Henrik Stenson still chasing major success

AFP| Updated: Jul 15, 2015, 20:04 PM IST
Henrik Stenson still chasing major success

Former world number two Henrik Stenson gets another crack at becoming the first Swedish male golfer to win a major when he takes to the Old Course on Thursday in the 144th Open Championship. 

The lanky 39-year-old from Gothenburg has flirted with Grand Slam success on several occasions, notably in 2013 when he finished runner-up to American Phil Mickelson after briefly holding the lead for a few holes during the final round. 

Mickelson`s four birdie finish was too much for the nine-time EPGA winner as he finished three strokes adrift of the popular left-hander from San Diego. 

But as steady rain fell on the eve of the hugely anticipated tee-off in less than 24 hours, Stenson summed up the significence of his task. 

"It would be huge, of course. We`ve (Swedish golfers) come close a number of times. I think we`ve got -- I don`t know if we`ve got four or five second, runner-up finishes in Open Championships and a bunch of other close, good results," said the affable Stenson in reference to close misses such as Jesper Parnevik who threw away the 1994 Open with a bogey at the 18th to hand victory to Zimbabwean Nick Price. 

Where the men have failed, Swedish women have flourished with Liselotte Neumann winning the 1987 US Open while Helen Alfredsson followed her with victory at the 1993 Kraft Nabisco.

That was all before the emergence of Annika Sorenstam who dominated the women`s game until her retirement in 2008, won ten majors and spent long spells of her career as world number one

Anders Forsbrand, Ove Sellberg and Magnus Persson were other Swedish men in the 1980`s who came agonisingly close, but Stenson has emerged as their latest candidate bidding to end the country`s barren spell. 

"I would be very happy if I could win a major championship at some point, whether I`m the first Swede to do it, that`s less important for me. 

"I`m trying to make it happen for myself, that would be key. It would have a big impact back home and for Swedish golf, no two ways about it. 

"And yeah, as a kid growing up, when I started following golf, it was the Ryder Cup and The Open Championship that I was watching, so yeah, this probably holds a little bit higher place in some of the golfing Europeans` hearts. 

Stenson says time may be running out in a bid to cap his career with that elusive major having also come close in 2013 and 2014 with third place finishes at the PGA Championship while fourth place in 2014 was his best result at the US Open. 

"I should have another four, five years at the top of my game, I hope, unless I manage to win this thing, then you`re never guaranteed to be in them in the future. 

"It would be the icing on the cake, no question (to win a major). 

"I still think I will go to sleep, I think, fairly happy even if it didn`t happen, it`s a bonus, and I`m trying hard to make it happen.