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“I’m very excited about it,” said Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson in January 2016. “I haven’t been to an Olympic Games, so to make it my first one as a participant, I’m thinking it’s going to be a lot of great experiences. And then if I can play well and do myself and my country proud, that would be awesome, too.
“But I guess if I had to choose, I might take a major championship by a couple of percent. But if I win the gold medal, I might tell you differently.”
The 40-year-old does not have to ponder that question any more, having just become the first golfer from his country to win one of the game’s four majors. He did it in some style too, posting a British Open-record of 20 under par to edge out the USA’s Phil Mickelson in an epic final-round duel at Royal Troon (SCO) last Sunday.
Stenson’s 20-under total also equalled the record in a major, while his overall 72-hole score of 264 is another major record and his final round of 63 equalled the lowest ever to win a major. Littered with birdies and stunning shots, his last-day performance was put into full perspective by the vanquished Mickelson, who finished three shots adrift at the end of a two-way battle that gripped the Troon galleries: “I played a bogey-free round of 65 on the final round of a major. Usually that’s enough to do it, and I got beat.”
“Wow, this will take a little while to sink in,” said the Swede on lifting the famous Claret Jug, not that he will have much time to reflect on his achievement in the weeks to come. At the end of this month comes the fourth and final major of the year, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club, New Jersey, which will be followed very shortly afterwards by the Olympic golf tournament at Rio 2016.
Contemplating his hectic schedule, Stenson said: “When you’re coming off a fresh win you’re always eager to get back out there and do it again. I’ve got another opportunity in two weeks in the last major of the year in the US and then we’ve got the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. There’s a lot of golf to be played and I going to try to get another one as soon as I can.”
Looking ahead to the Olympic event, which will be held on 11-14 August at the superb Olympic golf course at Reserva de Marapendi, the Swedish star said: “I’m just happy to be part of it. It’s going to be quite an experience. I hope that I can perform well and hopefully get one of the medals, and hopefully the best one to bring home. I think it’d be pretty cool to have that next to some of the other nice trophies I’ve managed to win.
Revealing his accommodation plans for Rio, he said: “I’m going to be there for the Opening Ceremony, and I will be in the Village for part of the stay for sure. I haven’t quite decided exactly how my ten days are going to work out, but I’ve got my wife and family coming as well, so we will see how we are going to work it out.”
Ranked fifth in the world, Stenson lies second in the IGF Olympic Rankings behind the USA’s Bubba Watson, who is thrilled at the prospect of competing in Rio: “For me, it’s an amazing sporting event that I get to be inside the ropes at. I get to see some of the athletes I’ve always wanted to see. I get to go to some of the events I’ve always wanted to watch and then I get to play in it.”
Buoyed by his Troon exploits, Stenson is similarly excited about his Rio adventure and will start as one of the favourites to win golf’s first Olympic title in 112 years.