Henrik Stenson talks to the media on the eve of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship (Getty Images)
European Number One Henrik Stenson admitted he had to go back to basics at the start of the year in an attempt to recapture his scintillating form of last season.
The Swede, who won The Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup on the US PGA Tour in a superb 2013, was off the pace in the three-week Desert Swing in January, but after a fortnight’s break, he is looking forward to returning to action in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.
Stenson won the event in 2007, and heads into the first WGC of 2014 as the highest ranked player in the field.
"I had two nice weeks in Orlando, seeing the kids and the family,” he said. “It was a nice feeling to put the suitcase down and relax a bit, so I’m feeling much fresher than when I came back from Dubai.
“It was a busy few weeks. The success we had last year has kind of got some attention. I was just trying to get my game going again, and I felt like I moved in the right direction during those few weeks, even though I didn't play my best.
“I was maybe fishing around for feelings a little bit too much when I started the season. You're coming off a good year and you remember how it felt when you were hitting good shots. And then I wasn't quite hitting them as well, and it's easy to get tricked into looking for the feelings again instead of just looking at the basics and doing some solid work.”
Stenson will play Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the World Number 67, in the first round at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain on Wednesday, but he believes anything can happen in match play golf.
“You need to have better luck on your side and it doesn't really matter if you're number one seed or if you're number 50 coming into this week,” he said. “I remember how close I came to being knocked out by Zach Johnson in the first round in 2007, the year I won.
“I made an incredible up and down on the 15th and he missed a good birdie attempt, and that was or me to stay one down. Then I birdied 16 and 17, and he just missed a birdie chance on the last for me to win one up.
“If I hadn’t have made that up and down and he made his putt on 15, I wouldn't have won, so that's how small the margins are here.”
Stenson’s consistency in the second half of last year was particularly impressive, and he has targeted maintaining that strong form for a long spell – although he now has added pressures on his plate.
“I think the two biggest challenges for me are expectations and having the time and peace to continue to work on my game in the same way I did before I had this success,” he said. “There are many more things to do off the golf course. Things like media, sponsor commitments and everything else that take away from rest and focus on my game.
“I was ranked between fifth and 15th for about three years in the past, but I was never as busy as I am now. That’s just something I’ve got to deal with and become better.”