ORLANDO, Fla. - Turning the weekly grind into major preparation remains a soft science, even for the Champion Golfer of the Year.
Henrik Stenson broke through last year at Royal Troon, capturing his first major title in record fashion at age 40. This week he enjoys the spoils of a de facto home game at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and while Stenson would love to snag a title that has barely eluded him in recent years, he arrived at Bay Hill with one eye focused on his prep for the upcoming Masters.
"I think you've got to give yourself at least what you believe are the best circumstances and, as always, if you want to play well at a certain time, you've got to put the work and the effort in at an earlier stage," Stenson said. "It's more figuring out when is the right time for you and how much are you going to play and rest in the lead up. But I can never guarantee that I'm going to play well at a certain week and peak at a certain week."
For Stenson, the best plan of action in recent years has been to play the week before. He tied for 13th at the Scottish Open the week before hoisting the claret jug last year, and he traditionally plays the Shell Houston Open the week before the Masters. That's a trend he plans to continue this year, as he'll skip next week's WGC-Dell Match Play Championship before teeing it up in Houston.
"I think that looking at my history, I think it's definitely good for me to play the week before a tournament that I want to play well in," he said. "I'm an analyzing guy, and if I'm coming too much from a practicing perspective, analyzing mode, I don't have enough time to get into playing mode. So that's why as much as I can I try to play the week before one of the big ones, or one that I really want to play well at."