MastersApril 4, 2018

Masters 2018: Searching for his first top-10 at Augusta, Henrik Stenson is done with being cautious off the tee

Henrik Stenson
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Without a top-10 finish in 12 Masters appearances, Henrik Stenson has decided that a change in strategy is necessary if he wants to have a chance to add a second major title to his 2016 victory in the Open Championship.

The Swede often relies on his trusty 3-wood to put him in position off the tee so that he can take advantage of his powerful iron game. That formula frequently has worked to perfection, including his Open performance when he lit up Royal Troon for the all-time Open scoring record. But Augusta National Golf Club is long enough and the greens complexes complicated enough that his strategic approach isn’t as effective.

Therefore, look for Stenson to hit more drivers this week. It’s a chance he’s not quite comfortable with, but he doesn’t think he has a choice.

“I think it’s time I have to do something different. I have to be a little more aggressive with the driver on a few holes,” said Stenson, 41, who has six top-25 finishes in the Masters, but nothing better than T-14 in 2014. He missed the cut last year.

“I tried to push that a little bit last week in Houston, trying to give myself a little easier task hitting into the greens,” he added. “Hitting a 7-iron isn’t as good as being able to hit a 9-iron. Even if you’re good with the 7-iron, it’s just a little bit harder. So, trying to shorten up a few holes is one of the things I’d like to try.”

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Stenson accepts the fact he might give up a bit of accuracy for the extra yardage. This season in his four PGA Tour starts—which resulted in three finishes of sixth or higher—he is hitting 76.4 percent of his fairways, which if he had enough rounds would rank second. That’s 5 percentage points higher than last year.

Depending on conditions, he said he’ll likely hit driver instead of his 3-wood on Nos. 2, 7, 11, 14 and 17. Of those, the 11th is the key hole. “To continue hitting 3-iron, 4-iron into that green isn’t a very appetizing,” he said, grinning slightly.

Ranked 14th in the world, Stenson knows he is nearing the point where he will only have a few more chances to win a green jacket. Fortunately, his game overall is fairly solid.

“It’s not 100 percent, but every part is under control and in decent order,” he said. “I feel ready to go. I don’t have a good record here, so I’m just excited about another chance to try and get it right.”