DUBAI // The lure of a return to familiar surroundings was enough to convince Henrik Stenson last week to make a painstaking journey across the globe, and he justified his dedication yesterday at the Earth Course.
Stenson, a Dubai resident until his move to America in February, was in danger of missing out on the DP World Tour Championship for a second time in two years as he sat 59th in the Race to Dubai - just one place inside the tournament's cut line.
However, early last week the seven-time winner on the European Tour decided to dash from his new home in Orlando, Florida, to contest the South African Open Championship, an event he eventually won by three shots.
"Making Dubai was the main reason I decided to ask for a late invite to South Africa and jump on a plane and travel 30 hours across the world," said Stenson following an opening four-under par 68 around Jumeirah Golf Estates. "I got delayed, got in on Tuesday night and had only a quick practice session and just saw the course. But it was absolutely worth it."
With his victory in South Africa, Stenson ended a three-year period without a title, an amazing run of poor results considering he was once ranked No 5 in the world.
A terrible 2011 campaign saw the 36 year old tumble out of the top 200, but a steady end to this season - he finished in the top six at both the KLM Open and Portugal Masters - prompted a considerable climb. Last week's win ensured he currently resides at No 71.
"It's obviously great and been a long wait for that win, and even though I've improved through the back end of the season, I've had some nice top 10s in Europe and played solid in America," said Stenson, now 45th in the Race to Dubai.
"I can really take a lot of positives out of this year. Still, you want to be up there fighting for trophies and it was a great feeling getting one after that long.
"This far down the line in my career, you judge every season on wins. So it makes this year feel like a really good one.
"Not only because of the win, but also feeling like I'm heading back in the right direction and improving my game.
"I'm just going to dig in to try and finish off with a good tournament here."