Stenson set to recharge ahead of defence
Henrik Stenson failed to retain the BMW International Open title which 12 months ago fuelled his breakthrough victory in The Open.
But the Swede insists it won’t deflect him from the task of defending the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale in July.
Stenson finished tied tenth in Germany and spoke all week of the importance of the tournament prior to winning the Championship at Royal Troon last year.
He said: “I was almost a season and a half winless until this event, but the win really gave my confidence a boost and it was key to winning at Royal Troon.”
The 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year acknowledged that this season has been something of a struggle at times.
He continued: “Sometimes you pay the price mentally and energy-wise from a very successful year. I don’t know how many questions I've answered about winning at Troon last year!”
Next on the agenda, however, is rest. Stenson added: “I’ll be doing a little bit of practice but mainly recharging with the family in Sweden. Then I’ll visit Birkdale before going to The Scottish Open.”
The winner at Golfclub Eichenried – Argentina’s Andres Romero – has not yet qualified for The Open, but having revived his career with the triumph it will undoubtedly be his next assignment.
In five appearances at The Open he has three finishes of T-13th or better, including in 2007 at Carnoustie when he threatened to set a target no-one would match, before settling for finishing the Championship tied third after hitting his ball into the Barry Burn.
The 36-year-old is now eligible to play the next three tournaments on the European Tour, each one of them part of The Open Qualifying Series, starting with this week’s Open de France at Le Golf National. Places are available to the leading three players (not otherwise exempt) who finish in the top ten and ties.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia finished runner-up behind Romero and while he was disappointed to come up short in Munich, the result proves he remains in great form as he chases the Augusta National-Royal Birkdale double which Mark O’Meara achieved in 1998.
Tied with Garcia was England’s Richard Bland who will make his second appearance in The Open next month, having earned his place by finishing top 30 in the 2016 Race to Dubai. While inexperienced at The Open, he does have the consolation of returning to the scene of his only previous start – he missed the cut at Royal Birkdale in 1998.
Meanwhile England’s Harry Ellis claimed a major championship debut in The Open in spectacular style with victory in the 122nd Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s.
The 21-year-old plays for Florida State University, as did Brooks Koepka, the recent US Open winner. Perhaps inspired by Koepka’s performance in Wisconsin, Ellis fought back from four holes down with five to play to defeat Australia’s Dylan Perry on the 38th hole.
He said: “I can’t believe what I have just done. You should never give up and never give in.
“The Open is on another links course at Royal Birkdale so we will see how we go. I just want to soak up the experience and get as much from it as I possibly can. It has always been a dream to play in majors.”
Eight places were also earned by players in the top 20 of the 2017 Race to Dubai not already exempt (after the BMW International Open) and the top 20 of the FedEx Cup rankings (after The Travelers Championship).
In Europe, Alexander Levy, Fabrizio Zanotti, Pablo Larrazabal, Dylan Frittelli and David Lipsky booked themselves a spot at The Open in this fashion.
On the PGA Tour the biggest move was made by Charley Hoffman, who finished tied third at the Travelers Championship . That result vaulted him to No20 on the rankings. The 40-year-old led the Masters after 18 holes earlier this season, but in six previous starts at The Open he is yet to finish better than the T-35th he earned on his debut at Carnoustie in 2007.
US Open runner-up Brian Harman, Brendan Steele and Russell Henley claimed the other exemptions.