Sport Golf

Monday 26 February 2018

Henrik Stenson: I need to win a Major next

Henrik Stenson of Sweden in action
Henrik Stenson of Sweden in action

Phil Casey

The Nedbank Golf Challenge enters a new era this week, but Henrik Stenson will be hoping nothing much has changed as he returns to action for the first time since becoming European number one.

Previously limited to 12 players, the Nedbank has been expanded to a 30-man field and officially features on the European Tour for the first time in its 33-year history.

Defending champion Martin Kaymer, former world number one Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and US Open champion Justin Rose are all competing in Sun City, but much focus will be on whether Stenson can carry on where he left off at the end of the 2013 campaign.

A commanding victory in the DP World Tour Championship meant Stenson became the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season, the Swede then withdrawing from the following week's South African Open to rest the wrist injury which had plagued him throughout the Final Series.

Stenson has undergone numerous MRI scans and has been taking anti-inflammatory pills, joking that he has spent "more time in the ice bucket than a bottle of Moet & Chandon over the last month".

But that has not prevented the 37-year-old from reiterating his desire to win a first major title and overhaul Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings.

"The majors are the next step for me," Stenson told a press conference at the Gary Player Country Club.

"I've won great tournaments on both the PGA and European Tours. I won both the Order of Merits and played in the Ryder Cup; I won the World Cup with Robert Karlsson for Sweden and I've pretty much achieved everything in the game that I want to, except for winning a major.

"I'm 37, so I'm looking at a good three, four, five years ahead of me if I can stay healthy, to try and win one of the big ones.

"I must keep on working on my game and following up on a great season. There are a couple of traps and I think expectation is one of them.

"Another is handling my time. The demand for my time is probably five times as much now as it was six months ago.

"When you're flavour of the month everyone wants a piece of you. It becomes quite hectic outside of golf and if you don't get rest and practice in then it will show up in your game.

"It will be key to look after those areas."

Stenson is currently at a career-high third in the world rankings behind Masters champion Adam Scott and Woods and added: "I would love to get to world number one.

"It's definitely in reach if I continue with the form that I've played with since the summer."

Stenson won the Nedbank title in 2008 and lost a play-off to Robert Allenby the following year, while defending champion Kaymer again finds himself needing a victory to avoid a winless year.

"I enjoy coming here because it's the last tournament of the year and you can put everything into it," Kaymer told a pre-tournament press conference.

"Last year was my last chance, this year is my last chance, so I like being under pressure. It would be nice to finish as high as possible and a victory would be the ultimate."

Ryder Cup hero Kaymer has fallen from world number one in April 2011 to 38th and added: "It's a great experience being number one in the world. What comes with it is very interesting, but very difficult at the same time.

"Now I would be much better prepared than I was back then."

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