Henrik Stenson, the 2016 winner, is set to take his place in the field for this week’s Open Championship and believes the Carnoustie event could provide one of his best chances to claim a second major title.
The Swede pulled out of last week’s Scottish Open at Gullane with an elbow problem and would probably be giving himself more time to recover from that if he didn’t have the season’s major on the agenda this week.
“If this had been a regular Tour event, I would certainly have debated whether to play as my arm is still not 100 per cent, but I’m obviously hopeful that I’ll play and be able to compete at a decent level,” he said.
Stenson, pictured, beat Phil Mickelson in a titanic two-day battle at Royal Troon two years ago to get his hands on the Claret Jug, becoming the first Scandinavian to win a men’s major. He tied for 11th as defending champion at Royal Birkdale 12 months ago and is feeling quietly confident about this week despite being denied the links test he’d been hoping for last week.
“I haven’t had the preparation, although sometimes that can be good because it lowers your expectations,” he said. “I’ve worked on my putting, worked on my short game, so I’ve still done some stuff. I played 18 in Sweden on Saturday and, yesterday morning just before we flew over here,
“If I felt there was any risk of further injury or making it worse, I wouldn’t take any chances. I hope it gets better over time and I improve here this week. Sometimes these things happen and you just do the best you can.
“I still feel like this is a good golf course for me because it’s got some long second shots, it’s pretty tough. And I’ve played in the Dunhill Links for maybe ten years, played in The Open here in ’07, so I’ve got a lot of rounds around Carnoustie. I should be able to formalise a plan, while practising but not overdoing it. Winning something as big as The Open can happen at different times. For me, it was quite late in my career and I’d had a lot of nice wins and success before. So it was the icing on the cake for me, the realisation of a career-long dream to hold the Claret Jug.
“After doing that, you just want to give yourself a few more good chances in the majors. I’ve had a fifth and a sixth in the first two majors this year [The Masters and US Open], giving myself at least an outside chance to be there.
“Expectations are not very high this week. But I still feel like I can compete. I would love to get another couple of chances to win another major. And this week could be one of them, definitely.”