British Open champ Stenson savors final days with claret jug
IRVINE, Scotland (AP) Henrik Stenson is back in the west of Scotland and preparing to hand over his baby.
The Swedish golfer is playing the Scottish Open this week at Dundonald Links, which is a 6-mile (10-kilometer) drive up the west coast from Royal Troon, where he won the British Open last year for his first major title.
He'll be giving up the claret jug on Monday ahead of the start of his Open defense at Royal Birkdale three days later.
''When you have kids, your life changes and it's like you can't believe what you did with all the time you had before you had children,'' Stenson said.
''It's a little bit the same (being a major champion). I don't know what I did with my time before I had the claret jug in my possession. And I kind of treat it like my baby, as well.''
Being the champion golfer of the year has made the already-popular Stenson even hotter property. The past 12 months have been the busiest year of his career, having been inundated with media and sponsorship demands as well as autograph and photo requests from golf fans. The claret jug is often by his side, even on a jet-ski at home in Orlando.
''I've been pretty good at saying no (to demands for his time), but you've still got to do a lot of things, and I'm sure that impacts your focus on your game to a degree,'' said Stenson, who hasn't won a tournament since shooting a 63 at Troon in that memorable final-round duel with Phil Mickelson.
''In this game, you've got to be in the moment and you've got to be focused on where you're at now and looking forward. And you're constantly talking about what happened six months, nine months, 12 months ago; so it's easy to be a little stuck in the past. I think it's going to be a bit of turning the page next week when I have to return the claret jug.''
Stenson actually returned to Troon two months ago for some promotional activity for the 2017 British Open. The course was empty, the Open scoreboards and stands had long been dismantled and taken away.
The memories were still vivid, though.
''I was out on No. 15 and copying the putt that I made there - straight out of a plane, I almost made it from 51 feet,'' he said with a smile.
Stenson occasionally watches the tape of his Open victory to get some inspiration for his game and he plans to do that this week.
The 41-year-old Stenson doesn't think his game is too far off and playing hopefully four rounds over a links course is ideal preparation for Birkdale, where he is looking to emulate Padraig Harrington, in 2008, in retaining the claret jug there.
Back in his golf bag is his 2-iron, which he saves for use on the links.
''I haven't played my best golf this year,'' Stenson said. ''I've been quite busy off the course, and I'm sure that's impacted the performances to a degree. But at the same time, I don't feel like it's miles away.
''So we're just trying to tidy up the loose ends a little bit and get going in the right direction. This week could be a very good week to do that.''
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80