Open champion Henrik Stenson has hinted that he’ll warm up for his Claret Jug defence by playing in next year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, writes Martin Dempster.
The 40-year-old became the first Swede to win a men’s major as he beat Phil Mickelson in their epic duel at Royal Troon in July after playing the week before in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart for the first time since 2013.
It was the fifth time in the last six years that the Open winner had used the Scottish Open as preparation for the game’s oldest major and, though not at a stage to commit outright at the moment, it seems likely that Stenson will be heading to Ayrshire to prepare for his title defence at Royal Birkdale.
“My schedule hasn’t changed much in the last couple years, and it won’t change in the next couple of years, either, I imagine. It will look very similar. That’s giving you enough,” he told The Scotsman in Dubai after claiming a second European Tour Order of Merit title triumph in four years.
Between them, Stenson and Rory McIlroy have now claimed the last five Race to Dubai battles, with the latter admitting he’s determined to get the crown back in 12 months’ time as he tries to eventually beat Colin Montgomerie’s impressive tally of eight European money-list titles.
“When you see someone do something you’ve done before and haven’t quite achieved this year, of course you want to do it again,” said the 27-year-old after bringing down the curtain on his 2016 campaign with a top-10 finish behind Matthew Fitzpatrick at Jumeirah Golf Estates. “Of course I want to win the Race again, I’ve got a few more years and it would be nice to pass Monty. That will be a nice little target to aim for and hopefully I can get my fourth next year.”
McIlroy said he will be encouraged by seeing a “huge improvement” in his putting when he starts his 2017 campaign in the SAOpen in January. “I’m excited going into next year,” he declared.