x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Stenson wants to strike well on farewell

The Swede, who has called the UAE home for the past seven years, is hoping to sign off in style at the Dubai Desert Classic ahead of his relocation to the United States.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden chips during the pro-am at the Majilis Course in Dubai.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden chips during the pro-am at the Majilis Course in Dubai.

DUBAI // Florida-bound Henrik Stenson, the Swede who has called the UAE home for the past seven years, is hoping to sign off in style this week at the Dubai Desert Classic ahead of his relocation to the United States later this month. The 33-year-old father of one has opted to shift his home base after committing to the USPGA Tour for 2010. Stenson aims to play a minimum of 15 American tournaments, as well as at least 12 European Tour events, the prerequisite to remain eligible for the year-long Race to Dubai.

Stenson has endured a difficult start to his European Tour season, finishing tied for 24th in Abu Dhabi before shooting a seven-over par total in Doha to tie for 64th. But having since got to grips with a new set of V-grooved wedges and found a driver that suits his swing, he is hoping to please his "home" crowd and dominate in Dubai. He did exactly that on Tuesday night as he and partner Miguel Angel Jimenez won the pre-tournament challenge match, shooting five-under par 22.

"It's a week I always look forward to; playing a home course in good shape," the world No 10 said yesterday. "It's a very strong field and it is going to take a lot of good playing to beat these guys, so it's a challenge. "I feel like my game is coming together. I've had a good two days with some testing of equipment - this change over of grooves kind of left me out a bit due to a few circumstances - but [on Tuesday] I felt I nailed it with the wedges, found the right ones. "

The six-time winner on the European Tour also admits he has not been hitting his new driver as well as he would like - a situation that at times has led to him sacrificing length for accuracy through the use of a three-wood. And while he insists he did not need his driver too often when he triumphed at the Emirates Golf Club three years ago, he fully expects to opt for length this week wherever possible.

"I want to show the power. I've been off the striking for quite some time and your confidence goes a bit low," he said. "If I want to win the big championships, I've got to have a strong driver in the bag. I feel like I'm improving, getting some confidence back and I hit it good on the weekend in Abu Dhabi and hit it reasonably well in Qatar a lot of times last week. "I don't think I hit that many drivers around the Majlis Course when I won in 2007, but I can 100 per cent guarantee you that there will be a few drivers out there."

Before heading to America, Stenson gets his final Middle East tournament under way today alongside the European No 1, Lee Westwood, and the world No 40, Oliver Wilson. The reigning champion, Rory McIlroy, tees off later in the day with Jimenez and the Pablo Martin. @Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae