THE last 18 months have been a frustrating time for Henrik Stenson. He has come close to winning on countless occasions but has nnot managed to pick up a victory since his win at the 2014 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
In 2015 he finished runner-up no fewer than six times across the European Tour and US PGA Tour – including three in four events during the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup series.
It has been more of the same so far in 2016 with runner-up finishes at the Shell Houston Open and the Nedbank Golf Challenge plus a recent fourth place finish at the Nordea Masters in his native Sweden. The 39-year-old is teeing it up in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open for the first time since his near miss here in 2013, and he is hopeful of going one better.
“It didn’t quite work out for me on the final day in 2013. I had a great chance but Phil Mickleson recovered well from a bad start and deserved his win. Even though I didn’t quite manage to get the job done, it was still the start of a great run for me and maybe I used those near-misses at Castle Stuart and Muirfield as motivation. For me, playing the Scottish Open is the perfect preparation for The Open. We’ll be expecting a tougher test at Royal Troon and although Castle Stuart doesn’t beat you up as much as an Open Championship venue does, it’s still great to get into the mindset of playing links golf. I’m looking forward to the challenge and, hopefully, I can get the better of Phil this time. He proved that winning the Scottish Open was the recipe for success in The Open, so I’ll be going all out for the win this week.”
The best season of Stenson’s career was undoubtedly 2013. After narrowly missing out on the play-off here at Castle Stuart he went on to finish second to Mickelson at Muirfield and followed that with a third place finish at the US PGA Championship.
He then dominated the US PGA Tour’s FedExCup series with two wins out of four and later clinched his first DP World Tour Championship title to become the first player to do the Race to Dubai and FedExCup double.
He is quick to draw comparisons from that year to how he’s currently playing. “I’ve been up there a few times and not walked away with the trophy so it’s on my mind that I should have finished the job off on a few occasions,” said Stenson.
“It was a similar year to 2013 when I played well all summer but didn’t win either at The Open or the US PGA Championship. Then, all of a sudden, I had a nice bit of fireworks at the end of the year at the FedExCup and then the DP World Tour Championship.
“I don’t feel I’ve played to anywhere near my full potential at those events where I’ve put myself in contention. So it’s a bit unjust to be super hard on myself if it doesn’t come off on a Sunday when you don’t really feel like you’re playing your best.
“I hope it’s going to happen, and that’s why I keep on working on my game – to get it to the stage where I know it’s going to happen on a Sunday.
“I’m quite hard on myself. If I feel like I’ve made mistakes where I didn’t want to make mistakes, hit bad shots at the wrong time, I’m going to be pretty hard on myself. But if other players produce great stuff I can’t control that. I can only look at what I do.
“I’ve been going through a stretch where it hasn’t happened for me, but before you know it, you can win two or three events in a short period of time, as well. I’m still here and still staying patient.”
Stenson is keen to get a win on the board as he enters a busy summer schedule and he’s hoping the time off he gave himself following The Masters will help his cause.
“I haven’t played much since Augusta because I’ve been trying to pace myself. So at least I’m well rested heading into the busy period,” said Stenson. “I don’t have much of a break before The Ryder Cup, so it’s a pretty packed schedule and, hopefully, I can play well on my weeks on, then rest well on my weeks off.”
Stenson was a member of both the 2006 and 2008 European Ryder Cup teams but suffered a dip in form between 2010 and 2013 and missed out at Celtic Manor and Medinah. In 2014 he was at his brilliant best at Gleneagles as he helped Europe to a convincing Ryder Cup victory, and making the team for Hazeltine is firmly on his radar. A winning run for Stenson and, who knows, a maiden victory at Castle Stuart could kick-start a Stenson winning run, and maybe a maiden Major victory is just around the corner.