“I’m not afraid of mosquitoes,” he said of the Zika virus concerns, “I’m more afraid of bears!” Stenson later admitted that gummy bears and not the grizzly variety had been the only ones he’d actually encountered, but he’s ready to get his claws into golf’s return to the Olympics after a gap of 112 years. “I’ve been looking forward to playing in Rio for quite some time,” he declared. As a father of three, Stenson, of course, is in a different position to either Jason Day or Rory McIlroy in terms of a family and reckons Rio could be his big chance to strike gold. “It might be the only time when it’s a competitive advantage to be 40-plus and done with the bambino thing,” he said.
Stenson, the highest-ranked player in this week’s field, used the last Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2013 – when he finished third behind Phil Mickelson before being runner-up to the same player a week later in the Open at Muirfield – to spark a run of form that saw him win both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai later that year. “It was definitely the start of a fantastic run, the best run I’ve had in my career,” reflected the recent BMW International Open winner.
Asked by The Scotsman if, when he’d come to the Inverness venue three years ago, he’d needed that performance to restore some lost confidence after plumetting down the world rankings, he replied, smiling: “I know you’re Scottish. I know what you want me to say. All the success I had in ’13 was down to me playing well here and I owe it all to my Scottish fans and I’m looking forward to seeing them again this week.”