AKRON, Ohio – Making the turn at Firestone Country Club in 3-under 32, Henrik Stenson was forced to make an unusual stop behind the ninth green to make a shoe change before continuing his opening round.
“I felt I had a blister coming along, so I was asking if somebody could bring my old pair out,” explained Stenson, who began his round Thursday with a birdie on the first hole and an eagle on the par-5 second. “It would have been a pain to continue with the same pair, so it was a good switch.”
The Swede showed no signs of his footwear affecting his play in the opening round, as he carded three birdies and an eagle without dropping a shot at the South Course. It’s a continuation of good form that Stenson displayed in Scotland, having tied for third at the Scottish Open before a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson at Muirfield.
“It’s been coming along nicely,” noted Stenson, who now ranks 19th in the world, a rise of more than 100 spots from where he stood a year ago. “I was playing better today than I was the previous two weeks in Scotland.”
One shot behind leader Webb Simpson upon conclusion of his first round, Stenson’s current standing is a far cry from his most recent visit to Firestone in 2010, when he finished last among the 80-man field, 32 shots behind winner Hunter Mahan.
“I saved Tiger from being last, didn’t I?” said Stenson, who finished two shots behind Woods in 2010. “That one was a bit of a write-off … I was in bed with a high fever and stuff for a week back home, and then I traveled over. I was coughing, the whole range was turning around every time I was coughing.
“Lesson learned,” he added. “If you’re that bad, you shouldn’t play golf.”
After nearly falling off the proverbial map in 2011, Stenson is relishing an opportunity to once again contend with the best players in the world within the settings of a WGC event.
“It’s been some hard work and a couple of changes,” he noted. “Golf is certainly a lot more fun when you feel like you’re in control of how you’re playing than when you’re out there struggling for par.”