In this regional exclusive, we speak to the in-form Swede about his amazing season and what his goals are for 2014.
This will be your first time playing at the TGC. Did anyone influence you to play in the event?
HENRIK STENSON (HS): Well, I played the Royal Trophy a couple years back at Amata Spring, so I’m quite familiar with the course, and I’ve seen that it’s been a good field assembled the last couple of years and my friends have played and so on. It’s going to be a fun week.
If I remember incorrectly, both Sergio (Garcia) and Justin (Rose) and a few of the other guys, Charl (Schwartzel) are coming back, so it sets up for a nice week.
What do you remember about Amata Spring from the last time you played there?
HS: Yeah, I think one of the key features I guess is the island green. That’s one thing that you don’t forget easily!
I think it was a really good golf course. I think as always you’ve got to drive the ball well and be able to place your iron shots in good positions.
And then the rest is up to ‑‑ down to the blade, really. It was a nice golf course, had a good variety, some challenging holes and some easier ones where you can make some fireworks happen hopefully. So I think it sets up for a good championship.
Will you have time to stay after the event for holiday perhaps with the family?
HS: No, I’m going to come there on my own. I’m coming on my own and after a long year, I’m going back to Sweden to see family and friends for Christmas and so on. This time we won’t be able to stay around. I’ve been to Thailand quite a few times and played the Royal Trophy at Black Mountain and had a holiday years ago in Phuket and played quite a few times in Bangkok, so we’ve been to Thailand quite a few times over the years.
Speaking of Christmas, so you’ll be in Sweden and not in Florida this year?
HS: Yeah, we are going to be back home. That’s normally the way we do it. Family base themselves in Sweden over the summer holidays when school is out in America, and then we go back for about two and a half, three weeks for Christmas and New Year’s and see family and friends back home.
We have got to keep the Swedish connection for the kids, as well, and make sure they know where we are coming from. So can’t think it’s not only sunshine and 25 degrees every day.
After a season like this year, what are your goals for next year? A Major, perhaps?
HS: Yeah, I mean, seeing as how I managed to win both the FedEx and The Race to Dubai ‑ yeah, a major championship would obviously be the one thing missing on my result roll.
Yeah, I’m going to try my hardest. It’s one of the tougher things to achieve. That’s why they call it a major championship; it’s the biggest events against the strongest fields on some of the toughest courses.
But again, it’s about keep on developing my game, trying to become better, and hopefully I can prepare well and put myself in good position at any of those events going forward, and that’s what makes you win golf tournament; being up there on Sunday afternoon, the more times you can put yourself in contention, the more times you will win. That’s what I’ve done so many times this year by playing solid, good golf, and then I managed to win my fair share, as well, as a consequence of that.
Is there any added pressure to become the first Swedish male to win a major, given Sorenstam’s LPGA career?
HS: Not really. I don’t think ‑‑ it’s not really ‑‑ I’d love to be the first Swede male golfer to win a Major championship. That would be great. But if one of my colleagues from Sweden would win one, you know, that would be great, too. All credit to whoever manages to do it, to win the first one.
For me, it’s more about trying to give myself chances to win one, and whether I’m first or second, that’s going to be of less relevance, as long as I can win one.
But again, you know, looking ahead, I’ve got a lot of experience at this point, but I might have four or five good years hopefully ahead of me and in that 15, 20 times, you can eventually win a major championship. So it’s not like you get a million chances.
It’s all about trying to do the best preparation and hopefully get there with the game in good shape, and it’s down to a lot of different factors that I can’t control. I just have to go out and play my best and put myself in the mix, and then whether it happens or not, that’s down to see at that time.
I don’t think I will go there with added pressure. I think I will go there with more confidence after being able to achieve the things that I’ve achieved this season, and I’m also very excited because I felt like, you know, that at The Open Championship and the US PGA, I probably didn’t play the best out of all these weeks that I’ve played, and there’s been other weeks where I’ve played much better than at those two events, and I still came that close.
If the things were going my way, I could potentially have won both those Majors this summer, and hopefully another time, I’m the one who makes the extra put and things go my way. It’s all about being patient and preparing and trying to put myself in the mix again.
Do you feel it’s becoming almost impossible to play both the tours now? Would you consider reducing your schedule like Tiger and Rory have done to concentrate on Majors?
HS: Yeah, well, it would be pretty stupid if I said yes to that question having won both (laughs). But it takes ‑‑ of course, it’s a harder ‑‑ it makes, again, the achievement that I managed to do here even greater for me given that the players in my situation that plays both in America and in Europe, we play kind of the minimum number of tournaments on both tours more or less, and to then be able up in the top on both tours, that just means that I’ve had the season of my life and played incredibly well this year.
It’s definitely not impossible given that we have the big, seven, eight tournaments that count on both tours, but it can be quite a tricky travelling schedule, especially like you had on the back end of last year when I was outside the Top‑50, then it’s really tough to get both tours in.
But as long as you’re Top‑50, it works out pretty well, and it’s more about you have to kind of schedule your season well, and you can’t do too many trips back and forth between Europe and Asia and the U.S., because all the travelling is really what takes the energy out of you with the jet‑lag. Right now I think it works out pretty well.
What do you think of the growth of golf in Asia?
HS: Yeah, it’s been growing a lot. I’ve played a lot in Asia over my career. I’ve seen the development in certain new places and also in the ones that were kind of up and about in the golf game when I came out on tour, I played my first year in 2001.
I think that one of the big markets and one of the big future developments, places in the world, is definitely in Asia. And with golf becoming an Olympic sport, I think that really will help grow the game in Asia and we see more and more on every tour that we are getting Asian players coming out and making a mark and playing at a competitive and high level, and that’s great for the game of golf.
What comes to your mind when you think of Thailand?
HS: I think of sunshine. I think of warm, friendly people and good food and good golf.