By Ed Osmond
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – Henrik Stenson has rarely featured on the leaderboard in 11 trips to the U.S. Masters, a tournament he loves to play in but which is by far his least successful major.
The Swedish world number five, however, will begin his Augusta challenge on Thursday as the British Open champion after claiming his first major title in spectacular style at Troon last July.
“I don’t know if there ever was a big monkey on my back, but it’s of course nice to be a major champion,” the 41-year-old Stenson told reporters.
“In the long run, it was all about making it happen and, of course I feel very happy that I did make it happen last year. Now we can look ahead and try and give the Claret Jug some company.”
Stenson has finished top-25 in his past four Augusta appearances, with a tie for 14th in 2014 his best result.
“I have to change something around; it’s the least successful major for me out of the four. I’m working hard on trying to make that turnaround.”
Stenson has thought long and hard about the reasons for his struggles at Augusta.
“There’s a few things that I hope to be able to do better,” he said.
“I need to be a little bit more aggressive off the tee on a couple of the holes. I’m not normally someone who shapes the ball a lot and on a couple of the holes, it really makes a difference if you can try and get it a bit farther down there.”
Stenson, the first Scandinavian man to win a major, missed the cut in his last two PGA tournaments.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into the prep work this year,” he said.
“Probably as much as ever. I guess that the previous couple of tournaments, I just haven’t performed the way I would have liked to, which is negative in terms of building some momentum and confidence out on the golf course.”
Stenson won the British Open after shooting a sparkling 63 in a thrilling final-round duel with three-times Masters champion Phil Mickelson and he admitted that the Claret Jug was the major trophy he coveted the most.
“Being European, being the Open Championship being some of the first golf that I watched on television when I was a young kid and with the history that comes with that, of course that would maybe just be a little bit closer to my heart than any other one,” he said.
(Editing by Andrew Both)