Column: Another long road back for slumping Henrik Stenson

PALM HARBOR, Florida (AP) - The tee marks at the Valspar Championship were paint cans, except they were filled with sand. This would have been useful information to Henrik Stenson, who is known to cause his frustrations with inanimate objects.
That would never be a problem at Innisbrook.
Sure, the frustration is high. Five years before his silver summer - a red wine mug at Royal Troon, an Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro - the Swede has not made it into the top 20 in the 23 individual tournaments he has played worldwide since the end of 2019 Bahamas.
He knows he's not playing well. His temperament is more likely to flare up when he is.
Stenson had a wry smile when he stepped off the Copperhead course after a 72 on Saturday and said with his dry sense of humor, "You want to talk after seeing signs of size?"
At least he was still playing on the weekend. He had missed six straight cuts by the 38th Masters draw and then played all four rounds in the Valspar Championship. Any progress is welcome.
Stenson went to Orlando for two weeks in what he called a "training camp". His swing trainer Pete Cowen, who has already helped him get out of two previous slumps in his career, will be by his side. His sports psychologist comes in the second week. His putting coach, Phil Kenyon, is still stuck in the UK.
"I'll have some rest to work things through and point them in the right direction," said Stenson. “It's a little better, but still not nearly where I need to be in terms of strike and confidence. We haven't done the right things over time and then you end up in a place where you compensate for compensation. After a while, you don't know what's going up and down.
"We have work to do."
The world rankings are way down. Stenson reached number 2 in the world in 2014, a year after winning the FedEx Cup and the Dubai race in the same season. He is now in 124th place. He will return to the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island in two weeks before heading from Texas to Germany to Sweden to San Diego for four weeks and ending with the US Open.
This is the last year he is exempt from his epic duel with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon for the US majors, where Stenson set the championship record at 264.
This isn't the first time Stenson has had to pull himself out of the deep.
He made just eight cuts in 26 consecutive events in 2002/03, which dropped him to 621st in the world. Three years later he clinched the clinch putt at the Ryder Cup in Ireland. Stenson reached number 5 in the world before going through another bad quote shortly after winning the Players Championship in 2009. This time he dropped back to 230th place before dropping out again.
"I got him out of the deep twice," Cowen said over the weekend.
The first was a total makeover when Stenson had the Yips so bad that he left the course fearing that one of his shots might injure someone. Cowen worked as a percentage and said he made $ 50 for two years. It was hard to tell if he was joking.
What makes this project more challenging is that Stenson turned 45 in April. He's a major champion, Olympic silver medalist, and a five-time Ryder Cup player who won all three of his games last.
"At 45, how much rebuilding can you do?" Said Cowen.
His biggest concern for Stenson is the driver or the lack of one. Stenson has long relied on a 3-wood that he bludgeons with great effect. Cowen said the driver was only an inch longer and 3 degrees less loft. Meeting him shouldn't be a problem and he doesn't understand the mental block.
Regardless, Stenson gives up the distance to players who are almost half his age. He always got along well. Now it's getting harder because everyone is getting younger, longer and better.
"He has to be able to beat the driver," said Cowen. “Without that, he has to play better than the others just to keep up. That's the hard part right now. "
As for motivation, Stenson is not affected.
“I've been through the ups and downs, as you know. It's part of it, ”said Stenson. “You won't be out here for 20 or 25 years with a few bad spots. It would be one thing if I didn't care and it didn't work. But I set the hours. I try my best
"When you go around in circles, it's hard work."
The pandemic didn't help. After two months of uncertainty, he left Orlando for Sweden and stayed there until August. He hasn't played for almost five months. He didn't do any work with his team.
Stenson is confident that this two week training camp will put him on the right track. He has a lot to do with the PGA Championship, Colonial, the Porsche European Open in Germany and a mixed team event in Sweden that he is hosting with Annika Sorenstam before going to the US Open in Torrey Pines. when he missed the cut at the 2008 US Open.
"We have work to do," said Stenson. "But we're not a quitter."
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Henrik Stenson
Swedish professional golfer

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