Henrik Stenson reveals the secrets of his long-awaited first major success shortly after his incredible historic Open success at Royal Troon sealed with a total score of -20....
Q. Henrik, congratulations on a wonderful performance. I believe that's the lowest four-round total to win any major championship. You've obviously won your first major championship here at The Open. Can you describe your feelings today, please.
HENRIK STENSON: It hasn't quite sunk in yet, but I'm very happy. Very proud of the way I played. It was a great match with Phil. It seemed like it was going to be a two-horse race, and it was all the way to the end. I knew he wasn't going to back down at any point, and in a way that makes it easier for myself. I knew I had to keep on pushing, keep on giving myself birdie chances and he wasn't going to give it to me, so I had to pull away. I'm just delighted I managed to do that with a couple of birdies at the right time on the final stretch.
Q. Henrik, after three second places and six third places in majors, did you ever feel, is this ever going to be my turn?
HENRIK STENSON: I felt like this was going to be my turn.
HENRIK STENSON: It's not something you want to run around and shout, but I felt like this was going to be my turn. I knew I was going to have to battle back if it wasn't, but I think that was the extra self-belief that made me go all the way this week.
Q. Henrik, I think in many ways we're reminded that was almost like a heavyweight boxing match between two big men.
HENRIK STENSON: Did anyone hear those cameras there, gee?
Q. Is that what you thought yourself? And do you feel quite drained after that?
HENRIK STENSON: Right now I'm running on adrenaline, but there will be some point when I'll struggle to make it up the stairs when I get back to the house, I'm sure.
Yeah, it certainly was. We managed to pull away from the rest of the field and we both played some great golf. It makes it even more special to beat a competitor like Phil. He's been one of the best to play the game, and certainly in the last 20 years. So to come out on top after such a fight with him over these four days, it makes it even more special.
Q. I'm sure you feel that adding the Scottish Open back to your schedule has paid off, do you (laughter)?
HENRIK STENSON: Here we go again. All right, I'll play the Scottish Open next year. Yes, I will.
Q. It was a good decision though, wasn't it, really?
HENRIK STENSON: I mean, scheduling is always hard. I knew I had to do something to get prepared for The Open Championship, and the last couple of years going early, practising a little bit hasn't quite done it. So I went back to the formula I did for 2013, and from here on it would be kind of stupid not to keep that one going, I think.
Q. You obviously dedicated that to Mike outside. Could you just explain who he was and what he meant for you and the significance?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, he was one of the real good guys back in Dubai. I've known him for many, many years, and he was a very keen golfer and a great man. I had news on Tuesday -- he's been battling cancer for a long time, but I had news on Tuesday that the end was near, and unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday morning over in the U.S. So he's always been there as a big supporter of mine, and in good days and bad days he's always sent me messages and been out at some events.
This one is dedicated to him, for sure. I felt like he was there with me this week.
Q. Can you give us a sense of how aggravating it was to be continually asked, when will a Swedish man win a major? And how does it feel to be the first one after all the great Swedish players, Forsbrand, Selberg, Parnevik?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean we had it back when Padraig won at Carnoustie, "When are we going to have a European major winner?" Then he managed to do that, and then there's always another question.
But it's been there a long time. I feel very privileged to be the one to hold this trophy. There's been many great players from my country tried in past years and decades and there's been a couple of really close calls. Jesper in particular twice. So he sent me a message, "Go out and finish what I didn't manage to finish," and I'm really proud to have done that, and it's going to be massive for golf in Sweden with this win.
And it was annoying, yes (laughing).
Q. You speak of your commitment this week and your belief that it was going to happen this week, why? Why were you so strongly feeling it?
HENRIK STENSON: I think the win in Germany I had -- the last 15, 18 months I had a lot of great opportunities to win a few of them. I didn't finish the job the way I wanted and on a few of them it was a couple of youngsters from America did some good stuff and denied me the wins in particular in '15. So the win in Germany at BMW International Open a couple weeks ago was huge to get one over the finish line. You feel the pressure coming in and with not having won for a while, that always kind of builds up. It was great to get that win there. That definitely helped this week, and I felt that extra confidence was going to be huge for me coming into this week.
I just played some great golf. Yeah, for some reason, I felt like this is my time, and it was.
Q. First of all, many congratulations. As a Scotsman who spent about ten working in Gothenburg, I had a right smile about your comments about the Scottish weather yesterday. But that aside, can you put this into context in terms of your life experiences, and be careful how you answer this, but in terms of yours first kiss, passing your driving test, getting married, the birth of your kids, your first Tour win?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, given that I failed my driver's test probably as many times I was second or third at major championships, that one has to be higher than this, of course (laughter).
No, I think the birth of my three children and then winning The Open. Wife is in the corner over there, so thanks for the reminder (laughter).
Q. I'm just curious, over which shot do you think you felt the most pressure, what was it like, and how did you handle it?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, the putt on 16 was huge. I mean, Phil missed his eagle putt, so it looked like it was going to go in, and I expect him to make every putt; you have to. And it just snuck by and I'm standing over a five-footer down the hill to keep it to a head. That was a very important putt to make. Then coming up on 17, you know it's one of the harder holes on the golf course, and I just knew I had to hit a good shot and hit the green and not make worse than three there.
The way it's set up, it could have been all done and dusted after my really good 4-iron to, I don't know, 8, 10 feet and Phil missed it down the bank. But given it's Phil, of course scrambled a 3 and I nearly missed my birdie putt. But it could have been a more comfy walk coming up 18, if 17 had ended up in a different way. But I considered myself lucky on 16 there.
All in all it worked out. But probably the putt on 16 was probably the most pressured one.
Q. But you've had kind of French contention, if you will, in a couple of majors. I can't imagine what it's like going 1 through 18 where it's just relentless. Did you sense that? Every shot mattered.
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I knew he was going to be there and pushing me all the way, and I just tried to stick to my game plan, play the best I could and put the best score together that I could. Again, key moment on 14, as it was yesterday, I managed to do a double swing there with my birdie yesterday. But today I had a 20-footer, and I just thought, how many chances coming in here am I going to have to try to pull away? Because I know he's not going to make too many mistakes by the looks of it. So I just knew I had to take it. Got that one. Got one in front. And just make an absolute bomb on 14 or on 15. As you can see Phil from 30 feet was nearly making his as well after I'd made mine.
So those two putts were the one that pulled me ahead and put me two in front. Then some solid shots coming in to stay that way.
Q. Henrik, it was you and Mickelson in your 40s, and Steve Stricker, No. 4, so do you think it's just the links and The Open or do you think the majors are still accessible for seasoned players? And also I wanted to confirm a curious fact. Did you get your first European Tour card in Cuba?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, I played the Challenge Tour final back in '99 and 2000 in Cuba, and I won that final in 2000 to get out on the main Tour. So I've been playing golf in Cuba. It was a bit warmer and a bit sunnier than here.
Yeah, I think the experience and the way links golf plays. We saw Tom with his remarkable performance in 2009 at Turnberry. So even a few guys that are a little bit older than I am have had success at the majors and at The Open Championship. But experience definitely plays a big part of it. Yeah, it was quite an old leaderboard for a change, I guess.
Q. Would you expect to see Phil on the U.S. Ryder Cup team?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, absolutely. I expect to see him there. Don't you? Yeah.
Q. Just wondering, how much slower were the greens this week than what you might see at other majors or even Tour events? Was it a speed that you felt really comfortable with from the beginning of the week?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, links golf is always slower, and generally if it's not windy and they get them going, you can get them to about 10.5 on the Stimp. I think we played them mainly between 9.5 and 10 this week. It is hard for any player when you have a certain length of putts and the vision doesn't quite match up with how hard you have to hit it. I had a couple of long putts, one on 15 yesterday, the one on 11 today, where you almost feel like you're at the top of the stroke or all the way back and you're like, I can't hit it this hard, and you just de-cel a little bit and you come away short. It's hard to get that in your mind.
I really did that on 15. I felt like I've got to hit it harder than I really think and just try to figure it out and give it a go. Don't interfere with the motion once it started. I just got that one to the hole.
So it is a different ballgame compared to what we play on normal Tour events speedwise.
Q. With all the records that you broke today and finally getting over the line, what on earth do you do for an encore? And do you still have the hunger to try to win even more of these prizes?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, we're only just getting started, aren't we? You never know once you open the floodgates what might happen. Yeah, it's going to be a while to have all of this sink in. It's going to be a much busier week next week than I expected. We've got a big schedule this summer. It's PGA in a week's time and then the Olympics. I was going to have a nice couple of relaxed days back home with the family. We'll see how well that goes. Got any security personnel I can hire in here? Raise your hand.
But it's all good things that will happen. Yeah, of course I'm going to be out there trying my hardest in the week's time at the PGA in New York.
Q. You already mentioned the win in Germany a few weeks ago. After winning in Cologne, you called the BMW your second home tournament because you won there twice. How much home sticks in the British Open, the Open Championship and in Royal Troon now for you?
HENRIK STENSON: I guess I'm a third Scottish now, aren't I? No, I've really felt the support here as well, even though Phil is a very popular major champion and a very popular player. So I still had a -- there was a lot of encouragement for Phil but also for myself out there, so I really want to thank the fans for doing their part. They were really pushing me on.
Yeah, there's a few countries where I've managed to do some great things, and Scotland is now one of them, and Germany I played some good golf. Yeah, I'm European so this was the one that was closest to my heart, so I'm delighted to have won this one.
Q. The anticipation of any final round, especially in a major and then you go out there and bogey the very first hole, was that a shock to your system or was it a good thing that you had 17 holes to make up for it?
HENRIK STENSON: Yes, definitely, a chance to get going after that. Yeah, I didn't hit the second shot as hard as I needed to and, again, I was faced with 20-meter putts with a couple of breaks and up and over a little mound. Didn't hit it near as hard. So, yeah, it's never great when you three-putt from long range and your opponent sticks it to a foot. That wasn't the start I was looking for, but more importantly what I did afterwards. I was sticking to my plan and committing to my shots, and that got me straight back in the ballgame with two quick birdies on 2 and 3.
Q. It wasn't that long ago that you were really struggling with your game and fell in the World Ranking. Did you ever think then that this was possible? How were you able to turn things around and get back to this point?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, the second slump in my career was nothing compared to the one I had in the early 2000s. So I managed to put my game together, and with a lot of hard work and a lot of help from my team and support from my family and friends and everyone else.
Yeah, again, if I didn't believe I wouldn't be sitting here. It's a dream come true as a young kid -- well, not that young. I was 11 when I started playing. But it was Ryder Cup and The Open Championship, those were the big early memories I had. So to sit there and hold this trophy is really amazing.