European Tour

Stenson aims high for 2014

Henrik Stenson (AFP Photo)
Henrik Stenson (AFP Photo)

Abu Dhabi - World number three Henrik Stenson starts his 2014 season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship from Thursday, hoping to continue his blistering form from last year and make a major push towards displacing Tiger Woods from the top of the world rankings.

The 37-year-old Swede, twice runner-up in the UAE capital and holder of the course record at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club - a 10-under par 62 - is the top-ranked player in the quality field assembled for the $2.7 million European Tour event.

Stenson was the talk of the golfing world last year for his double-double when he won the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai on either side of the Atlantic, and also triumphed in the Tour Championships on both Tours.

Speaking to the media on the eve of the tournament, Stenson said: "I don't know how I can better the last season. Maybe, I don't need to. I am not greedy. I will be happy if I have a similar year.

"No, I think for me, there are two big challenges. One is to try and keep the expectations in check. That kind of run that I had for the last six months there, that's not going to continue forever and ever. We know that much.

"But the most important thing for me is to keep on focusing on my game which is having its challenges at this time.

"The demand on my time is five times higher now than it was six months ago, so it's a lot of things to look after outside the course, which is going to take a little bit of time and focus away from playing and practicing."

Stenson said he is aware he has a good chance of closing the gap on world number one Tiger Woods, mainly because he does not have too many points to lose in the first half of the year.

Asked what he needs to do to overtake Woods, Stenson said: "Well, the simple answer would just to be keep on playing the way I have been playing and I should hopefully challenge for it.

"But I can't put my focus on that. My focus has to be on my game and doing the right things, and hopefully the result will continue to keep coming our way. And if they do, I hope I'll be in with a chance to firstly get to world number two and then to world number one.

"I think it would be a lovely achievement and something to look back at the end of one's career.

"Whether it happens or not, that's written in the future and I can only focus on what I can control, and then we don't know.

"I mean, even if I win three tournaments in the next four weeks, Tiger or Adam might do the same or even better. I can only do my bit and then we'll see."

Despite his recent run of form, Stenson feels he has a lot to improve in his game.

"There are areas that I can improve on, quite a lot in some and a little bit less in others perhaps," he added.

"As we all know, golf is a game where you never get finished. You can always keep on getting better and keep on working.

"I think that's key. The moment you sit down and you're happy where you're at, normally you start going backwards."

Welshman Jamie Donaldson is the defending champion in the tournament that also features world number five Phil Mickelson, number seven Rory McIlroy and number 10 Sergio Garcia.

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