The season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai was not quite the same without Henrik Stenson but there is good news for UAE golf fans – he’s back in action next month.
Stenson sat down with Sport360° about his plans for the year and how a talent-rich American team will be nothing for the Europeans to fear at Le Golf National.
How has your recovery been?
It is going fine, thank you. I have had a rest and proper break and I’m now looking forward to the New Year and getting myself ready for Eurasia Cup and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
How have you spent your time away from the game?
I have been spending time with my family. It has been a real treat as there was so much fun to be had in the build-up to Christmas hanging out with the kids.
How important is it to get off to a flying start in January in what is a Ryder Cup year?
My first event will be the EurAsia Cup with captain Thomas Bjorn at the helm so that is definitely going to mean that the Ryder Cup is at the front of my mind at the start of the year. I definitely want to get off to a good start in 2018 and would love to secure my place in the team as early as possible in the season so there isn’t too much stress as September approaches.
You’ve won in Dubai three times but not at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship yet. Are you a fan of the course?
I really like the course and enjoy the tournament very much. I have played in every single Abu Dhabi tournament since it begun in 2006 so I think you can guess how much I like it and how much I would love to win that Falcon Trophy. I have had two second place finishes and was tied third in 2016. Last year, I opened up with a 64 so it definitely feels like the course suits me well.
Did you watch the DP World Tour Championship? What did you make of the tournament?
I was really sorry to miss out on playing this year. Although I didn’t get to watch too much golf as I was busy with my family, it looked like a fantastic week with plenty of excitement as Tommy (Fleetwood) and Justin (Rose)went head to head for the Race to Dubai honours while Jon (Rahm) claimed the title to underline his Rookie of the Year Award.
How many rookies can you remember who have had as good a year as Jon Rahm?
That is a tough one to answer as there have been some real stand out rookies over my years on Tour. Jon has had an amazing year and obviously did great in his rookie season on the PGA Tour last year. It is definitely a great boost for the European Ryder Cup team to have such a talented young star storm up the rankings as he has done.
The likes of Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton could all be Ryder Cup rookies next year. How strong is this potential European rookie class?
They are a strong group for sure with plenty of wins and a lot of experience already under their belts. With their rankings now up there, they should also get a lot of really valuable opportunities between now and the Ryder Cup in Paris to play against the American guys and gain even more experience.
With Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth winning three of the majors last year – is this potentially the strongest American team we’ve seen for some time?
No doubt the US team have some great players in their line up for 2018.
But, on paper, there have been plenty of times when they’ve looked to be dominant ahead of the match in previous years and then it has all worked out a little bit differently once the match gets going.
You’ve also got the EurAsia cup, but how useful is it as a warm-up to the real thing in September?
It is a great event in its own right and we will be very focused on trying to get the win for Europe, But, also, it will also allow Thomas an opportunity to play around with pairings and see how everyone’s chemistry is in the group.
Also, hanging out in a team environment together is always a pleasure and a really nice start to the year.
How good is it to see Tiger Woods back on the course and what would be a successful comeback season for him?
He had a great week at the Hero World Challenge.
I think a successful season for Tiger would be one where he plays injury free.
We all know what he can achieve when he is healthy so let’s hope he can stay healthy and we can enjoy watching Tiger regularly.
For the most part you’ve avoided injury heading into your 40s, what’s the secret to looking after yourself?
I have had my share of injuries, a couple of knee surgeries and some wear and tear but over all I have been quite lucky.
Obviously, I go to the gym and train and practice hard so I am in peak condition when I compete but I don’t think there is any particular secret.
I think it is important to listen to your body and if it does not feel right, you shouldn’t play and make your injury worse.
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