11 May 2017

Stenson set to turn back time at The Players Championship

IN 2006 we interviewed Henrik Stenson fresh off  his tie for third at The Players Championship. At the time the Swede was based in Dubai. It turned out to be his breakthrough year. Having won the Qatar Masters in Doha at the start of the year he went on to win the BMW International Open, securing a place in his first Ryder Cup, at the K Club in Ireland. Three years later he lifted the crystal trophy at TPC Sawgrass and stamped his authority on the PGA TOUR. As we turn the clock back 11 years, it’s fascinating to read some of Henrik’s answers and see just how far he’s progressed in the game, and the reasons why he has such a strong long-lasting affinity with Dubai.

 

‘Player’ it again Sten!

Q: You must be pleased with the way you played at THE PLAYERS Championship, finishing tied third as the highest placed non-North American in a world-class field, the strongest in golf.

Stenson: It was a struggle for me all week, tee to green. But the whole tournament comes down to attitude. I was proud of the way I fought and that I was able to grind it out. The mental side of my performance was world class. On the final day the pins were in tough positions and the greens were firm but I made some important putts.

 

Stenson lines up a putt at the infamous 17th hole during the 2006 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

Stadium Course

Q: The Stadium Course at Sawgrass is one of the most daunting in the world and THE PLAYERS is universally recognised at ‘the Fifth Major.’ How did you cope with the challenge?

Stenson:It was a real battle throughout the tournament but I was happy with the way I held it together when I wasn’t feeling so good. I couldn’t have managed my shots any better and my fighting spirit brought me my reward. Now it’s BellSouth and then The Masters.

 

Golf in Dubai

Q: How do you feel about becoming a Global Ambassador for ‘golf in Dubai’ and how is Dubai developing as a tourist destination?

Stenson: I feel very proud to be one of the Ambassadors for Golf in Dubai. I think that Dubai already is one of the top golf destinations in the world and considering all the future plans for new golf courses and hotels I believe Dubai will be ‘THE destination’ that people talk about.

 

A final round 68 in Doha earned Stenson the 2006 Qatar Masters title.

Off to a winner in Qatar

Q: How important was it for you to get a win this season (2006) after coming so close, so many times last year?

Stenson: It was very nice to win again and to be able to do it in my second start was very pleasing. I have never doubted my ability to win but being so close that many times last year was a bit frustrating. Hopefully, I have a few more to look forward to this year!

 

Q: You are the first wire-to-wire winner of the Qatar Masters, were you pleased with the manner in which you won, particularly in such testing conditions?

Stenson: I have won most of my tournaments wire to wire so I obviously like it that way! The Qatar Masters has been played in windy conditions every year I have played it, so it came as no surprise that the conditions were the same this time, but YES I’m very pleased with the way I handled myself over the four days.

 

 

Pete Cowen and Emirates Golf Club

Q: How long have you been based in Dubai and what made you decide to settle in the region?

Stenson: I have been based in Dubai for the last three years now and many things pointed in this direction for me – such as the great practice facilities, the wonderful warm, sunny weather and my coach Peter Cowen having the golf academy at Emirates GC. Plus the fact that the European Tour schedule includes a lot of tournaments in Asia besides the Desert Swing, which means it’s also a good place to travel out of as well. Taking all that into consideration it’s a good idea to live in Dubai.

 

Stenson shot a closing round 68 to win the 2007 Dubai Desert Classic by one from Ernie Els.

Living in Dubai

Q: Do you think that living in Dubai helped you post so many good results in the region this year?

Stenson:  Absolutely! This being my fifth year I’ve played the Dubai Desert Classic, and the Qatar Masters also plays a role. Experience is always a factor – as is sleeping in your own bed!

 

Q: How did your results last year help your mindset coming into this season?

Stenson: I had my best year on Tour in 2005 and that boosted my confidence, so I was just hoping to improve on that.

 

Q: How has Pete Cowen helped your game?

Stenson: I owe him a lot! He has helped me to develop pretty much every department of my game. He is, in my eyes, one of the best coaches in the world!

 

Q: How much did your performance and your third place finish at the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship in San Francisco tell you about your ability to compete with the best in the world?

Stenson: I have always played good golf when I have played with good players so, of course, it is very satisfying when you can beat most of them!

 

Ryder Cup rookie Stenson holes the winning putt, to secure victory for Europe at the K Club in Ireland.

Q: How confident are you of gaining automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup team this year at the K Club in Ireland?

Stenson:  I’m 95 per cent certain of making the team on merit from my results. But in golf, nothing is ever certain. But I’ve got to say that right now, things are looking good!

 

Q: Do you think the experience you gained as joint top scorer at last year’s Seve Trophy will help you if you make The Ryder Cup team?

Stenson: Absolutely! I have had a lot of match play practice recently. Playing the Seve Trophy, the Royal Trophy in Thailand, and the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa in California helps a lot.

 

Yet another final round 68 for Stenson at the 2006 BMW International Open. This time he had to win the title in a play-off against Retief Goosen.

 

Q: Two of your three European Tour victories have been wire-to-wire – are you more comfortable leading from the front than coming from behind?

Stenson: I have always had the philosophy that if I am leading, the others have to play better than me, so why would you want to be one behind?

 

Q: What differences did you notice about playing on the European Tour when you stepped up from the Challenge Tour?

Stenson: I think tougher courses is the biggest difference. Obviously, the players are better on the main tour but if you play good enough to be in the top 20 on the Challenge Tour you should keep your card on the European Tour.

 

Quick fire

What tips would you give to any young up- and-coming players? Enjoy the game when you are young. When you get a bit older you can be more serious about it. Work hard and be smart – there are no shortcuts in this game. I don’t believe in a quick fix. It doesn’t work!

What is your biggest strength?  Good ball striker and a pretty strong head.

What’s best thing about being a professional golfer?  To be able to do what I like the most, all the time!

What’s the worst thing about being a professional golfer?  Lots of travel!

What do you do to relax away from the course?  Gym work, listen to music, fish, and be with my family.

What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve treated yourself to? A trip to the Moon, in 2076.

Who is your favourite superhero?  John Daly.

Who is your favourite actor?  Clint Eastwood.

What’s your tipple?  Don’t want to make triples! Oh! tipple. I’m not sure.

Restaurant or takeaway in front of the telly? Both, a telly in the restaurant! Depends on what day and mood! I like doing both!

What are your aims for this season and beyond? I want to beat my 8th spot finish on the ET Order of Merit from last year, win a Major and play in The Ryder Cup.

 

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