Stenson 480x288.jpg
Henrik Stenson looking relaxed during practice(Getty Images)

Europe's Vikings ready for a battle

Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson�paired together for practice

By Steve Todd-

Print News

While Valhalla may be steeped in Norse mythology, Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson, two of European Team's Scandinavian contingent, are primed to create a legacy of their own in Kentucky this week.

Having both tasted The Ryder Cup for the first time at the K Club two years ago, the Swedish pair of are once again ready to take the pressure on playing in golf's greatest team competition their considerably broad shoulders.

At 6ft 5in Karlsson is the tallest member of the European Team and by holing the winning putt in Ireland in 2006, the 6ft 1in Stenson showed he can also be a big player for Europe.

Both players have been the model of consistency this season, each recording 10 top 10 finishes -- the most on The European Tour along with Lee Westwood, and could prove to the rock solid foundation for Europe's quest for a fourth successive Ryder Cup.

Karlsson tees up in Valhalla following a confidence boosting victory last week at the Mercedes Benz Championship -- a victory he believes will ensure he remains on a high going to the first tee on Friday.

"It doesn't really feel like last week has ended," said the 39 year old. "It almost feels like it keeps going on and on and on. And when you're playing well and when you're winning, you're sort of on a bit of a high. The intensity is high, and then from there to London I had just one night and then on the airplane and started to talk about this event, because this event actually starts on the Monday when you get on the airplane. You just keep going.

"Obviously it's very nice to get on that airplane playing well. But I've got to make sure I get a bit of time on my own before Friday."

"This is something that it's a totally different with the history," added Karlsson, who faced World Number One Tiger Woods in the singles two years ago. "I think many of us have grown up, definitely I have, watching it and you remember certain moments from The Ryder Cup. You just want to be a part of it.

"I said after last time, if you've been in one Ryder Cup, you want to do it again, because it's such an intense and such a different spirit and such a different experience on the golf course. That's why it is different."

Having finished tied third at The Open Championship and tied fourth at the US PGA Championship, as well as third at the KLM Open last month, Stenson is also a man in form heading to Louisville.

The 32 year old is also no stranger to the taste of victory in America, having won the WGC -- Accenture Match Play at Gallery Golf Club, Tuscon, Arizona, last year and has confidence in his ability having picked up an impressive 1� points at The K Club.

He said: "I've got a pretty good matchplay record, and that's always nice to bring to an event like this."

Like his compatriot, Stenson will head the first tee on Friday having already negotiated his Ryder Cup debut and he feels his experience at The K Club will benefit him in Louisville.

"It's definitely different now. It's more relaxed and you knowmore what it's all about. When you're playing as a rookie, you don't really know what to expect. I guess you're more curious on how everything is going to be in this week.

"With the experience of playing once, you're more thinking about preparing. Not that I didn't think about preparing last time, but you're more sort of acclimatised to everything and just looking forward to the week's play and to try and do well."

After impressive Ryder Cup debuts two years ago, if both Karlsson and Stenson can reproduce the form that has seen them consistently featuring at the top end of leaderboards throughout 2008 they will surely be revered in Ryder Cup annals alongside fellow Swedes Per-Ulrik Johansson and Jesper Parnevik.

Johansson and Parnevik both featured on two winning Ryder Cup teams - alongside each other in 1997 with Johansson also in 1995 and Parnevik in 2002 -- and Karlsson and Stenson have the chance in Valhalla to match that feat.

While neither player now resides in their native Sweden -- Karlsson lives in Monanco and Stenson has relocated to Dubai -- it would seem the stage is set for Europe's Vikings to dominate overseas once more.