Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia out to show young guns at Omega Dubai Desert Classic the value of experience
'The golf course doesn't know if you're 20, 30 or 40 when you're teeing it up,' insists the 43-year-old Swede ahead of Thursday's tee-off
After Lee Westwood struck a blow for golf’s older guard by winning in Abu Dhabi last week, a few months shy of his 47th birthday, the list of people offering him congratulations was a showbiz one.
Golfing royalty like Gary Player and Greg Norman sent messages of praise. From football, Gary Lineker sent his best wishes via Twitter.
Westwood said that even Ronan Keating and Robbie Williams had been in touch. Popular musicians, most people would know them as. Or “Dad Music”, to others.
The march of time waits for no-one. It seems remarkable to those who remember the glorious youth of the likes of Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia that they are now regarded among the Tour’s more mature members.
Maybe no more so than the fact it is over 22 years now since Williams charted with Angels, but remarkable nonetheless.
When the Omega Dubai Desert Classic starts on Thursday, it will include a 15-year old – Josh Hill – who is making his second Tour appearance in two weeks.
There will be an 18-year old playing, too, while the two most recent winners at the Majlis were aged 25 – Bryson DeChambeau last year – and 22 – Li Haotong in 2018.
Stenson, who will open his Classic campaign at 8am on Thursday in a match with Westwood and DeChambeau, says there is plenty of life yet in golf’s Forty Club yet.
“The golf course doesn't know if you're 20, 30 or 40 when you're teeing it up,” Stenson, 43, said.
“It's all about bringing as good of a game as you can do. We know experience is a good part in this game to have, and to have played it in different conditions over the years and different courses.
“At times, we can't really compete with the longest players in the game, but we can compete with other factors.
“That's something we try to do as well as we can, and we certainly keep the dreams alive of winning golf tournaments.”
Stenson does not have definitive answer to the secret of longevity in golf, but suggests “it’s possibly down to swing”.
“If your swing is not taking too much toll on your body and not wearing your back down too much, you probably can keep it going,” said Stenson, who won the Classic in 2007.
“I've spent a lot of time on the physical side the last ten years to try and buy myself some extra time, and for recovery and practice.
“I guess both Lee and myself, we've been solid ball-strikers, and if you have a good foundation to fall back on, you can be out here a long time.”
Many golf fans remember Garcia as a teenage whiz-kid set to take the sport by storm. Now consider the fact he turned 40 at the start of this month.
“First of all, we believe in ourselves,” Garcia said of remaining competitive amid the glut of bright young players. “We believe that we're good enough. I feel like we show it pretty much week-in, week-out.
“It gets tougher every year because there's a lot of good youngsters coming out both in Europe and on the PGA Tour.
“But we can still go out there and perform well. We are competitors and we love to compete and challenge ourselves, and that's what we try to do.”
Garcia, who was the winner at Emirates Golf Club in 2017, said he still feels the thrill of competition after all this time on tour.
“You get a little bit nervous here and there, which is great,” said Garcia, who will start at 8.20am in a match with 2016 winner Danny Willett, and Shane Lowry.
“Those are the reasons you put the hours in and you work for and try to get better every time.
“We know it's not easy as you keep adding on numbers to your ID, but we go out there and we practice hard, and we try to stay fit and play the best we can.”
Updated: January 22, 2020 04:34 PM