AUGUSTA, Ga. — Henrik Stenson’s dry Swedish wit was on full display Tuesday as he talked about his quest for a Masters Tournament title this week – and the world No. 1 ranking that would go with it.
The third-ranked Stenson, who would become No. 1 if he finishes tied for second with no more than one player, had this answer to the possibility of becoming the first Swede to win a men’s major championship:
“Oh, no one has?” he asked.
On not getting much love from the bookies despite being considered a favorite to win here this year:
“I saw when I had breakfast, 25 to 1, it said.”
Was he disappointed the odds weren’t lower?
“Massively,” he said after a pause.
Stenson hasn’t been in contention in his eight previous appearances at Augusta National Golf Club, where his best finish is a tie for 17th. Asked whether he was surprised about his record, he said no, “because I know what I’ve done the last eight years,” he joked.
What he hasn’t done is putt well on the slick Augusta National greens.
“But that doesn’t matter, because you don’t need to putt well around Augusta, right?” Stenson said jokingly.
Later, he said it was difficult to get ready for the undulations and speed of the greens until you get here.
“It’s a tough putting week and there is no easy way to prepare for it, either,” he said. “I don’t know if you should drill a hole in your wooden floor to simulate it. It’s not easy to recreate them when we’re not here.”
It was patience and a belief in a long-term process that helped Stenson out the abyss of 2011, where his world ranking dipped to 222nd. Last year, he dominated play on both sides of the Atlantic, winning the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai money list.
He plans to rely on that same patience this week.
“I want to just go out there and try and play solid and keep patient for three, 3½ days, and hopefully have a chance on the back nine,” the 38-year-old said.
“If you’re up on that leaderboard on Sunday afternoon, you’re always in with a chance,” he added. “A lot of things can happen over those last nine holes, we’ve seen that over the years. So if I can be there or thereabouts, and if I can be there, I’ll be happy, win or lose, I’ll be happy if I give myself an opportunity to do well here this week.”
The possibility of being No. 1 at week’s end with a second-place finish doesn’t excite Stenson.
“I’m more concerned about winning tournaments than setting new records for myself on the rankings,” he said. “But of course, when I pack up the clubs one day, to have been ranked No. 1 in the world at some point, I guess it has a nice tone to it. So I could live with that.”
He’s been in contention to win majors, just not at Augusta.
“That’s kind of the one thing missing on my record,” he said. “I had two good chances last year at the Open Championship (second place) and the U.S. PGA (third), so if I can put myself in the mix again, then, you know, sooner or later, you’ll get one of these.”