He posted a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday and shares the opening-round lead of the WGC-CA Championship with Robert Allenby after a windy and rainy first day at Doral.
Tiger Woods not only won last year's event at Doral, but also the American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Estate in Ireland.
On Thursday, Woods managed only three birdies and two bogeys en route to a 1-under-par 71. He is tied for 10th place, but had a chance to go lower.
Woods reached 2 under par thanks to a birdie at the par-5 first, his 10th hole on Thursday. He missed a 6 -footer for par at the third, then rattled off six consecutive pars, which was not good considering he had three straight birdie chances from inside 12 feet from the sixth.
At the par-3 ninth, Woods knocked his tee ball to 9 feet. Once again, Woods' ball stayed above ground as his flat stick could not get him any closer than four shots to the lead.
'It's just weird out there,' said Woods. 'I putt a lot by memory and a couple of the putts did the exact opposite of what they used to do.'
The weather was a factor on Thursday as rain fell periodically, but it was the wind that flummoxed players.
'Just go out there and fight your hardest,' said Stenson, who is the fifth-ranked golfer in the world. 'I think a lot of times you have to be smart and miss it in the right places. Don't short-side yourself in these conditions.'
Stenson also began on the back nine Thursday and birdied his second hole. He dropped a shot at the par-3 13th, but reclaimed the lost stroke and more with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15.
He birdied the par-5 opening hole to reach 3 under par for the championship. Stenson bogeyed the third hole, but got back to minus-3 with a 5-foot birdie putt at the fourth.
The Swede parred his next two holes, then closed out his round in impressive fashion. He knocked his approach to 5 feet to set up birdie at the seventh, then made it two in a row thanks to a 14-footer at the par-5 eighth.
A par at the ninth was enough to keep Stenson atop the leaderboard. After his somewhat startling victory last month at the Accenture Match Play Championship, more people are getting to know his name.
'I don't know if they have heard about me or not, but if I keep playing well I guess they will,' said Stenson, who also has a win on the European Tour this year. 'That's what I'm trying to do.'
Allenby also started on the second nine and flew out of the gate with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11. He bogeyed 13, but birdies at 14 and 16 got him to 3-under at the turn.
He reached 4-under at the par-5 first as his second landed in a greenside bunker. Allenby blasted out to tap-in range and took the tournament lead.
Allenby gave himself another tap-in birdie at the fifth, but stumbled down the leaderboard at six. His approach found a bunker and his third came up 10 feet short of the stick. The Aussie missed the par save, but drained a 19-foot birdie putt at eight to join Stenson in the lead.
For the Aussie, the terrible conditions were like home.
'It's hard to control it,' admitted Allenby. 'I just tried to hit three-quarter shots pretty much most of the way in and really stay in control with the shots that I hit.'
Thomas Bjorn carded a 4-under 68 on Thursday and is alone in third place.
Aaron Baddeley, Charles Howell III and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal are tied for fourth place at 3-under-par 69. Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Rod Pampling are knotted in seventh at minus-2.
K.J. Choi, Bart Bryant, Sergio Garcia, Rory Sabbatini and Tom Pernice, Jr. joined Woods in 10th place at minus-1.
Last week's winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Vijay Singh, only managed a 2-over-par 74 and is part of a group tied for 38th place. Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen were even worse on Thursday as they both shot rounds of 5-over-par 77 and are tied for 66th place in the 73-player field.