DORAL, Fla. – Henrik Stenson hit the shot heard around the world in the first round of the WGC-CA Championship at Doral last year.
Actually, it was the shot shown around the world.
Rarely has such a meaningless shot revealed more about a man.
Few folks remember Stenson’s actual play, his slapping a 7-iron some 30 yards out of the muddy shoreline along the third fairway of the Blue Monster. Few who saw it will forget his striptease down to his boxer briefs to hit the shot from ankle-deep muck. He made more than bogey on his way to finishing next to last (tie for 77th). He made fans around the world.
Stenson, 33, a two-time PGA Tour winner from Sweden with eight international titles, took time out before the WGC-CA Championship for a Quick Round . . .
Welcome back to Doral, which begs the question, have you hit any shots in your underwear lately?
Maybe a few practice swings in the hotel room, but there have been no public appearances in my underwear.
Golfers choose their clothes so carefully. Do you now think about the underwear you pick out in the morning, just in case?
No. Unless you’re wearing a white pair of pants, then you do. You don’t want to be wearing black underwear with white pants.
How much do people still remember you for that almost naked moment?
To 95 percent of the fans, it was a positive thing. I know I’ve had fun with it. I’ve had to sign that picture more than once.
Ninety-five percent? What about the other 5 percent? Was there any backlash, any great aunt or something lecturing you?
No, there was little bit, but nobody close to me. You have to have fun in life. It’s not like I did something horrendous, at least I hope not.
Did you get fined or reprimanded by the PGA Tour?
No. I wasn’t a member of the PGA Tour, so I don’t know if they were able to fine me.
You’ve won some big events against impressive fields, the Accenture Match Play Championship and Dubai Desert Classic three years ago, the Players Championship last year. Do you believe you’re prepared to win a major championship?
I’ve been improving in the majors the last couple years. I’ve been up in contention a few times. I’ve had some really good finishes with a third at the (British) Open two years ago, a tie for sixth at the PGA Championship last year and tie for fourth two years ago. I feel like after winning The Players, beating the best players in the world on a tough Sunday afternoon, I feel like if I could do it there, I don’t see why I can’t win a major.
Which major fits you best?
I’ve improved every year at Augusta National. This is my fifth year in the Masters coming up. I’m getting more comfortable there every year. I feel like my chances should improve there as time goes on.
What’s the most important shot you’ve ever hit?
One that stands out is the year I won the Accenture Match Play. It was the (quarterfinals). I played Nick O’Hern. I won 16 and lost 17 and we were all square coming up to the 18th. I hit it in the bushes on the left. He hit it in decent position, and I had to take a penalty drop and then I stiffed a wedge to about 2½ feet. He couldn’t get up and down, and I made the putt to win the hole with a penalty and went on to win the tournament. There was a similar moment that stands out when I won my first European Tour event at The Belfry (in 2001). I made a double coming up the ninth the last round, went for the green at 10 and chipped in for eagle and went on to win. There are always a couple key breaks that help you along your way and those are two of them.
What one shot in your career would you most like to play over again?
Can’t think of one shot, but there’s one round I would like over again. It was the last round at Dubai in ’08. I was the defending champion, one behind Ernie Els the last day. I had a great chance to win it and just couldn’t pull it off. I played poorly on my home course in Dubai. I would like that over.