Stenson eyes Swede success for Team Europe
As a fourth Ryder Cup appearance beckons for Henrik Stenson, representing his country and teammates is at the forefront of the Swede’s mind as final preparations take shape before the European Team assemble for their charter flight to Hazeltine National.
Currently second in the Race to Dubai Rankings, the 40 year old has experienced that winning feeling on two occasions at The Ryder Cup – latterly in 2014 and memorably in his debut in 2006, when he holed the winning putt at The K Club.
“For me playing in the Ryder Cup is probably the best times I have had on a golf course,” Stenson recalls of his fond memories.
“Growing up I watched The Ryder Cup and remember Seve and Olazábal at The Belfry, and some of the other great partnerships like Langer, Faldo and Montgomerie. It was always a dream of mine to play in The Ryder Cup and it came true for me in 2006 playing at the K Club.
“I think what makes it special is that it is a team event and you’re representing yourself in a way, but it’s about your country and your continent, and you try your hardest because in any team sport you never want to let your teammates down.”
With 11 European Tour titles to his credit, it was July this year when Stenson produced his most significant career victory at the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, a mesmerising final round of golf culminating in a colossal battle with US Ryder Cup opponent Phil Mickelson.
Most recently, he claimed a silver medal in Rio at the Olympic Men's Golf Tournament as he battled it out against Ryder Cup teammate and close friend Justin Rose on the final day, the pair likely to reignite their incredible 2014 partnership in Minneapolis, something Stenson is looking forward to.
"We know each other really well. Looking at our styles, both me and Justin play a very similar game,” he said.
“When you have a new partner it normally takes a little time to get used to how they play and their personality, so that was the benefit of knowing Justin so well and why we played so much together.
“I’ve had some great partners over the years and there’s been some really extraordinary matches. One was at Valhalla when I played with Oliver Wilson in the foursome and Oliver made a 35-putt on the 17th to close out the match over Phil Mickelson and I think we had been four down after six holes and came back to win.”
An away trip will always hold its advantages for the host team, something that Stenson acknowledges, but he also believes the challenges faced now for the players have lessened compared to those of past tournaments given their exposure to playing more tournaments in the US.
“I think the difference between home and away games on course setup and what courses we play has kind of vanished because most of the top European golfers live and play in the US,” he said.
“Playing an away game is definitely harder than playing at home – no question. The fans at Gleneagles were amazing and you feel like 95% of them are cheering you on. When you go away it can definitely be the opposite and even though the European fans make noise, it’s definitely harder to win away, so we’ve got a big challenge coming up for sure.”