Defending champion aims for the sky

Swede Henrik Stenson during a practice round at Royal Birkdale. He played links golf at the Scottish Open to get ready for the British Open.
Swede Henrik Stenson during a practice round at Royal Birkdale. He played links golf at the Scottish Open to get ready for the British Open.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Henrik Stenson took the Claret Jug jet-skiing with him after winning the British Open last year, but he has something more outlandish in mind if he retains the famous trophy this week.

"I've made an official promise that if I ever win the Claret Jug again, I'm going skydiving with it," the Swede said at Royal Birkdale on Tuesday. "And I don't know which is going to be harder, winning the Claret Jug again or going skydiving afterwards because that thought scares me a little bit."

He has relished the responsibilities of carrying the trophy around the world and he said he was sad to hand it back to the tournament organisers on Monday.

He beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes on a thrilling final day to take the title at Troon in Scotland 12 months ago, ending his long wait to win a Major at the age of 40.

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As long as he does not worry too much about the prospect of throwing himself off a plane, Stenson insists he comes into this week with the pressure off as he prepares to tee off alongside world No. 3 Jordan Spieth and South Korea's Kim Si Woo in the first two rounds.

"Once you win one, obviously that's off your (back). Given how long and successful a career I've had, I think that's pretty much what we're aiming for, a few more chances to win more Major championships," he said.

"I worked hard my whole career to be able to win that championship last year, and I can't really put the pressure on myself that I'm going to win it again.

"It took a lot of chances to win that one, so I'm just going to go out there and do my best, really."

However, Stenson has not been in brilliant form this year, missing the cut at both the Masters and the US Open. He finished tied 26th at last weekend's Scottish Open at Dundonald Links.

But he said the European Tour event will serve him well for his title defence on one of the great links layouts.

"I think for me it's crucial, both to play the week before the Major is ideal for me, and also playing links because you just get in kind of that mindset of where you're going to land the ball and playing the three-quarter shots in the crosswinds," he said.

"It is a bit of a different game. It will be like coming from clay going into Wimbledon; you wouldn't do that. It's certainly a benefit to play the week before, when that's possible."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'Defending champion aims for the sky'. Print Edition | Subscribe