Friday 15 December 2017

Stenson hopes to go one better

SWEDE targeting all the marbles after last year's runner-up spot

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson says it remains premature to say for definite that the Open would be staged at Royal Portrush in 2019, even though the course has been invited to join the rota of Open venues.

"The fact of the matter is we haven't determined a date because it would be premature to do so, awaiting what the members of Portrush decide about all the course infrastructure changes," he said.

"We have announced The Open Championship up to and including 2018 at the moment. We'll have to wait and see how quickly we can get on at Portrush before determining the date."

A year after a second-place finish at the British Open started him on his way to a near-flawless second half of 2013, Sweden's Henrik Stenson has a good feeling that this year's tournament at Royal Liverpool - a "course that suits my eye pretty well" - will give him a similar boost.

Stenson's surge in late 2013 yielded him over $13 million in prize money and vaulted his ranking from 53rd at the start of the year to No. 3 at the end.

After his second-place finish at Muirfield behind British Open winner Phil Mickelson in 2013, he finished third in the PGA Championship, won at the Deutsche Bank and the Tour Championship which gave him the FedEx Cup. Then on the European Tour, he won the World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai.

At the start of 2014, not so good. He began the season with a sore right wrist and forearm, a remnant of a practice injury last October. He was runner-up at a Thailand tournament, but hadn't finished in the top 15 until a tie for fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March.

In his last tournament two weeks ago, he lost in a four-way playoff at the BMW International.

"It hasn't been as good of a season as the last six months last year, but you can't expect to play like that all the time," Stenson said on the eve of The Open at Royal Liverpool.

"It's been all right, some pretty consistent play coming into the championship. It's all about hard work, putting yourself up there and hopefully your name will be on top or around the top of the leaderboard when you hit the back nine on Sunday."

When Stenson began play today with Tiger Woods and Angel Cabrera in a morning group, he was again looking to win his first major, having this year finished tied for 14th at the Masters and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open.

"I played a lot with him, it's sometimes a challenge with a lot of people inside the ropes and a lot of crowd moving," Stenson said of playing with Woods. "But it's big crowds here anyway, so I don't think you'll be noticing it as much."

Stenson has also finished tied for third twice at the British Open - in 2008 at Royal Birkdale and 2010 at St. Andrews.

"I grew up watching this championship and it was a boyhood dream to play in the Ryder Cup and the other one was to win the British Open," Stenson said. "Just because I've had some great success...that dream hasn't gone away. And it's the last thing on my CV to make it complete, more or less, in my eyes."

Much has been made - particularly in his home country - of Stenson becoming the first Swede to win a golf major.

"I know that would be the case (but) for me it's more about winning a major," he said. "If one of my Swedish colleagues can do it before me, all credit. I'm just looking at trying to get one for myself."

"The Open Championship is a highlight of any season and for any player I think, especially European-born ones," said Stenson.

"It would mean the world to me to win this championship and if it doesn't happen this year, I'll come back and try next year.

"I'm after a major championship at some point and I'm not going to be greedy, I'll take any one of them. But of course it would be the icing on the cake to do it in Europe."

But despite admitting he was "running on fumes" at the end of last season, Stenson insists he is determined not to rest on his laurels.

"I grew up watching this championship. It was a boyhood dream to play in the Ryder Cup and win the Open," added Stenson, who won the unofficial 'fifth major', the Players Championship, in 2009.

"So just because I've had some great success, I don't think that dream has gone away. And it's the last thing on my CV to make it complete, more or less, in my eyes. So I will try my hardest to make it happen.

"Motivation is always a factor, and you've got to have that drive if you want to make those things happen. And I feel like I still have that.

"I know I would be the first Swedish man to win a major. But for me it's more about winning a major. If one of my Swedish colleagues can do it before me, well done to them.

"I'm just looking at trying to get one for myself."

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