WGC-Bridgestone Invitational interview: Henrik Stenson

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August 01, 2013

SARAH GWYNN:  Thanks for coming in.  Henrik, thanks for joining us.  Start with your fantastic start, birdie‑eagle.  That's quite some way to begin.

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, it's not the worst way to start a round at Akron.  Yeah, I was in the left rough, but played a really nice lob wedge to five feet, a high hooky one to take a bit of spin off and get the extra yardage I needed and knocked it in from five feet.

And then a 3‑wood and a 3‑iron off the back of the green on 2, and it was a really slick putt and it was going in with some pace, so I think I would have been a nice 10‑footer coming back up if it didn't hit the back of the cup.  That was a lovely start.

And then played nicely most of the way around, had some chances, missed a few here and there, but I was in decent position to get back into play.  Played two or three good ones out of the trees, and yeah, just left myself the good up‑and‑downs and made them.  And 5‑under bogey‑free around here is not something you do every day, I guess, so I'm very pleased with the start of the tournament.

Q.  It was just a few years ago this very event that you had a fairly low air about your game.  Can you just talk about how much a challenge it's been to turn your fortunes around?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, we all go through ups and downs out there, and I've been through two slumps, one in '01‑'02, and then 2011 was a poor season.

I guess last time I was here was '10, but then I was very ill.  I had like a viral pneumonia that I wasn't fully aware of, so I was really struggling.  So I really shouldn't have played back then, so I don't walk around here with the baggage of bad memories due to that week.  I mean, I saved Tiger from being last, so I'm going to say he was grateful.  I shouldn't have played.  I was in and out of hospital at these tournaments back then, and it was a good six, eight weeks to come back from that because I kept on pushing myself in the heat and playing tournaments when I really should have been in bed.  Lesson learned from back then; don't play golf when you're that ill.

But it's been some hard work and a couple of changes.  I went back to my old sports psychologist last summer and put a bit more of a long‑term plan in place for all the different areas of the game, and it's been some good work there that's starting to pay off big‑time.

I was playing better today than I was the previous two weeks in Scotland.  It was a few things I really took with me with from the Open.  One, I still felt like I had another 20 percent out of my game at the Open, but I was still out contending for the win, so that's good.  And I felt very comfortable being out there and the way I played in the final round.  That's something I will take with me for future and big events if I can put myself in that position again.

Yeah, looking forward to the rest of this week and the last major of the year next week.  Yeah, golf is certainly a lot more fun when you feel like you're in control of how you're playing, than when you're out there struggling for par.

Q.  Just curious when you were at that point missing the World Golf Championships, being a winner of one of these, how painful is that?  How much does that hurt, not being in these things?

HENRIK STENSON:  I mean, I wasn't crying all the time, but of course it's not fun to sit at home, watch your colleagues play tournaments that I played for five, seven years in a row.

So I mean, back in '11 and parts of last year, as well, where I wasn't in the big ones.  We all want to win major championships, and you've got to be in the tournaments to start with.  So that was the first goal, to get back into top 50 to be in for all the big events and also make my playing schedule a bit easier because on the back end of last year I had some brutal traveling just to keep my numbers up both in Europe and over here.  You know, that's taking its toll, and that's a nice position now when I'm securely inside top 50.  I can plan my year and play the events that I want to do.

Yeah, but sometimes if you fall down and you're not in, that acts as motivation and a bit of extra fight to get back there.  It's fine to miss one, but after a couple, you're like, I don't want to sit home and watch the guys playing, I want to be there.  So it acts as motivation for sure.

Q.  I was wondering mentally was there something you needed to work on?  You said you went to the psychologist.

HENRIK STENSON:  No, I mean, I'd worked with him for ‑‑ he'd been my coach for 12 years or something, I think, and then I had a couple of years where I saw smarter people, and for a while I was on my own.  No, I just went back to ‑‑ it's good to have somebody to kind of bounce ideas with and someone that kind of keeps you on the right track, as well.

We're not reinventing the wheel again.  It's just, like I said, if you're playing poorly it's easy to get into quick fix, you're running around chasing your tail a little bit instead of saying, okay, let's look at this now, what are we going to do, and improve that and give it some time.  And mentally on the course it's just down to patience and being decisive.  When you're not playing great, you're not deciding how you're going to hit the ball, where it's going to start and all these things.  And when you're playing well, you're crystal clear, okay, it's a 7‑iron, it's going to start at that bunker and draw three yards, and you hit the shot.  There's no magic involved, it's just doing the right things, really.

Q.  Who is your sports psychologist?

HENRIK STENSON:  His name is Torsten Hansson.  I worked with him since the junior days or amateur days back in Sweden.  He's been working with Peter Hanson, as well, for a good six or seven years, I think.

Q.  Can you talk about what happened with the shoes at the turn?

HENRIK STENSON:  It was just I had a new pair of shoes this week, and I played nine Tuesday and nine Wednesday, and I didn't feel anything then, but then today just started to eat away a little bit on my right heel.  Normally it's not an issue, but with that pair it kind of started eating away.  I felt I had a blister coming along, so I was asking if somebody could bring my old pair out.

Might not match the outfit perfectly, but it felt like I got socks on compared to the other one when I made the switch at the turn.  It was good.  The blister popped on 17.  But we'll be all right.

Q.  Didn't affect your play on the front side?

HENRIK STENSON:  No, no, but it would have been a pain to continue with the same pair, so it was a good switch.

Q.  Can you just talk about the momentum of the last month for you?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I mean, I've been ‑‑ it's been coming along nicely.  I played ‑‑ at the U.S. Open I did some good scoring, but it was more a grind, and then in Munich, the final round in Munich, I played really, really solid tee to green.  Scottish Open, I had a great scoring round the second day but more than anything the third round was really good at the Scottish tee to green.  And then at the British I hit a lot of good shots but I didn't feel like I played perfect there by any means, so it was definitely better here today than it was at the Open Championship.

It's in the right direction and feels like it's coming along and moving in the right direction for sure.

Q.  Last time you were here in 2010, you kind of struggled.

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was sick.  That one was a bit of a write‑off.  I saved Tiger from being lost, didn't I?  I had like a viral pneumonia that I didn't know of, and in and out of hospital back and forth.  I guess I'm not taking any ‑‑ I'm not carrying any baggage from that performance.

2005, I think was my first time here, and I played well in the first round and I ended up finishing, I think, just outside top 10.

Other than that I kind of struggled here to have any good finishes here.  I think it's been a lot of 30th, 40th, 50th.  Obviously I hope I can change that this week, and so far, so good.  It's a good start.

Q.  Were you in the hospital during the tournament or after?

HENRIK STENSON:  Back in '10, I was third at the Open, and then I was in bed with a high fever and stuff for a week back home, and then I traveled over.  I was coughing, the whole range was turning around every time I was coughing.  It was bad, and then with the heat and everything, and then I was seeing doctors here, the Tuesday of the PGA Championship I was in like three, four hours at a hospital up in Kohler taking tests and stuff, so I was not in a good state there for a couple of months.  And because I still had to play to get my numbers and everything, I kind of just put myself further and further down, and took a long time to recover from that.  Lesson learned.  If you're that bad, you shouldn't play golf.

Q.  A blister is easy compared to that?

HENRIK STENSON:  Blister is not too bad.  It was tougher at the French Revolution, I think.

Q.  Did you feel a good round like today coming in?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I had a great start.  Hit a lovely second shot on the 1st and rolled it in from five feet and made a nice putt on 2.  Birdie‑eagle start, you can't get any better than that.  Yeah, I feel I'm playing nicely and just doing my job on every hole and not get ahead of yourself, and whenever I missed I managed to save myself a couple of really nice up‑and‑downs today, and yeah, I'm very pleased with the start.

Q.  Can you talk about what happened with the shoes at the turn?

HENRIK STENSON:  It was just I had a new pair of shoes this week, and I played nine Tuesday and nine Wednesday, and I didn't feel anything then, but then today just started to eat away a little bit on my right heel.  Normally it's not an issue, but with that pair it kind of started eating away.  I felt I had a blister coming along, so I was asking if somebody could bring my old pair out.

Might not match the outfit perfectly, but it felt like I got socks on compared to the other one when I made the switch at the turn.  It was good.  The blister popped on 17.  But we'll be all right.

Q.  Didn't affect your play on the front side?

HENRIK STENSON:  No, no, but it would have been a pain to continue with the same pair, so it was a good switch.

Q.  Can you just talk about the momentum of the last month for you?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I mean, I've been ‑‑ it's been coming along nicely.  I played ‑‑ at the U.S. Open I did some good scoring, but it was more a grind, and then in Munich, the final round in Munich, I played really, really solid tee to green.  Scottish Open, I had a great scoring round the second day but more than anything the third round was really good at the Scottish tee to green.  And then at the British I hit a lot of good shots but I didn't feel like I played perfect there by any means, so it was definitely better here today than it was at the Open Championship.

It's in the right direction and feels like it's coming along and moving in the right direction for sure.

Q.  Last time you were here in 2010, you kind of struggled.

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was sick.  That one was a bit of a write‑off.  I saved Tiger from being lost, didn't I?  I had like a viral pneumonia that I didn't know of, and in and out of hospital back and forth.  I guess I'm not taking any ‑‑ I'm not carrying any baggage from that performance.

2005, I think was my first time here, and I played well in the first round and I ended up finishing, I think, just outside top 10.

Other than that I kind of struggled here to have any good finishes here.  I think it's been a lot of 30th, 40th, 50th.  Obviously I hope I can change that this week, and so far, so good.  It's a good start.

Q.  Were you in the hospital during the tournament or after?

HENRIK STENSON:  Back in '10, I was third at the Open, and then I was in bed with a high fever and stuff for a week back home, and then I traveled over.  I was coughing, the whole range was turning around every time I was coughing.  It was bad, and then with the heat and everything, and then I was seeing doctors here, the Tuesday of the PGA Championship I was in like three, four hours at a hospital up in Kohler taking tests and stuff, so I was not in a good state there for a couple of months.  And because I still had to play to get my numbers and everything, I kind of just put myself further and further down, and took a long time to recover from that.  Lesson learned.  If you're that bad, you shouldn't play golf.

Q.  A blister is easy compared to that?

HENRIK STENSON:  Blister is not too bad.  It was tougher at the French Revolution, I think.

 Q.  Did you feel a good round like today coming in?

HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I had a great start.  Hit a lovely second shot on the 1st and rolled it in from five feet and made a nice putt on 2.  Birdie‑eagle start, you can't get any better than that.  Yeah, I feel I'm playing nicely and just doing my job on every hole and not get ahead of yourself, and whenever I missed I managed to save myself a couple of really nice up‑and‑downs today, and yeah, I'm very pleased with the start.

Q.  Can you talk about what happened with the shoes at the turn?

HENRIK STENSON:  It was just I had a new pair of shoes this week, and I played nine Tuesday and nine Wednesday, and I didn't feel anything then, but then today just started to eat away a little bit on my right heel.  Normally it's not an issue, but with that pair it kind of started eating away.  I felt I had a blister coming along, so I was asking if somebody could bring my old pair out.

Might not match the outfit perfectly, but it felt like I got socks on compared to the other one when I made the switch at the turn.  It was good.  The blister popped on 17.  But we'll be all right.

Q.  Didn't affect your play on the front side?

HENRIK STENSON:  No, no, but it would have been a pain to continue with the same pair, so it was a good switch.

Q.  Can you just talk about the momentum of the last month for you?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I mean, I've been ‑‑ it's been coming along nicely.  I played ‑‑ at the U.S. Open I did some good scoring, but it was more a grind, and then in Munich, the final round in Munich, I played really, really solid tee to green.  Scottish Open, I had a great scoring round the second day but more than anything the third round was really good at the Scottish tee to green.  And then at the British I hit a lot of good shots but I didn't feel like I played perfect there by any means, so it was definitely better here today than it was at the Open Championship.

It's in the right direction and feels like it's coming along and moving in the right direction for sure.

Q.  Last time you were here in 2010, you kind of struggled.

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I was sick.  That one was a bit of a write‑off.  I saved Tiger from being lost, didn't I?  I had like a viral pneumonia that I didn't know of, and in and out of hospital back and forth.  I guess I'm not taking any ‑‑ I'm not carrying any baggage from that performance.

2005, I think was my first time here, and I played well in the first round and I ended up finishing, I think, just outside top 10.

Other than that I kind of struggled here to have any good finishes here.  I think it's been a lot of 30th, 40th, 50th.  Obviously I hope I can change that this week, and so far, so good.  It's a good start.

 Q.  Were you in the hospital during the tournament or after?

HENRIK STENSON:  Back in '10, I was third at the Open, and then I was in bed with a high fever and stuff for a week back home, and then I traveled over.  I was coughing, the whole range was turning around every time I was coughing.  It was bad, and then with the heat and everything, and then I was seeing doctors here, the Tuesday of the PGA Championship I was in like three, four hours at a hospital up in Kohler taking tests and stuff, so I was not in a good state there for a couple of months.  And because I still had to play to get my numbers and everything, I kind of just put myself further and further down, and took a long time to recover from that.  Lesson learned.  If you're that bad, you shouldn't play golf.

Q.  A blister is easy compared to that?

HENRIK STENSON:  Blister is not too bad.  It was tougher at the French Revolution, I think.

Q.  Did you feel a good round like today coming in?

HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I had a great start.  Hit a lovely second shot on the 1st and rolled it in from five feet and made a nice putt on 2.  Birdie‑eagle start, you can't get any better than that.  Yeah, I feel I'm playing nicely and just doing my job on every hole and not get ahead of yourself, and whenever I missed I managed to save myself a couple of really nice up‑and‑downs today, and yeah, I'm very pleased with the start.

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