Henrik Stenson hoping victory at Troon opens the floodgates
A WEEK after worrying about his diminishing opportunities to win a major title, Henrik Stenson hopes his stunning Open triumph can open the floodgates in the game's biggest events.
Since finishing third in the 2014 US PGA Championship, Stenson admitted he had not been a factor in the next six majors, culminating in withdrawing from last month's US Open after playing 16 holes of his second round in 10 over par. The 40-year-old cited "minor neck and knee issues" and duly returned to action five days later in the BMW International Open to claim his first win since November 2014 after 13 top-four finishes without success.
"In the last 15-18 months I had a lot of great opportunities," said Stenson, who did not have long to celebrate lifting the Claret Jug before flying to Switzerland early on Monday morning to take part in Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia's charity event.
"I didn't finish the job the way I wanted and on a few of them it was a couple of youngsters from America [Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler], who did some good stuff and denied me the wins in particular in '15. So the win in Germany a couple of weeks ago was huge to get one over the finish line. You feel the pressure coming in and with not having won for a while, that always kind of builds up. It was great to get that win there."
That victory gave Stenson the confidence to believe the Open was "his turn" to win a major after seven previous top-four finishes, although he was careful not to make such a statement in public. Instead, the new world number five let his clubs do the talking with rounds of 68, 65, 68 and a stunning 63 on Sunday which helped break or equal all kinds of records - not to mention Phil Mickelson's heart.
"We're only just getting started, aren't we?" Stenson added after becoming only the second player to finish a major in 20 under par.
"You never know once you open the floodgates what might happen. We've got a big schedule this summer. It's the PGA in a week's time [at Baltusrol] and then the Olympics. I was going to have a nice couple of relaxed days back home with the family, but it's all good things that will happen. And of course I'm going to be out there trying my hardest in a week's time at the PGA."
Stenson was competing in just his third major championship - and first in America - the last time Baltusrol staged the US PGA in 2005, when a certain Phil Mickelson birdied the 72nd hole to win. After winning three times on the Challenge Tour in 2000, including the Grand Final in Cuba, Stenson won his first European Tour title the following year but then went through the first of two career slumps, the second coming in 2011 and leaving him 230th in the world rankings at the start of 2012.
Add in the loss of millions of dollars in disgraced financier Allen Stanford's Ponzi scheme in 2009, as well as some serious health problems - including one caused by a parasite picked up on holiday - and Stenson's recovery is all the more remarkable. In 2013 he followed a share of third place behind Mickelson in the Scottish Open by finishing runner-up to the left-hander in the Open at Muirfield, before also coming second in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, third at the US PGA Championship and winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship.
The last of those wins also secured the overall FedEx Cup title and a bonus of $10million, while victory in the DP World Tour Championship in November made him the first player to win the FedEx Cup and the European Tour's Race to Dubai in the same season.
"The second slump in my career was nothing compared to the one I had in the early 2000s," he added.
"I managed to put my game together with a lot of hard work and a lot of help from my team and support from my family and friends and everyone else. If I didn't believe I wouldn't be sitting here. It's a dream come true."