.  How much of that particular disease, which I believe in some senses took a while to be correctly diagnosed, actually resulted in your opinion in that dip in form compared maybe to other factors?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, it was‑‑ 11 season, we have to go back until probably 2002 where I had my worst season on Tour to 2011 was the second‑worst season of my career.  But that was‑‑ possibly we need to go back even further to the 2010 season where I made a bit of a charge back in the middle of the summer with a third at The Open.  Then kind of the whole back end of that year, got affected by a virus.  And then '11 was a poor year and then I picked up a blood parasite that was on the back end of '11, and so that was after the season really.
So it was more that it was a disturbance in 2012 for the whole spring, and it's tough to get back and do all the gym work and all the practise if you're not feeling 100 per cent.  It was not that it affected my 2011 season; it was more kind of delaying the comeback so to speak.  But it came in due time.  So we're not‑‑ like we all know, if you've got health issues, it's not going to help for sure and it's going to affect the way you feel and how you can practise and all the rest of it.

Q.  When we spoke last week, one thing that really stood out was the fact that unlike most other players were in contention, you were not shy to talk about your chances to become the world No. 1.  How much of a focus is that what do you think you need to do for that?
HENRIK STENSON:  Well, the simple answer would just to be keep on playing the way I have been playing and I should hopefully challenge for it.
But I can't put my focus on that.  My focus has to be on my game and doing the right things, and hopefully the result will continue to keep coming our way; and if they do, I hope I'll be in with a chance to firstly get to world No.2 and hopefully get to world No. 1.
I think it would be a lovely achievement and something to look back at the end of one's career and say that at some stage, I was world No. 1 and that was a great achievement and something to aim for; whether it happens or not, that's written in the future and I can only focus on what I can control, and then we don't know.  I mean, even if I win three tournaments in the next four weeks, Tiger or Adam might do the same or even better.  I can only do my bit and then we'll see.
But it was a very nice thing to get to world No. 3.  I had a one‑week record of being No. 4 back in 2009 after winning TPC, so it's always nice to set a new personal best and I hope I can continue to set a few personal bests in the near future.

Q.  Playing in this part of the world is more about attacking the wind and given the success you have had in the recent past here, do you think it suits your style of play?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I think wind can definitely be a factor here.  I've had a lot of good tournaments in tough conditions over the years.
I think normally tough setups and tough courses is in my advantage, so, yeah, I don't mind having a bit of breeze out there.

Q.  Under the impression you're actually building two houses simultaneously right now; is that in Sweden and a new one in Lake Nona?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I've been trying to stay out of it.  I think it was better if I focused on the golf side.  That seemed to be more rewarding than getting my head handled up in building.  So, yeah, I think that probably makes the achievements even bigger.  If anyone in here has built a house, they know what I'm talking about.

Q.  And explains why you were out of town 31 weeks last year.
HENRIK STENSON:  I didn't think of that, but yeah, it was probably a good thing playing a few more tournaments.  Yeah, that can be a distraction, we all know that.  I think someone said that every time a player started to build a house, if you're running around looking at tiles rather than making 3‑footers, then normally it will affect you, yeah.

Q.  But aren't you building two; is that right?
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, we just finished one in Sweden.  That's been an ongoing project and we have one at Lake Nona, as well.  So I guess I am spending the money on a few things (laughter).  I just didn't realise.
STEVE TODD:  Henrik, thanks for coming in.

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