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Henrik Stenson: Golf's $20m man seeks major high in 2014

By Matthew Knight, CNN
updated 12:34 PM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
Henrik Stenson has suffered two slumps in form during his career, but he returned to form in 2013 in spectacular fashion. Henrik Stenson has suffered two slumps in form during his career, but he returned to form in 2013 in spectacular fashion.
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
Career ups and downs of Sweden's no. 1
  • Henrik Stenson seeking first major title after a spectacular return to form in 2013
  • Swede became first golfer to win FedExCup and Race to Dubai in same season
  • Stenson reportedly lost several millions dollars in Allen Stanford Ponzi Scheme
  • Two-and-a-half year slump saw 37-year-old drop from world no. 5 to no. 230

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(CNN) -- Henrik Stenson's accountant must be grinning from ear to ear after the Swedes's incredible winning streak last year. But the world No. 3 isn't getting carried away.

"Like someone said: 'Money is only paper,' right? It's not really going to make you much more happy or extremely sad if you lose a bit," Stenson says.

Easy to say, perhaps, after netting a cool $20 million in prize money in 2013.

But it's not the fiscal peaks that have helped shape the 37-year-old's apparently easy-going attitude to money as much as one spectacular loss.

Stenson was a victim of the convicted fraudster Allen Stanford and reportedly lost several million dollars in the Texan's $7 billion Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in 2009.

The Swede said it wasn't so much the scale of the losses but rather the way in which the money went.

"It was probably more about, you know, how you lose something when you think something is a safe investment when it turns out it (isn't)," Stenson told CNN's Shane O'Donoghue.

"That's got to be more disappointing than taking it to the casino -- you lose, but you know what the risks are. That was probably more what upset me the most about the whole thing.

"I guess I was in a position where I can make up for it in a pretty short space of time. Other people wouldn't be so lucky. For me, it's like a closed chapter. I moved on long ago, but I keep getting reminded of it now and again," he says, before breaking into a smile.

Getting up and down

Henrik Stenson fact file:

DOB: April 5 1976

Nationality: Swedish

Turned pro: 1998

European Tour titles: 9

PGA Tour titles: 4

Major titles 0 (best finish 2nd, 2013 Open Championship)

Ryder Cup appearances: 2 (2006, 2008)

He can afford to smile after becoming the first golfer to win both the PGA Tour's FedExCup and the European Tour's Race to Dubai in the same season.

Stenson claimed the $10 million prize for winning the FedExCup after winning the season-ending Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club in September before storming to a six-stroke victory in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai eight weeks later.

It was an unprecedented end to a season which saw Stenson return to golf's top table after recovering from a debilitating and prolonged slump.

After winning golf's "fifth major," The Players Championship at Sawgrass in May 2009, Stenson looked set to join the sport's elite with strong showings at the U.S. Open (ninth place) and the U.S.PGA Championship (tied sixth) later that season.

A tie for third in the Open Championship at St Andrews the following year only seemed to confirm his status as a serious contender for a major title.

But things fell apart in the second half of 2010 before completely unraveling in 2011 with a succession of missed cuts and only one top 10 finish all year.

As if the loss of form wasn't sickening enough, Stenson then picked up a waterborne parasite on holiday in November 2011 which led to a bout of viral pneumonia.

I would think Henrik is one of a few players who can win tournaments on ball striking alone
Pete Cowen

"He lost what we call the ground force because physically he was poorly," says Pete Cowen, Stenson's long-time swing coach.

"If you lose your physical strength you lose all your control."

That lack of power sent Stenson tumbling down the rankings from a career high of world No. 5 in 2009 to 230th.

It wasn't the first time Stenson had gone from golden boy to nowhere man.

A year after clinching his maiden European Tour victory in 2001 (at the now defunct Benson and Hedges International Open) the Swede missed 14 cuts and won just over €40,000 ($55,000).

"It was big slump. They were really tough times," he recalls. "I was really lost with my game, I lost my confidence."

On course for recovery

The second, more recent reverse was less to do with any technical deficiencies than with "frustrations," he says at not being able to compete like he used to.

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"The most important thing I did with my old sport psychologist (Torsten Hansson) was to start working on the long-term planning. When you are down and out, it's so easy (to go for) short-term solutions," Stenson said.

"The quick fixes don't work. I think you've got to put a plan in place and work towards it -- slow but steady progress -- and eventually you will get to the point where you want to get."

With a new physical and psychological regime in place, Stenson started to see the green shoots of recovery with victory at the South African Open in November 2012.

"That was hugely important, especially the way I won it because I held the lead for most of the weekend and then dropped back on Sunday and I managed to come back on the back nine. That was huge for the confidence ... after three-and-a-half years without a win."

Stenson's season-ending victories may have grabbed all the headlines but his comeback year also included his best-ever performance at a major championship -- second to Phil Mickelson in the Open Championship at Muirfield -- backed up by a third- place finish at the U.S.PGA Championship.

A major breakthrough?

So can he break his duck in 2014 and become Sweden's first major winner?

You know, you are going to have your ups and downs. I might have had two (downs) that were deeper than most but the belief never went away
Henrik Stenson

"If my game is in good shape and it's my week, I definitely think so," he says.

Cowen can also see his pupil of 13 years clinching that elusive prize.

"He's a complex person," says Cowen. "One day he's up, the next day he's down. When he's up, he's very, very good, but when he's down, you know ... but that's what the best players are like.

"I would think Henrik is one of a few players who can win tournaments on ball striking alone. He's certainly got the game. There are quite a few players who deserve to win majors, but unfortunately you have to win them."

Stenson will get his first chance at Augusta National in April, but before that will be lining up at Dove Mountain, Arizona for the WGC Match Play Championship on February 19 -- a tournament that he won in 2007.

Whatever happens this coming week and for the rest of the season, Stenson appears well equipped to deal with what comes his way.

"You know, you are going to have your ups and downs. I might have had two (downs) that were deeper than most, but the belief never went away.

"What we learn is to never give up. If you keep at it, if you keep the belief, you can achieve great things."

Read more: Snow golf: driving off piste in Swedish Lapland

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