Defending champ Stenson struggles to opening 77

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Henrik Stenson's bid for a third straight victory at the DP World Tour Championship is likely over after the opening round.

Stenson has earned season-ending wins in Dubai each of the last two years, but the Swede began his latest title defense with a 5-over 77 at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The score left him tied for last among in 60-man field and more than 10 shots higher than his average score on the Earth Course over the past two years.

Stenson's lone birdie came on the par-3 sixth, and his round was derailed on Nos. 15-17, where he sandwiched a pair of bogeys around a triple-bogey 7 on the 16th. He now sits 11 shots behind a quartet of co-leaders that includes Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer.


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Stenson's opening-round result is even more surprising considering he had been playing well of late, following a T-11 finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions with a T-3 finish last week at the BMW Masters in China.

Stenson is in the midst of a busy close to his season that includes a stop at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and an appearance next month at the Hero World Challenge. The 39-year-old is playing with a nagging right knee injury and is headed for a surgery he termed a "meniscus cleanup" next month.

"It's been kind of going in the wrong direction but it's not been that bad, either," Stenson said Tuesday. "I'm definitely still playable, but I want to do it as a bit of a precaution before next year. Rather clean it up now in the off-season and get some rehab done than to have to take some breaks in the middle of the season if it goes bad."