Wednesday 30 January 2008
Last Update 30 January 2008 12:00 am
DUBAI, 30 January 2008 — Defending champion Henrik Stenson won’t be intimidated by Tiger Woods when the Dubai Desert Classic starts tomorrow.
The 32-year-old Swede, who beat Woods by two strokes and Ernie Els by one last year, is unconcerned that Woods started the season with an eight-shot win at the Buick Invitational on Sunday.
Woods “is in such great shape and I think everyone feels that it’s going to take some really good golf to challenge him this week,” Stenson said. “But I always feel I have a chance. Otherwise, there is no point in going for the tournaments, really. The odds might not be the best, but there’s definitely a possibility.”
The 13th-ranked Stenson finished runner-up at last week’s Qatar Masters, three shots behind Adam Scott, and was tied for second at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship earlier this month.
“I am a little bit tired now after the two weeks,” Stenson said. “It always wears you down a little bit when you are out there and fighting hard to be in contention. This week, I just have to be a bit refreshed for Thursday.”
The Dubai-based Stenson believes his knowledge of the Emirates Golf Club course will be an advantage.
“I am very comfortable on this course, which is like my home course, and I am glad that I have the chance to win the Dubai Desert Classic two times in a row,” he said.
Mickelson Eager to Make Up for Lost Time in Phoenix
In Los Angeles, twice champion and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson plans to make up for lost time at this week’s Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The 37-year-old American believes he is a week behind in his early season schedule after battling respiratory problems and bronchitis for the last three months.
Mickelson tied for sixth at the Buick Invitational on Sunday, his first tournament of 2008, after being confined to bed rest and antibiotics by his doctor at the start of the week. “I’m behind on my game just because I haven’t been able to practice but, as the week wore on, I started to play better and I started to feel better,” the three-time major winner said.
“These two rounds under par on the weekend give me a little bit of momentum heading into the Phoenix Open,” Mickelson added, referring to his 68-71 finish at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson, who attended Arizona State University before winning the Phoenix Open in 1996 and 2005, feels more confident going into his second event of the season than he did 12 months ago.
“I was working hard last year but I wasn’t getting the results,” he said, speaking to reporters after shooting a one-under-par 71 in the final round of the Buick Invitational.
“I feel like even though I’m a week behind this year, I’m ahead of where I was last year.” Mickelson launched his 2007 PGA Tour season by tying for 45th at the Bob Hope Classic and sharing 51st spot at the Buick Invitational the following week.
This week, he faces a strong challenge on the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale where seven of the world’s top 20 will be in action.
Apart from Mickelson, third-ranked Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini (ninth), Vijay Singh (11th), Geoff Ogilvy (14th), Aaron Baddeley (17th) and Trevor Immelman (20th) are playing. Australian Baddeley defends the title he won last year by a shot after American Jeff Quinney bogeyed the last two holes.