— Sports

Column: Another long road back for slumping Henrik Stenson

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) – The tee markers at the Valspar Championship were paint cans, except they were filled with sand. This would have been helpful information for Henrik Stenson, known to vent his frustrations on inanimate objects.
That was never going to be an issue at Innisbrook.

Sure, the frustration level is high. Five years removed from his summer of silver – a claret jug at Royal Troon, an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro – the Swede has not finished in the top 20 in the 23 individual tournaments he has played worldwide since ending 2019 with a victory in the Bahamas.

He knows he’s not playing well. His temper is more likely to flare when he is.

Stenson smiled wryly when he walked off the Copperhead course on Saturday after a 72 and said with dry humor, “You want to talk after seeing signs of greatness?”

At least he was still playing on the weekend. He had missed six straight cuts until a tie for 38th in the Masters, and then he played all four rounds at the Valspar Championship. Any progress is welcome.

Stenson headed home to Orlando for two weeks of what he called “training camp.” His swing coach, Pete Cowen, who already has helped him emerge from two previous slumps in his career, will be at his side. His sports psychologist is coming in the second week. His putting coach, Phil Kenyon, is still stuck in the U.K.

“I’m going to have some peace to work things through and set it off in the right direction,” Stenson said. “It’s a little better, but nowhere near where I need to be regarding striking and confidence. We haven’t done the right things over time, and then you end up in a place where you compensate for compensations. After a while, you don’t know what’s up and down.

“We’ve got work ahead of us.”

The world ranking is way down. Stenson reached as high as No. 2 in the world in 2014, the year after he captured the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same season. Now he is at No. 124. He will return for the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in two weeks before a four-week stretch that takes him from Texas to Germany to Sweden to San Diego, ending with the U.S. Open.

This is the last year he is exempt from the U.S. majors from his epic duel with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon, where Stenson set the major championship scoring record at 264.

This is not the first time Stenson has had to pull himself out of the depths.

He made only eight cuts in 26 straight events in 2002-03 that plunged him to No. 621 worldwide. He holed the clinching putt three years later at the Ryder Cup in Ireland. Stenson reached No. 5 globally before going through another lousy spell not long after winning The Players Championship in 2009. This time, he fell as low as No. 230 before climbing again.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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