A famous old saying goes “no pain, no gain” and that rings true for Henrik Stenson.
Stenson’s discomfort following knee surgery in mid-December has seemingly not done any damage to the form of the Swede, who returns to action this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship almost a month after his last appearance at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The former European Number One finished runner-up at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the tail-end of 2015 before having an operation in Orlando on a meniscus problem in his right knee which he had been battling through since the summer of last year.
Stenson underwent a similar procedure on his left knee four years ago which perhaps helped the 39 year old shape his recovery and plan for an appearance at last month’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
It's quite simple at this point - put one foot in front of another.
“It all went well,” said Stenson before contending in the Desert Swing opener. “The knee looks fine on the inside but obviously it takes some time to recover and it's a fairly quick turnaround. I had exactly the same time span between when I had my left knee operated on and playing here back in 2012 which helps.
“It’s quite simple - I need to put one in front of the other at this point. That's the challenge. But I have a good team, working with my physio and trainer, Cornell [Driessen]. We've done some good work the last couple of days in Dubai and it's getting better. I did much more rehab in the US on this leg than I did on my left one in 2011, so I've put a lot of effort in.”
And that effort immediately reaped dividends at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, as Stenson finished tied third after book-ending his return to competitive play with rounds of 65 and a closing 67. However, the strain took its toll and the ‘Ice Man’ made the tough decision to withdraw from the following week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters – an event in which he triumphed back in 2006.
"The knee is holding up pretty good,” he reflected after the first week back. “It's been a challenge walking, and I'm not 100 per cent, so I'm taking that decision to skip Qatar, even though it's a little sad, I played every one since I came out on Tour in 2001.
“But all in all, it's been a very good week. Next up is physio, rehab, some rest and some golf practice and hopefully I can play well in the Desert Classic in about a week's time.”
Following a week’s rest and recuperation, Stenson got back to business at Emirates Golf Club, where four under par rounds culminated in a tied sixth place finish.
"I'm happy with these three weeks - I think I got a lot of good answers,” he said afterwards. “The knee was holding up better than expected and I've had two really good results, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; I've done a lot of good work with my team and feel like I've moved some of the processes and decisions forward in terms of my game.
"I've maybe been a bit more rested from golf because of the injury. You only focus on your rehab and are probably a little bit more up for playing, even though it's a short break between seasons. But all in all, a lot of positives coming out of these three weeks."
In short, on his return from a significant piece of invasive knee surgery, Stenson finished third and sixth, shot seven under par rounds out of eight and averaged a score of 68.4. Beware the injured golfer!
He even looks like he might have squeezed in a lesson or two for his father-in-law Anders in the interim period…
Stenson returns to another happy hunting ground this week at Doral, where he has finished tied 16th and tied fourth in the last two years. In terms of his career record in the World Golf Championships events, he has six top ten finishes including a win at the Match Play back in 2007.
The World Number Six takes on the Blue Monster in Miami alongside fellow top ten members Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler from 12.38 local time on Thursday.