Stenson heralds arrival of new breed

From Brian Keogh in Tucson

Move over Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Colin Montgomerie and watch out Tiger Woods.

That was the clear cut message from Henrik Stenson after he grabbed the Accenuture Match Play Championship in Arizona with a 2 and 1 win over defending champion Geoff Ogilvy

The big-hitting Swede, 30, is the first of a new generation of golfing stars capable of doing what the older generation has failed to do - win a major.

Clarke, Montgomerie and Bjorn all exited the matchplay in the early stages with the Swede going on to succeed the Ulsterman as Europe's only WGC winner.

But Stenson roared: "I think it might just be some guys out there not willing to accept that the younger generation is moving on.

"Winning a World Golf Championships is as close to winning a major without doing it, I guess. It's two great tournaments I won just recently."

Just five months after he holed the winning putt in the Ryder Cup at the K Club, Stenson out-lasted the reigning world match play and US Open champion in a roller-coaster final to soar to a career high of fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings.

He added: "I wouldn't mind being the first Swede to win a major championship. You know, that's the two childhood dreams that I had: Playing in the Ryder Cup and winning the British Open.

"But it's a tough one. We've got the world's best out there for the majors. We know a few of them sort of put in subscriptions on the tournaments, as well.

"It's not obviously big chances that you're going to win, but you can just try and put yourself into position coming Sunday, and if it's there, it's there."

"The winning putt at the Ryder Cup wasn't that much of a deal. I mean, I was proud to be part of that team, the winning team, and we would have won the Ryder Cup with or without my putt.

"It would have been a different thing if it was a decider, and obviously winning individual events is a bit different, as well. So both the experiences are ones that I cherish very much, and they're different."

His win came just three weeks after he left Ernie Els and Woods in his wake to win the Dubai Desert Classic.

Exhausted after playing six matches over 120 holes, Stenson got his reward with a cheque for $1.35 million in his PGA Tour start as a full member, earning a three year exemption.

But just four years ago, the Swede was at at such a low ebb with his game that he walked off the course after just nine holes of his second round in the European Open.

He said: "I probably only heard it a couple thousand times, this question, and I normally don't try and think about what happened five years ago, six years ago. I try more to look into where I am today."

But he went on: "I sort of lost the swing and then obviously lost the confidence, and one thing leads to another

"The first couple of provisional golf balls don't bother you that much, but when your caddie is rattling in the pocket to see if he's got a provisional when you're standing over the drive, you know you've got some sort of a problem."

Coach Peter Cowen has completely remodelled Stenson's swing over the past five years.

Cowen said: "He didn't know how it worked. It was like lifting the bonnet on a car and looking at the engine without really knowing what you're looking at.

"If you don't know, fiddling with the knobs is more than likely to make things worse rather than better."

Stenson is now the highest ranked Swede in the history of the world rankings - eclipsing Jesper Parnevik who made it to world No 7 in 2000.

He added: "It's a big week, moving up the World Rankings again. Be the first Swede to win a World Golf Championships and also be I think the highest ranked that a Swede has been ranked in the World Rankings.

"So obviously a lot of great things happened for me this week, and I'm just exhausted, as they say, and it probably hasn't even sunk in 100 percent yet.

"I think I've established myself within top 20, and then just recently moved into Top 10. So, I mean, I can't say that I go straight out and say I should be No. 5 or No. 6 in the world.

"But obviously that's where I am at the moment. I feel like I've established myself as a top 20 player.

Stenson paid tribute to US Open champion Ogilvy, who missed several short putts and twice blew two up leads in a topsy turvy final.

He said: "He's a great player, and I think it's remarkable thing that he made it to the final being the defending champion.

"It's not often that that happens, being undefeated 11 matches coming into this one. Hats off to him for a great week, as well.

"And as I said before, I know how much it would have meant to him to win, as well. Unfortunately only one of us could do so, and I was the one that picked the longest straw today.

Ogilvy returned the compliment, adding: "I can't see any tournament he couldn't win, really. They should be talking about him.

"I mean, he suffers from the fact that he plays most of his golf outside the US so people in the US don't talk about what he does.

"But he's been winning tournaments for three or four years. So everybody out here knows he's a good player. It's just people outside the golf world need to see that, I guess."