As Henrik Stenson spent Thursday evening on the Sawgrass range, the frustrations of a 74 to begin the Players Championship dominating his thoughts, he knew nothing of impending shutdown. The PGA Tour’s flagship event lasted 18 holes on 12 March, with coronavirus sharply halting golf at the top level. Stenson has not had any notion to strike a ball since.
“I don’t feel the rush to practise and play,” the Swede says. “Five weeks out is when I’ll start digging in hard because I’ll have something on the horizon. I want to be ready and prepared when we get the go-ahead because this is going to impact so many things in this sport.”
But out from when? The Masters is postponed, as is the US PGA Championship. The staging of the US Open in June remains a long-shot and the Open a month later is shrouded in doubt.
“Once we started the Players I expected us to finish but everything happened so quickly,” Stenson says. “You only need one person to be sick at a tournament and you have all sorts of implications. I have no issues at all with the decision.
“If I am going to find some small positive, I have to go back to 2003-2004 for the last time I had a nine-10 week off season. This one is obviously not intended but I have to try to use the time as best I can. I’ll focus on workouts and doing some fun stuff you don’t get to do otherwise; cleaning the garage, cleaning closets. There’s always things to do and things to accomplish, right?”
Stenson cherished golf’s return to the Olympic scene as he collected silver in Rio. If postponement of the Tokyo Games was inevitable, it still stung the 43-year-old.
“Both as an experience but also as my last chance to get another or a better medal,” he says. “The Olympics and Ryder Cup were highlights looking at 2020.”
At least the Olympic scenario is relatively clear cut. “I have played two full tournaments in the PGA Tour season so what about the FedEx Cup and qualifying for the play-offs?” Stenson asks. “Some guys have played 15 events. How do you tackle all that if you start playing in June or July? I am exempt through next year on the PGA Tour, so it doesn’t really matter for playing privileges, but for some guys that’s a big thing.”