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Stenson the man who has it all, except for one glaring omission

He has the riches of Croesus in the bank, homes on (at least) three continents, a golf game to die for and an apparently happy family life.

Sweden's world No.2 Henrik Stenson escapes one of Hoylake's bunkers yesterday as he prepares for the Open Championship. Picture: Getty Sport
Sweden's world No.2 Henrik Stenson escapes one of Hoylake's bunkers yesterday as he prepares for the Open Championship. Picture: Getty Sport

He has a dry wit and a quickfire sense of humour, is one of the most popular players on the scene, and his fellow competitors are genuinely pleased to be drawn alongside him. What's not to like about the life of Henrik Stenson?

The question was put to the Swede at Hoylake yesterday. Of course, we knew the answer already. For while his accountant, his manager, his doting wife and his two doting children are probably pretty happy with how their man is doing, Stenson himself knows there is a big gap on his cv. A gap the size of a major title, to be precise.

Goodness, he has come close. Stenson has achieved top-five finishes in four of the past five major championships. His knuckles are raw from knocking on that door.

But as Colin Montgomerie would tell you - probably after mentioning his two senior major titles - all that knocking does not necessarily mean the thing is bound to swing open. There comes a time when winning a major, a scenario that once looked almost inevitable, starts looking like a long shot for a player. Fortunately for Stenson, that time is still some distance off.

Stenson is still just 38, so some way short of his dotage. He is also playing to a standard higher than almost every other player on the planet. Every other player, that is, bar Adam Scott, the Australian who is currently No.1 in the world rankings. Stenson is in second place, but those positions would probably be reversed if he could lift the claret jug on Sunday.

How much does he want it? Rather a lot, it seems. "I grew up watching this championship," Stenson said. "It was one boyhood dream to play in the Ryder Cup and the other to win the Open. Just because I've had some great success doesn't mean that dream has gone away.

"It's the last thing on my cv, to make it more or less complete. So I will try my hardest to make it happen. You've got to have that drive if you want to make those things happen."

As far as the bookies are concerned, Scott and Justin Rose are joint-favourites to win this week, but Stenson is tucked in just behind them. As Rose and Scott both have major titles already, the odds are understandable, but Stenson struck a note of mock indignation when it was mentioned that Tiger Woods, one of his playing partners for the first two days, would have his own red-button TV channel following his every move.

"Where did mine go?" Stenson quipped. But his smile masked a serious point. The fact is that Woods has done little of any note in this injury-ravaged year, while Stenson has been setting golf's heather alight. Against which backdrop, one could suggest that Woods should be more troubled by the prospect of playing alongside Stenson than the other way round.

"I think he will have had a lot of sleepless nights," said Stenson, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek, when that point was made.

"When did the draw come out? He looked tired, didn't he?"

All this knockabout stuff would amaze anyone who watched his public performances when he first broke through as a professional by winning the Benson and Hedges International Open at The Belfry in 2001. Back then, his deadpan delivery suggested he was a rather dull fellow rather than a particularly droll one, and his wraparound shades did a good job of disguising any emotions he might have had.

Since when, it would understate his trajectory to say he has had a few ups and downs. On the Blackpool rollercoaster of his career graph, you could chart such high points as his victories at the WGC Accenture Matchplay in 2007 and the Players Championship in 2009, but you would also notice his plummet to 230th in the world at the start of 2012.

Actually, the nadir probably came a few months earlier. Having failed to qualify for the 2011 PGA Championship in Atlanta, he headed home to Barseback, his club in Sweden, entered their annual championship. And finished second.

Such experiences can be the making of a man, and although Stenson stops short of claiming he was honed by adversity, it has informed his thinking.

"I think you learn something every time," Stenson admitted. "More than anything, I've come back from a pretty low pulse a few times now. I know I can do it a third time if it needs to be. But that said, I'm not striving to put myself in that position again.

"But this game is an interesting one, and you can never say for certain. I've probably had some bigger downs and some bigger ups than a lot of players, but nothing is ever a straight line. If it is, I don't think we're in the right place. It might be a coffin around us then."

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