Henrik Stenson is hopeful that a change of venue is going to bring a change in his luck at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and complete his desert sweep.
The 45-year-old Swede, who was a long-term resident of Dubai before shifting his base to Florida in the USA, has won the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the DP World Tour Championship, but has been denied glory at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the past 15 editions of the tournament.
Stenson is the defending champion at the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in Albany this week. It was his last international win and the only one since his Open championship victory in July 2016.
However, there are signs of recovery in his form and he put together a good spell before the Ryder Cup this year. The first player to win the Order of Merit on both sides of the Atlantic (2013), spoke exclusively to Khaleej Times in Bahamas.
“I have not committed to the tournament yet, but I am most likely going to start my 2022 season in the Middle East. Hopefully, three straight, solid weeks,” said Stenson when asked about the shift of Abu Dhabi event to the Kyle Phillips-designed Yas Links.
“I saw that the venue has been changed. It is a golf course that I am familiar with. Not in terms of a tournament setup, but I’ve played it a number of times. So it wouldn’t be a completely new territory to me.
“It’s not the longest, if I recall correctly, so if you’re not getting the wind from the nearby mangroves and if the set-up is not tricky, I could see it being a very low scoring week. But yeah, we’ll see.”
Stenson has dropped to No182 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He looked like moving in the right direction with a third and a tied-fourth finish Omega European Masters and the Czech Masters, but reckons his role as one of the vice-captains of the European team killed that momentum.
It also robbed precious weeks of play, which could have qualified him for the DP World Tour Championship.
“I love Ryder Cup, whether it is as a player, or as a vice-captain. I had a great time and it’s always a very, very special week to be part of the European Ryder Cup team.
“Of course, it’s less stressful in a way, but it’s probably longer days on the golf course. And then I took a week off before and a couple of weeks after that.
“The DP World Tour Championship has always been a highlight for me given the fact that I made Dubai my home for so many years and also given the success that I have had in Jumeirah Golf Estates and Emirates Golf Club.
“It just wasn’t meant to be this year and I’d put my hand up and say I haven’t played well enough, even though I kind of came close to qualifying in the end. I could have played a couple of weeks more in Europe and tried to make it the DP World, if not the vice-captain appointment had come.”
Stenson was the only player sweating it out on the range on Monday (later joined by Bryson DeChambeau).
Asked where his game was right now out of ten, Stenson said: “No player will ever say 10. So, if the best says his game is eight or nine, I’d say I am at four. There are some good things there, and some things I am working on, which should hopefully be in place when I reach the UAE.”
The Hero World Challenge, which has a field of 20 of the top players in the world, features world No2 Collin Morikawa, who recently won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and Rory McIlroy, who unfortunately lost the battle in the closing stages.
He has won 93 worldwide events, including a record-tying 82 on the PGA Tour, and his 15 major championships trails only the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
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