Stenson sets sights on Race to Dubai crown

8/6/2013 9:29:00 PM
Henrik Stenson practises at the US PGA Championship  (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson practises at the US PGA Championship (Getty Images)

In February 2012 Henrik Stenson was a lowly 230th in the world and many were writing him off, but fast forward 18 months and he is in arguably the form of his life and one of the favourites for this week’s US PGA Championship.

The Swede moved to the top of The Race to Dubai last weekend following a magnificent month in which he finished third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, runner-up in The Open Championship and tied second in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Last season he began an upward spiral towards his best form, recording seven top ten finishes from 15 events and winning the SA Open Championship in November – his first victory in five years – and that trend has continued this year as he has amassed €1,705,706 from 12 events and has not missed a cut.

“I’ve obviously played some great golf in the last few weeks and I’m happy with every aspect of my game,” said Stenson after playing nine holes of practice at Oak Hill. “Mentally I’m in a good place and very balanced, my ball striking is improving and my short game has been very good. You can always find one or two putts that might have affected things a little differently in the last three events, especially at The Open, but that’s golf.

“But you’re not putting badly if you finish second in The Open. It’s been very consistent this last month and I’ve been last out or second-last out on the final day in the last few tournaments. You get used to being in the mix and playing well, and it’s great to come here with some momentum.

“Every player has ups and downs in his career and I was no different. We put in place a long-term plan to get back to the top and it’s slowing coming together. I’ve been working on many aspects of the game and it’s nice to see it paying off.”

The 37 year old has kept preparations low key after the exertions of being in contention in Akron last week, where he was paired with Tiger Woods – the eventual winner – in the final round.

“I’m trying to get some energy back after last week,” he said. “Playing with Tiger in the last group on Sunday, it was five hours of spectators shouting non-stop – and they weren’t shouting my name, that’s for sure. It was quite draining.

“I’ve played nine holes today and I’ll play another nine tomorrow. It’s more about conserving energy at the moment than pushing myself in practice.

“It’s a new week and there are no guarantees the good form will continue. Sometimes if you expect to do well it’s a burden. I’ll just carry out my plan and hopefully that puts me in contention come the back nine on Sunday.”

The closest Stenson has come to winning The Race to Dubai was in 2007, when he finished fourth behind Justin Rose, but he would love to improve on that come the end of this season.

“Of course, it would be great,” he said. “I’ve played well in two big tournaments so I’ve got a lot of money on The Race to Dubai now, and although I won’t play now until the last few tournaments on the schedule, I hope I can stay up there.

“Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell are close behind, and they’re going to play a similar schedule to me in the last few months, so it will be interesting, and there are plenty of other guys who want to put their name in the hat to win it.

“Coming into the Final Series I hope I’m still up there in a good position and then it’s all down to how I play in those last few events.”