Having won the DP World Tour last year and in 2013, Stenson starts the tournament with hopes of doing the treble, he tells Benita Adesuyan.
How do you feel about being back in Dubai?
I’m always happy to be here. Happy to be on the season ending finale and the DP World tour at Jumeirah Golf Estates, gives me a chance to win three times in a row that would be extra special for me. I was very happy to, for the first time in my career, defend a title last year and to make it three in a row would be even more special – so I’m going to give a shot.
Are you feeling pressure to make the treble?
No, not at all. I just see it as a great opportunity. Of course I always put some pressure on myself, or expectation to perform – it’s a course that I’ve done really well at and I hope my form can continue and be even better this week. Expectations are always, there but no pressure to perform. It’s going to be a very tough week. I have 59 of my colleagues and competitors out there who want to make sure that I don’t get three in a row so, I’ve got to beat a good number of string players to make it happen. Since I’ve done it twiceso I know I can do it.
How do you rate your chances?
It’salways hard to tell but coming off a good result last week, my expectations are higher having had to good weeks in China as opposed to the 47th place I have in Malaysia. So it’s going in the right direction. I think I’d be one of the names you’d put in the hat.
You’ve played and won here before – what it’s like playing on Earth in comparison to other courses?
Well the first couple of times I didn’t do so well, and then I came up with a great game plan for 2013 and I executed that really well, so once I forged that out, I didn’t change thing, and it worked out again so that plan is going to stay the same for this year. There are a lot of half-blind shots in the greens, you don’t always seethe bottom of the pin which can make it a little tricky. And it’s mainly played on Bermuda grass, and for me as a player I hit a lot fairwaysand greens. I think my style of play suits this surface.
Are there parts of the course that are tough?
It’s a mix of some strong tough holes and some easy ones. In order to be one of the players on the top of the leader board you have to take your chances on the holes that are accessible and then you play the hard holes well. If anything I’d say the finishing stretch of 16, 17, and 18 that’s part of the course when you have to be on your toes – you’ve got water on all those three holes and with waters there always potential dangers and disaster lurking and that was the case for me last year. I was trailing by a shot or two and Rafa the Spanish player who was leading at the time [Rafael Cabrera-Bello] ran into some trouble at 17, and I ended up winning the tournament. So the finishing three holes you have to be on your toes for sure.
What’s been the highlight of your year?
I’ve had to two good stretches. One in the spring where I was fourth, fourth and second in three consecutive tournaments but then it was really the Fed Ex Cup. I finished second three times in four weeks, and second in the overall. It was bitter sweet because I did really well but still didn’t manage to win.
Speaking of the Fed Ex Cup, there was a great birdie on the 18th but you really didn’t look happy about it, despite nailing the shot.
Yeah, I’d fought hard to win the tournament all week and then I had a disaster on the 17th when I ended up hitting a double bogie, and I guess it was a long week and a bad hole just before, Imade along putt. In terms of money it was probably worth $1.2million or something like thatbut at the time I was more disappointed that it didn’t work out the way I had wished. We’re fortunate to play for a lot of money in professional sports,but at the end of the day, the stage I am in in my career, I’m playing for the win and the money is secondary. So no, I wasn’t dancing for joy. Had it been the shot for the win it wold have been a different scenario.
Your hosting masterclasses here, what’sthe common thing people ask your advice on?
They always want to hit it really far, whichis not easy to teach, and always curious about back spin – professionals can put a lot of spin on the ball and amateurs always want to know that. I’m going to have a class with some juniors while I’m here. It’salways fun spendingtime with some young golfers and I hope I can teach them a thing or two, and I’m going to ask them what areas they’re struggling with too.
Admission to the tournament here is free, what’s your view on the accessibility of golf and do youthink the image of golf is changing?
I think it’s good for the atmosphere for the tournament. Players love to play in front of big crowds, they get behind it and the sponsors love it too. Also it makes people who don’t play golf come into contact with the sport.
A lot of athletes and other sportspeople play golf to unwind what do you like to do when you’re not on the course?
I’m not going on any golfing trips when I’m free! My life is so busy. I’m a father of three and my sport is time consuming. If you’rein a very physical sport you might go hard at practice for an hour and then relax and recuperate until yournext training session. I enjoy some friendly tennis games, a little fishing, reading books, and listening to music. Music always puts me in a good mood, and when I’ve had a week when I’ve played really well I can remember the songs I listen to.
Who will you be listening to before you hit course for tournament?
Mainly dance music something with a good beat like David Guetta or Swedish House Mafia.