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Stenson in Position for Race to Dubai Title
Since winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta and the FedEx Cup - along with the $10 million annuity that goes with it, Henrik Stenson stayed out of competition while nursing a sore right wrist until the European Tour's final series, which started with the BMW Masters in mid-October followed by the WGC-HSBC Champions and this week's Turkish Airlines Open.
The season concludes with the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which likely will determine the winner of the Race to Dubai, the European Tour's money-list title.
The 37-year-old Stenson enters the last two tournaments of the year on the Continent with nearly a 150-point lead over Graeme McDowell and he's about 300 points ahead of 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
Stenson will be in the marquee pairing when the Turkish Airlines Open begins Thursday at Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Antalya, Turkey. His playing partners include Rose and No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods. Woods is the only non-European playing in the tournament.
Stenson is at a loss to explain why his wrist is hurting, but he's forging on. "The wrist feels okay," said the Swede Wednesday in Turkey. "It's been bothering me a bit, especially leading into the BMW tournament two weeks ago, and I had a little bit of a hiccup last Wednesday in the Pro Am.
"But during play, it's been quite all right. So hopefully by now it should be up and running and obviously affected my preparations leading into these weeks. But you know, it feels pretty good at the moment, so touch wood."
Stenson noted that he has a side bet with Ian Poulter on the outcome of the Race to Dubai, so he's motivated to do well in the European Tour's final two events of 2013. Poulter finished second to American Dustin Johnson in last week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, and is now fourth in the Race to points' race.
"I had a bet with Poulter, when he was quite some ways behind, and he still wants me to pay for the night out if he catches me," Stenson said of his Orlando neighbor.
"So I'm going to try to make sure that doesn't happen. No, it's a tight race, see what happens this week. Most likely it's going to be an open story still in Dubai and I'm looking forward to it. I've got nothing to lose in a sense. I'm leading, but I didn't have anything when the season started so I'll try my best to keep him behind. It's kind of fun to have your neighbors chasing you down."
Here's what else Stenson had to say during his Q&A with reporters.
HENRIK STENSON: This is a first for me, I've never been to Turkey before, neither on vacation or playing golf, so it's a first.
Q. First impressions?
HENRIK STENSON: It kind of reminds me about Spain and Portugal quite a lot, the way the course looks and the trees, and it's a beautiful resort. I had a stroll around the course yesterday and it looks pretty nice. Look forward to the week.
Q. What are your thoughts on the course specifically?
HENRIK STENSON: I thought it was a pretty good mix. Some holes, you've got to putt some length into the shots and there's a couple of shorter par-4s where you can have a bit of fun if you feel like it. I think it's got a good variety of holes.
Q. How does the wrist feel?
HENRIK STENSON: The wrist feels okay. It's been bothering me a bit, especially leading into the BMW tournament two weeks ago, and I had a little bit of a hiccup last Wednesday in the Pro Am. But during play, it's been quite all right. So hopefully by now it should be up and running and obviously affected my preparations leading into these weeks. But you know, it feels pretty good at the moment, so touch wood.
Q. Talk about what you're doing in terms of treatment and how much this has limited your practice?
HENRIK STENSON: It's more monitoring it . . . it gets pretty painful and restricts the movement in the wrist. It's keeping it mobile, some pills every now and again, and quite a lot of icing. So I've kept my hand in the ice bucket for quite some time.
Q. So the result of the MRI specifically, what were they?
HENRIK STENSON: That was fine. There's always going to be some wear and tear over long time golfing, but it wasn't a thing that came on suddenly, so that was the good thing. It wasn't like I hit a shot and just all of a sudden, started feeling a lot of pain in the wrist. So the MRI was kind of just a precaution and make sure it wasn't anything major, major wrong.
Q. So this is the result of a long season and the only thing that's really going to make it better is rest?
HENRIK STENSON: I would have thought so, and a bit of strengthening of the hand and forearm, as well, possibly. But yeah, it's kind of hard to get that rest when you're in the middle of playing a lot of tournaments.
Q. You're in the middle of a seven week stretch, or so was the plan; is that still the plan now?
HENRIK STENSON: That's the plan. This is the third week out, and I'm going to have one week off after the South African Open and then I'm playing another two. So we'll keep at it as long as we can.
Q. You had a final round in Shanghai that was very impressive, so obviously you know that regardless of the wrist situation, you can go low and do enough things, or what it's going to take to win?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I mean, I've had eight rounds now competitive in the last two weeks, and three of them have been really, really good, and it was just the putting the first two days, really the last tournament at the HSBC, I putted poorly the first two days. I was playing good on the weekend, so of course I put one good round together first week, two the second, so hopefully three here and four next week in Dubai.
Q. What's the banter amongst the boys as you guys are going into these last two events?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, I had a bet with Poulter, when he was quite some ways behind, and he still wants me to pay for the night out if he catches me. So I'm going to try to make sure that doesn't happen. No, it's a tight race, see what happens this week. Most likely it's going to be an open story still in Dubai and I'm looking forward to it. I've got nothing to lose in a sense. I'm leading, but I didn't have anything when the season started so I'll try my best to keep him behind. It's kind of fun to have your neighbors chasing you down.
Q. What's the best?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, it was a hundred bucks, and he got 10 to 1, so it's going to be bad for me if he wins.
Q. Tell me the terms of this bet with Ian Poulter?
HENRIK STENSON: We were having a laugh at Lake Nona a couple of weeks ago before heading out to Shanghai. He said, you know what, we have to have a bet, I'm going to chase you down. I said, yeah, I'll try and keep you behind. He was quite some ways behind, so he got 10 to 1 on a hundred bucks for me serving him the drinks on a night out, so I'd better sure he stays behind.
Q. And you're putting some money aside now, are you, because he's catching you up?
HENRIK STENSON: No, I'm not putting any money aside. He's not going to catch me.
Q. And yet, you'll actually see that Race to Dubai order, and you've done pretty well over the last couple of weeks, considering your wrist injury, it's closing up, isn't it?
HENRIK STENSON: Absolutely. I always felt like it was going to be a tight race and someone was going to play well from the guys who were chasing me if I didn't get it going and someone else was. It's kind of working out the way I thought it would do at this point, and now, you know, it's two weeks left and Graeme is not playing this week here but it's going to come down to what happens the last week in Dubai, I'm pretty sure of that. I'm going to try to have a good week in Turkey and so are the other boys. So just keep your head down and play well. I've had enough rounds now to hopefully get going again, and if that wrist is keeping in place, as well, I hope I can have a good tournament.
Q. How is it?
HENRIK STENSON: It's doing quite all right. It just needs a bit of treatment and I'm icing it and just maintaining it and making sure it doesn't go in a bad position. So I haven't been bothered when I've been playing much. It was the Pro Am last week, it kind of flared up a little bit again, but other than that, it's opinion quite all right. I was more to blame my putting the first two rounds in Shanghai last week than the poor wrist. So hopefully we've got all that behind us.
Q. Seemed to have taken you just that little while to get going in Lake Malaren and then at Sheshan, as well, good Sunday in the first one, good weekend in the second?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, so hopefully we can be a bit quicker out of the blocks this week. I put one good round in the first week at the BMW, and two at the HSBC. I don't know if I'm heading into that direction, we're putting three good rounds together here and four in Dubai, so I wouldn't mind that. We'll just try and be a bit quicker out of the blocks and hopefully have another good week.
Q. Are you nicely acclimatized? Have you got over the trip from Shanghai?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, yesterday. I think everyone was a bit blurry. So I had a stroll around the golf course, got a look at that. I'm practicing today a little bit and then playing the Pro Am. So I think by Thursday, everyone should be up and running again.
Q. Having had that stroll, what do you make of it here?
HENRIK STENSON: It's quite interesting. I think it's got a good mix of holes. There's a couple of holes where you need to hit some good, long shots and there's a couple where you can be a bit more aggressive and almost reach the green on a few of the par-4s hopefully give yourself some really good chances for eagle or birdie. But again, fairways and greens and not putting too many times, that always works.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.