Stenson rekindles his love story with Dubai Desert Classic

The Swede gave his fans plenty to cheer about in the weather-delayed Monday finish of the $9 million Hero Dubai Desert Classic

By Joy Chakravarty

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Henrik Stenson of Sweden. — AP
Henrik Stenson of Sweden. — AP

Published: Mon 30 Jan 2023, 8:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 Jan 2023, 8:47 PM

Henrik Stenson, one of the most popular golfers in the region who made Dubai his home for nearly a decade, gave his fans plenty to cheer about in the weather-delayed Monday finish of the $9 million Hero Dubai Desert Classic.

The 2007 champion closed with a superb, bogey-free eight-under-par 64 – the best round of the day – and climbed up to a tied-eighth place finish at 12-under-par total.

It also happens to match the lowest career round in the tournament, which Stenson has teed up every year since making his debut in 2001. He has shot 64 three times before this – in 2007 when he won, and later in 2012 and 2018. This was his 23rd consecutive appearance in the tournament.

The 46-year-old Swede, who made a winning start to his LIV career last year when he won the tournament in Bedminster, is trending in the right direction, having shot a six-under par 66 in the final round of Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship the week before.

Having had a very good knowledge of how the Emirates Golf Club plays, Stenson said it was crucial he made the most on the back nine of the course with a decent start, having teed off from the 10th.

“I got off to a pretty good start with birdies on the 10th and 12th holes. Starting in the morning off the back nine on this golf course, you always feel like you need to take advantage of the three par-5s and the par-37. The front nine always plays a good few shots harder,” said Stenson, who made an eagle on the par-5 18th hole and made the turn at 5-under par, and then picking up three more shots on the more difficult front nine of the course.

“On the other hand, the back nine feels easier when you have played nine holes off the first tee and have warmed up a little bit.

“The eagle on the 18th felt good. I had nice three wood straight down the middle had a lovely three iron to about 25 feet and rolled that in.”

Stenson, who became the first player to win the Order of Merit on both sides of the Atlantic in the same year (2013), has had a dip in form, and was heavily criticised for his decision to join LIV golf after taking up the European Ryder Cup captaincy. He has dropped in the world rankings to 161st. But the recent rounds in Abu Dhabi and now Dubai should put him in good stead.

“I still wouldn’t say confidence level would be as good as a score of 64 should suggest. Let me say that I feel I’m in a in a good spot physically. We just need to keep doing more of the same and hopefully, this score will keep building the confidence level,” said the man popularly known as the Stensonator.

The Swede played the third round on Sunday with Luke Donald, the man who took over as Europe’s new captain from him and said there was no tension in the group as people were predicting.

“It wasn't intense at all. I’ve played a lot of golf with Luke as I have done with all the other guys out here. At least, on my end, there’s no hard feelings in any shape or form,” said Stenson.

“I’ll just try and get on with mine and he obviously has got a lot of things on his mind. I know because I was in his place not too long ago. He is trying to focus on his game and everything outside the rope as well. That's not something I’m dealing with at the moment and I can focus on my golf game.”

Stenson next heads to King Abdullah Economic City near Jeddah for the Saudi International later this week.

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