TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola interview: Henrik StensonSeptember 21, 2013
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THE MODERATOR: We want to welcome our third round leader here at the TOUR Championship by Coca Cola. Henrik Stenson, a different day out there. Obviously, different conditions than it's been the first two days, but still a four stroke lead heading into the final round.
HENRIK STENSON: You're more soaked than I am. What have you been up to, playing golf?
THE MODERATOR: I've been standing in the rain. Just talk about heading into tomorrow.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I think I'll choose to look at it from the bright side even though the weather is not that bright at the moment.
Started the day with a four shot lead, and I still got it. So that's all that matters really. I had it going, and I had a much larger lead than that for a while.
Then the rain came, and I started hitting a couple of loose ones on the back nine. It was just hard. It was just a grind to get finished. I'm happy we got the round done so we don't have to be back at 8:00 or something and round things out tomorrow. So that's nice.
But it was tough to finish, and I hit a couple of bad shots, and it's hard to find your rhythm again when you're out in conditions like these.
I guess the only thing that really stings a little bit was the three putt on the last. I had a lovely first putt, and I thought I made it, and then it just like nudged out the left lip, and it's a very severe green, a tricky green, and it got away a little bit, about 4 1/2 feet, 5 feet, and I didn't hit the best of putts coming back.
It would have been nice to finish with a par there, especially after the par 7 on 17. But all in all, four shot lead, we're in a great position. Another 18 to go.
Q. How much negative impact was the rain on you when the lead slunk from nine to four?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think it definitely would have been a comfier ride coming back in if it hadn't started raining, but the other guys played in the same conditions. So I can't really complain that it was any tougher for me than for anybody else.
But it's just one of them, when you lose a little bit of momentum like I said, I hit a couple of poor things it's just hard to find your rhythm again when you're kind of jumping in and out from underneath an umbrella and trying to whack it to get back in underneath again.
So it's a little bit more difficult, but we still kept it together. Like I said, we've still got the four shot lead. Obviously, I feel for my playing partner Adam because I heard before the round that he wasn't well, and he could only pitch up like 20 minutes before or something, and you could clearly see that he was not in a good state physically today.
So obviously not kind of the battle I was thinking I was going to have with him kind of went away a little bit due to his form physically today.
Q. You've been competing in a lot of big time events coming down to the wire, and now you're 24 hours away from potentially a big, big purse. You seem like a pretty laid back guy, don't take yourself too seriously. Do you feel that attitude?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't take myself too seriously. Where are we going?
Q. You're laid back. Do you feel an attitude like that helps you before a big day like tomorrow trying to close it out?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, obviously, I want to win this tournament and I want to win the FedExCup. I mean, we all do. That's why we're here.
But I know I can just focus on my 18 holes tomorrow, and that's what I'm going to do the best I can, and then we'll add it up when we're finished.
I don't think yeah, if you want something too much, it can certainly be a problem in itself. So, yeah, just go out there and do my thing tomorrow, and hopefully it's good enough.
Q. Henrik, which slump was harder to recover from, the first one that you had way back or more recent one that you came back from around --
HENRIK STENSON: Back in 2001 for sure. Why do we always have to talk about slumps when we're playing well?
Yes, I mean, I think after that last week in Chicago, I had a rough time back in '01, '02, '03, and that was kind of the hard one toe get out of. It was a frustrating season in 2011 for sure, but it was more frustration not playing the way I know I can rather than battling through as much as I did back in '01/'02.
Q. For the shots you dropped in the back, I wonder if you could talk about the importance of the putts you hold on 14 and 17 and also talk about what happened on 14.
HENRIK STENSON: No, I just hit a loose ball, hit it left, and I guess it's partly down there, it's a little lack of course knowledge, I think, because when you're going left on 14, I wasn't full away. It's just wood chips and the cart path and nothing to stop it if you hit it into the trees.
So obviously, it kept going and ended up in the bushes there. So that's a bit of a tactical mistake. If you're going to miss anything, you're going to bleed it down the right rather than overturning it in the crosswind.
And I didn't have a shot, so I couldn't get it out of there. So I went back on the line of the flag and played a decent shot, but I came out of it right and stayed right, I guess off the wood chip it is kind of hard to control it. Then just played a nice pitch up and made a good 10 footer for the bogey to keep it only dropping one. So that was very nice.
And then made the birdie on 15. And then I hit it in the bunker on 16. I was kind of up against the lip a little bit and got it down on the fairway, but I was on the wrong side. It was another little miss in that sense because left, even though I was on the fairway, it was not a good pitch to that pin. If I would have been short right, I would have had a pretty nice chance for recovery.
And then just a poor I blocked it on 17, but I think I also had a little bit of water on the ball on the face because it took off so quickly to the right, very similar to Jordan's on the last. I think he had a drop of water caught between the ball and the face on the last because, when you get that, you hit a bad shot, but it just leaves so quickly because it's not enough spin or friction between.
So had a poor tee shot there and dropped it from the grandstand, managed to get it down in the bunker, played a decent bunker shot, and just holed a very important 4 meter putt.
Of course, if I would have made the par at the last, I would have felt like I got away with quite a lot coming in there, but I guess at the end of the day, I got what I deserved. I looked to drop one on 17, I didn't, and then kind of dropped one on 18 when 2 maybe didn't look like I was going to drop one.
Q. That was probably more emotion you showed on that 4 meter putt on 17 than you did on the birdie.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, absolutely. It felt crucial to make that one well, not crucial, but it was a nice putt to make to kind of hang on to the good lead that I had extended. Unfortunately, I dropped one on the last, but it's a tough hole and a tough green, so I guess I'm not the only one to make bogey on the last.
Q. Henrik, you mentioned the difficulty playing in the rain on the back nine. Just curious, from a mental standpoint, is it also difficult when you're up nine? Does your mind maybe wander at times in that situation?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think it was just hard conditions. Yeah, it's you know, over a 72 hole stretch, you're always going to run into a couple of holes where you're not playing your best.
It would be wishing too much to play the way I did what have we got 45 holes? I think I made like two bogeys or something like that in 45 holes, and then heaps of birdies on a difficult golf course. So to think you're going to carry on like that the whole week without running into some trouble is probably asking for too much.
So you've just got to take it when it comes and try to minimize the damage. I think, at the end of the day, I still did that. I shot 69, which is not the worst around here. It was heading for something better, and it could have been even better position before tomorrow, but we are where we are, and it's all about how we move on from here.
Q. Henrik, I know the points are sort of stacked in your favor right now, but just curious to get your feelings on the FedExCup and how the points are doled out. Do you think it's too volatile, not volatile enough? What do you think of it?
HENRIK STENSON: No. I haven't even been here before, so I don't know how it's looking now, and I don't know where I need to finish to I mean, I know if one of the guys within the top five would win it, they'll win it straightaway, but I obviously think I would have a chance to win it even without winning tomorrow.
But I don't know where I need to finish, and it all depends on where Tiger and Adam finishes and so on. Well, Tiger in particular, I guess at this point. But it's still an open ball game, I'm sure.
I've just got to focus on first of all, I'm interested in winning the tournament, and I know, if I do that, then I'm going to win the FedExCup. We're just trying one more day.
Q. Is it better not to know?
HENRIK STENSON: I don't know. Maybe I'll find out.
Q. Henrik, Steve Stricker, when asked if he was surprised by how well you're playing, said he's more surprised that the rest of the field hasn't given better chase. He described everyone else's play as flat. How surprised are you that the nearest competitor is four strokes behind, and what do you attribute it to?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I mean, like we said before, it's normally not a low scoring golf course, this one. It's not the easiest one. I mean, I played extremely well for the first 45 holes to get it to 14 under.
And even now finishing, I'm still in double figures. I think, when we spoke Wednesday here, we said the winning score is normally around 10, 12 under, something like that.
Yeah, I don't know. I think everyone is a little bit tired at this stage. There's been a lot of golf and a lot of events. So someone's always going to have a good week, and then a few guys always going to have a bit of a flat week. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know where we're going with this.
Q. Henrik, what are the toughest conditions you've ever played in, played golf in before, and how does this mess compare with that?
HENRIK STENSON: This is kids' stuff compared to at least the Saturday round at the British Open at St. George's. If I remember, that was like playing in a car wash.
It's tough. It's tricky, but it was still clearly playable. We didn't get as much rain, I guess, as anticipated, and we were lucky that the rain held off a bit longer. It doesn't sound like it's getting any better by the minute right now.
So, yeah, I'd give it probably a 5, 1 to 10.
Q. Did you replace the 4 wood?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, yeah. I managed to find a head yesterday and pull my shaft and put it in there, and I didn't use it once.
Q. But on the range, you felt comfortable?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I hit a couple, and it felt as good, absolutely, if not better.
Q. You're 13 under on the front nine. 30, 31, 31. What is it about the front nine?
HENRIK STENSON: I've just been quick out of the blocks, I guess. I don't know if there's anything that's different on the front nine compared to the back nine.
I mean, it's kind of hard to say it only comes down to me not playing the back nine on Wednesday, but I'm sure someone would go down that road.
Q. Henrik, with the type of lead you have going into the final round tomorrow and chances are the course is really going to be soft will you be more aggressive in your approach tomorrow?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I think on the odd occasion, maybe we can be that, but it's going to be the same for everyone. It's still kind of important to hit the fairways, and you leave yourself the right path. It's crucial to be underneath the hole around here because even with a bit of rain and so on, you still get a lot of slick putts if you're above the hole.
It might just make it a little bit easier to kind of drop and stop it, but, again, I'm not the one chasing. It's one of those courses, I think, if you're trying on the wrong hole, you're trying to attack too much, it can come back and bite you straight away.
I don't see myself having to play overly aggressive tomorrow. It's going to be up to the other guys to try and catch up. If I can keep the ball in play and keep on giving myself chances, you know, I'm not the one who has to make the extra birdies.
Q. Henrik, you've mentioned a few times this week that your main goal is to win this golf tournament, and everything else will shape out. I don't mean to be negative, but if you don't win the golf tournament and win the FedExCup --
HENRIK STENSON: I'll still be pleased to a degree, yes.
Q. Is it a bittersweet celebration?
HENRIK STENSON: We'll take that when we finish tomorrow. If so be it, but, again, it's all in the future. I'm going to try my hardest.
Of course I want to win two. If I can't win two, I'll be very pleased to win one. If I'm winning nothing, it will probably be not so sweet. From this position.
But I didn't have anything when I came here, so we'll see what we'll leave with.
Q. What's the most important aspect of your game that you need to improve on for tomorrow going into the final round?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I don't think there's too much to be worried about. Like I said, I lost my rhythm and then hit a couple of wayward shots. I'm pretty confident I know why they what needs to be done differently not to hit those. So technically.
And hopefully, we get a nice day tomorrow. It can warm up in good time and be in a good state when we tee off. So it was just a couple of poor swings on the back nine there. Nothing to worry too much about.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck tomorrow.
HENRIK STENSON: Thank you.