Henrik Stenson off to impressive start in US PGA

Open champion Henrik Stenson is just two shots off the lead in the US PGA. Picture: Getty Images

Open champion Henrik Stenson is just two shots off the lead in the US PGA. Picture: Getty Images

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Open champion Henrik Stenson set his sights on claiming back-to-back major titles after making an impressive start to the US PGA Championship.

Just 11 days after lifting the Claret Jug with a record-breaking performance at Royal Troon, Stenson carded an opening 67 at Baltusrol to lie two shots off the lead held by American Jimmy Walker.

“It’s going to be a great season for me, but at the same time I want to give myself a chance to try to make it the best season,” Stenson said after outscoring playing partners and fellow 2016 major winners Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson by four and 10 shots respectively.

“I still want to focus and get back into it. With more time (between events) it would have made it easier to recharge, but at the same time I feel I can carry that momentum I had at the Open Championship and I guess the start shows that we’re not too far away when we teed it up again.

“I’m happy with the day’s work and it’s another two and a half days to try and be in position on Sunday afternoon, which is what it’s all about.

“I feel like I’m pretty clear on what I need to do with my game, with my swing and everything. And then the challenge this week was to be back in there mentally and focused - and on one or two occasions I think I slipped and I probably paid the price.

“But I think the most important thing is what you do afterwards and I felt like I gave myself a little kick in the butt after missing that short putt on nine - and I was better committing on my lines from there on.”

Meanwhile, Martin Kaymer insists he is not placing pressure on himself to make a fourth straight Ryder Cup appearance after putting the result before his ego.

The German secured the point which retained the trophy in 2012 after the Miracle at Medinah and was also on the winning European teams in 2010 and 2014.

But the former world No 1 and two-time major winner is relaxed about making Darren Clarke’s team for Hazeltine in September, despite starting the week 15th in the qualifying race.

“Of course I would like to be there but it doesn’t affect me in a negative way,” Kaymer said after an opening 66 in the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol left him a shot off the lead.

“2008 was the first time that I had a realistic chance to make the team and every single day I played a tournament I was just thinking about points and comparing myself to other players who I was fighting with to get that final spot.

“Now I’m very relaxed about it because I know since 2012, since I made that putt, deep down I know it’s a team effort. If I’m good enough to contribute something to the team, to make a win or to help it win, great. If somebody else would be better, then he should play. It’s not about me.

“This week is about me, and all the other weeks. But the Ryder Cup is more about the 12 players. And I don’t want to make myself too important, you know. If I make it, I hope I can win and I can help the team. If not, I’m not good enough; somebody else is better.”

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