By Dave Shedloski
Henrik Stenson hasn’t been sleeping much the last three weeks, but he enjoyed a dream-like start to the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard Thursday morning when he tied his lowest round of the season with a 5-under-par 67 on the Championship Course at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
“I feel like I’ve been struggling a bit with my game throughout the early part of the season,” said the lanky Swede, who is one stroke behind leader J.B. Holmes after converting seven birdies against two bogeys. “I was just happy with the way I committed to the shots and made some great saves and made some good putts out there and kept it together pretty good.”
Reigning champion of The Players, Stenson, 33, has competed sparingly this year as he and his wife, Emma, have been awaiting the birth of their second child. A son, Karl, finally arrived three weeks ago today, on March 5 – and he was born, coincidentally, at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies here in Orlando. That’s why Stenson has been a little sleep deprived.
“A little bit less sleep, yeah, maybe,” Stenson, playing in just his third PGA TOUR event of the season and just his second time at Bay Hill, said with a grin. “But didn’t seem to affect me too bad today at least. I’ll blame that some other day.”
Stenson, who also has homes in Sweden and in Dubai, in the Middle East, was teased about having his second child born in the United States. His daughter, Lisa, was born in Sweden in 2007.
“Everything went well, and obviously it's a great facility,” Stenson said of the Winnie Palmer Hospital, which is a charitable beneficiary of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. “The hospital is great, and they look after you great when you're there. … We live in Dubai, base ourselves part‑time in America and go back to Sweden in the summer. So I guess if we have a third one, it better be in Dubai, then, to really make sure we spread them out.”
Good rounds have been spread out for Stenson thus far in 2010.
His only other starts in America this year have come at World Golf Championship events. He was eliminated in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for 37th at the CA Championship two weeks ago.
His round of 5 under par at Bay Hill beat his previous best of 68 in the opening round last year when he tied for 22nd, and tied Stenson's lowest of the season, shot in the fourth round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Stenson, who missed just one fairway Thursday and hit 12 greens, was encouraged by his performance. “I think the head was a bit better there. Even though confidence wasn't great, it’s still a great day's work out there,” he said.
But it’s what’s going on in his heart right now that is paramount. After a good day at Bay Hill, he looked forward to a short drive home to enjoy his expanded family.
“It's obviously a very pleasant time,” Stenson said. “It’s a change going from three to four in the family, and I know how much excitement and joy we have had with Lisa over these 2½ years, so having another one is great. And now in the future I can get two hugs after a bogey instead of one.”