New York Post

Stenson knows rebound needed


SOUTHPORT, England — Defending British Open champion Henrik Stenson doesn’t exactly sound bullish on his chances of defending his title and retaining the Claret Jug for another year.

He missed the cut in both majors this season and conceded he has had trouble dealing with the extra demands on his time which come with being a major champion. He, too, wasn’t happy with the way he played at the Scottish Open last week.

“It’s always that battle, and I don’t feel I have enough game to play the way I want to, and as soon as you go into practice mode you are losing the possibilit­y to play your best,” Stenson said. “The long game hasn’t been in good shape for a long time and you can’t really work when you’re trying to perform.’’

Asked about his chances to repeat, he said, “I think we’re hoping for a lot, in terms of what we saw [at the Scottish Open]. We certainly need to step that up quite a lot if we want to have anything to do with it [at the British]. There’s always a chance and I’m going to enjoy the week.

“You never know, it might be the only time we’re defending champion at the Open Championsh­ip, so I might as well enjoy it. Not feeling that you’re playing anywhere near 100 percent, you can’t really put that pressure [on yourself ] that you’re going to be up there and contend. Maybe we can turn things around a little bit but I’m looking forward to the week regardless.’’

The last player to defend his British Open title was Padraig Harrington, who won in 2007 at Carnoustie and in 2008, the last time it was played at Royal Birkdale.

“I really do have good memories from 2008,’’ Harrington said Monday. “It was a real big win for me at the time. Obviously I had won at Carnoustie, and Carnoustie was very exciting, but kind of messed up the 72nd hole in Carnoustie. So it left a little something wanting.

“It was nice to come back here. I played great. Obviously this week, it’s interestin­g this week, I’ve come in in a better form. So I’m playing decent golf and contending, trying to contend. I enjoy the week because I am not quite defending, but coming back here again and making the most of it because these good feelings don’t come around that often.”

Sergio Garcia, the reigning Masters champion, was posed a tough question Monday: Which would he rather have — the Green Jacket he won at the Masters or a Claret Jug.

“It’s diff icult to say,’’ Garcia said. “I think they’re both amazing. At the moment the Green Jacket means more, because I have it, but everybody knows how much I love the Open Championsh­ip. And I would love to at least have one of them before I kind of hang up the boots.

“So def initely it’s something that I would like to achieve. And we’re going to give it a shot this week.’’

Asked, with his impending wedding to Angele Atkins coming up, if his focus has wavered, Garcia said, “No, it’s on the Open. Don’t worry. It’s going to be where it has to be this week.

“Obviously we’re really excited for next week. But we have something that we’re also extremely excited about this week, and we want to be here giving everything we have and hopefully, like I said before, with a chance on Sunday, it would be great.’’

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