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LIVING GOLF

Henrik Stenson Reflects on Remarkable Rise; 25 Years of Golf in Dubai; Son of Golf Great Ballesteros Honors Legacy; Pro Gives Tips on Playing from Sand; Latin American Amateurs to Get Chance at Majors

Aired February 6, 2014 - 05:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: Sometimes, things only become clear from a distance.

Only a bit of perspective reveals the true significance. Where once was desert now rises the gleaming city of Dubai. Lush golf courses now green this barren land. And from the distance of a quarter of a century, we can now see how a shift in the sands of the Middle East have shaped the game as we know it.

In today's program, the reigning monarch of all he surveys, Henrik Stenson.

HENRIK STENSON, GOLFER: I've done it twice now. I guess so. Hopefully, we'll not need to try and get out of big slumps.

O'DONOGHUE: How Dubai's Desert Classic changed the landscape of golf. The spirit of Seve returns to the Emirates.

JAVIER BALLESTEROS, SON OF SEVE: I just try to take my goal from -- I know who my dad was, but I have to do it myself.

O'DONOGHUE: New territory for the old masters.

And a desert prince shows us how to conquer sand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Henrik Stenson is a strange one. A player so talented that last year he became the first ever to win both the richest prize of the States, the FedEx Cup, and the richest prize in Europe, here in Dubai.

Yet a player who's also had to fight back from a debilitating slump in form.

PETE COWEN, STENSON'S COACH: Yes, I've seen him where he couldn't hit a swing. In 2001, the end of 2002, he couldn't actually hit a ring (ph). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Pretty poor.

2010, he just lost all his physical strength. So if you lose your physical strength, you control what you can control. I think he surprised everybody, to keep that standard up for as many weeks as he did was golf that we hadn't seen the likes, or I certainly haven't seen the likes in all the years I've been here.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): A man who lost a fortune to a fraudster, but who then last season won $20 million back.

How difficult for you: One day is up, one day's down?

COWEN: Well, we have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- we take the mickey out of each other, you know? He just plays with a sense of humor, which is quite interesting.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): To win the $10 million FedEx Cup and the European Race in Dubai in the same season is utterly remarkable. To do so shortly after losing all form and falling to No. 230 in the world, scarcely credible.

(on camera): How did you manage to do it, Henrik? Because it looked like you were in the depths of despair, the -- you know, things were really, really in a bad place. And then you just end 2013 the way that you did.

STENSON: Well, I think I went through a big slump back in 2001, 2002. That was some really tough times, kind of the lack of form in 2010, '11 was more frustration. And you know, I know I can do so much better than what I did back then. And 2011 was probably my worst season since '02.

So it was frustrating times, but I think my belief in my ability never kind of went away. And if it would have done, we wouldn't have been sitting here talking right now. You never give up. You know, you can always, if you keep at it, you keep the belief, you can achieve great things, even though you're kind of down and out a little bit. And well, I've done it twice. I know I can do it three times if need be.

It's a long, long road for about a year, year and a half of hard work, leading into the fine play that I produced last summer. So it's -- it's never what you do in June that's going to produce the results in July. It's what you did in the last year, year and a half before then.

O'DONOGHUE: What was the moment in 2013 when, you know, the switch was flicked? When you knew that, all right, I think I've moved on to a different plane and a different gear?

STENSON: Well, it was really, I came off 2012 with the -- with a win in South Africa. That was hugely important. And especially the way I won it, because I -- I held the lead for most of the week, or most of the weekend. And then I dropped back on Sunday, and I managed to come back on the back nine again and win it. So that was huge for the confidence and to be back in the winners' circle after three and a half years without a win.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you rely on yourself and your own thoughts a lot of the time, or is it very much self-determined? Or do you need someone, you know, to talk to on that mental side to kind of get you into a better gear?

STENSON: No, not so much. I mean, the most important thing that I did with my -- with my old sports psychologist that I started working with back in 2012 was -- was the long-term planning. You know, and when you're down and out a little bit, it's so easy; you want short-term solution quick fixes that just don't work. With anything, I think it's that way. You've got to put a plan in place and work towards it, and you're going to make, you know, slow but steady progress. And eventually, you will -- you will get to the -- the point where you want to get to.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): As if recovering from two collapses in form were not enough, he also suffered a big blow off the court.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: ... following breaking news. The investor, Alan Stanford, accused of bilking clients of more than $9 billion...

O'DONOGHUE: In 2009, it emerged that Stenson was one of those who'd invested money with Allen Stanford. Stanford was a financier and sponsor of a whole range of sports, and he's now serving a 110-year prison sentence for fraud. Henrik's never revealed exactly how much he lost, beyond saying it was a large part of his savings.

(on camera): Much was made, though, at the time with the whole Stanford connection and how devastating that could have been or otherwise.

STENSON: Like somebody said, money's only paper. So it's -- it's not really going to make you that much more happy or extremely sad if you lose a bit. It was probably more about the whole, you know, how you lose something. If you think something is a safe investment and then it turns out it doesn't, then it's going to be more disappointing than if you're taking it to the casino and, you know, you lose. Then you know what the risks are. So that was what upset me the most about -- about that whole thing.

That happened in February 2009. I won the Players in 2009 in May. I won the fifth biggest tournament in the world three months later. So obviously, I couldn't have been just in a corner crying all the time. You know, you live and you learn and you move on, and I guess that I was in a position where I can make up for it in a pretty short period of time. A lot of people wouldn't have been so lucky.

So -- and we still don't know what the -- what the final outcome's going to be. And for me it's kind of a closed chapter and I've moved on long -- long ago. Even though I keep on getting reminded every now and again.

O'DONOGHUE: Can you win any of the four majors now?

STENSON: Yes. Absolutely. If my game is in good shape and then it's my week, I definitely believe so.

O'DONOGHUE: You've had the podium finishes in the PGA and obviously the Open Championship a couple of times. The Masters, you went on an incredible run in 2012 in the first round. Had a bit of a blip on the 18th. We won't talk...

STENSON: You think? Do you think? A snowman updating (ph)? You think that -- you're calling that a blip?

O'DONOGHUE: Well, we certainly look forward to watching you in all four majors, and we look forward to seeing you back in the Ryder Cup team, as well, because we'd like to hold onto that trophy once more.

STENSON: Yes. I -- I mean, I enjoy that, playing the two Ryder Cups that I played in the post and then stood over the last two, so you know, to make it on -- I'm looking pretty good at the moment. I think so. You know, to be in Scotland and being part of that game's going to be great. I'm really looking forward to it and some great matches there again, I'm sure.

O'DONOGHUE: Great to have you on CNN's LIVING GOLF and the best of luck in 2014. Henrik, thank you.

STENSON: Thanks a lot. Cheers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONOGHUE: Coming up, 25 years of Dubai and the global game.

And Javier Ballesteros, son of Seve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over here, Stephen.

O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF at the Emirates Golf Club here in Dubai. So Henrik was contending, but it was Stephen Gallacher who became the real story on a thrilling final day. The first man ever to successfully defend this Desert Classic title.

These days, the European Tour event in the Middle East has become entirely normal. Twenty-five years ago, however, it was revolutionary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): As the past champions gathered for a celebration photo shoot, the status of this tournament was clear. Seven winners of major championships. A host of former and current world No. 1's. Players from every part of the world, bar Asia, so far.

Back in 1989, both Dubai and the European Tour were looking to grow.

MOHAMED JUMA BUAMAIM, CEO, GOLF IN DUBAI: It started with building a golf course. A lot of companies started to come in to this part of the world. Those people played golf, so they needed a place to play. And that's why the Emirates Golf Club came into being. And of course, as soon as that happened, what was the next step? Is to promote this city through golf.

Mark James, I think, he would vouch for this as that, when he came here, this was the only green spot. You know, everything around it was just desert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark James has this to win the first Desert Classic.

MARK JAMES, FIRST WINNER OF DESERT CLASSIC: Oh, we were hugely excited to try and get a full tour in the Middle East. And you know, everyone made the effort to come, and we heard it was going to be good, and it was.

O'DONOGHUE: A year later, the European Tour's schedule had 38 events, 37 in Europe and this one here.

Very quickly, the tournaments managed to secure some of the best players from around the world. Although on the European Tour, it became a truly international event.

DAVID HOWELL, WINNER OF THE DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC, 1999: It's always had a really top-quality field. And it has got, you know, a really strong list of champions. Obviously, I'm delighted to have been able to join that list. And -- but many major winners. And really, it's been -- it's been one of our biggest and strongest events for the past five of the 25 years.

FRED COUPLES, WINNER OF THE DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC, 1995: Well, I remember, you know, getting an invite here and being, like everyone else, very excited to come. And now when I come back -- and the golf course is phenomenal. It was great back then, too. But now when I come back, it's kind of like how many more buildings have they put up? And how many more hotels and resorts and all that? It's very interesting.

GEORGE O'GRADY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN TOUR: It took a bit of believing, because desert courses hadn't been contemplated at that stage. But we realized the vision, the vision of Sheik Mohamed in Dubai and all his colleagues. I don't think we could believe it would become quite this great. But we were very fortunate.

O'DONOGHUE: And as Dubai grew, so did the European Tour. A tournament in Bangkok followed two years later, then further pushes into Asia, along with co-sanctioned events in South Africa and Australia.

O'GRADY: We don't sit here and moan, "Why isn't it always in our backyard?" You have to sometimes go out and find business, take your business to the world. And Dubai's given us the confidence to do that.

O'DONOGHUE: And nine years after Dubai came Qatar. And then Abu Dhabi. The form (ph) was now become the Desert Swing.

Since 2009, the European Order of Merit has even been renamed the Race to Dubai, with the season reaching its climax here.

This year, there would be at least 24 European Tour events outside Europe, not counting the majors. With American PGA tours now in Latin America and from next month's China, that single golf course in the desert proved to be an outpost of the future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: So it is the 25th anniversary of the Dubai Desert Classic. There are 20 former champions in the field. And one is missing? The late, great Severiano Ballesteros. But he is ably represented by his young son, Javier, who's over here practicing. And let's go meet him.

Javier.

BALLESTEROS: Good to meet you.

O'DONOGHUE: Very nice to meet you. How's everything going?

BALLESTEROS: Fine. Very happy to be here. Nice place and nice tour (ph). Nice players. Everything.

O'DONOGHUE: What was it like to get requested to play and invited?

BALLESTEROS: Just amazing. They told me about six, seven months ago. And at first, I couldn't believe it. To be here and to represent my dad and I'm very proud of him.

O'DONOGHUE: So how's things been with the family? Because it was obviously so sad when Seve passed away in 2010.

BALLESTEROS: It's -- you know, it's been difficult times, but sometimes these things happen. And it happens to many families. You have to try to continue. Obviously, I think of my dad every day.

O'DONOGHUE: You look like him. When we see you completing your swing, it looks like Seve. Is there a bit of pressure on you to emulate him or do you feel that pressure?

BALLESTEROS: I know it's normal that they compare him to me. I don't feel the pressure, because I just try to play my golf. And I know who my dad was, but I have to be myself and play my best. I wish I -- I would like to be like him, but I think that's very difficult.

O'DONOGHUE: So do you think a professional career is in the future?

BALLESTEROS: Yes, of course. I will definitely give it a try.

O'DONOGHUE: Will you?

BALLESTEROS: Don't know when exactly, but for sure.

O'DONOGHUE: So you're taking the sensible route by completing your studies. Is it law that you're studying?

BALLESTEROS: Yes. I'm studying law. I have, like, one year and a half, something, to finish. Should have finished this year, but last year I played more golf than studied. But then I will finish.

O'DONOGHUE: But fantastic to have you here representing your dad. And so welcome to Dubai and the best of luck.

BALLESTEROS: Thank you very much. Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Still to come, Martin Kaymer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF in Dubai. Now, you don't get to win on desert courses without being good from the sand. It's everywhere. Not just the bunkers, but also in these waste areas alongside most fairways. Martin Kaymer has won a major, but he's also won the Abu Dhabi Championship a record three times. So it's time for some expert advice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Martin, for this particular "Hot Shot," we're talking about distance control from the bunker. So we've got a flag at near range, and then there's one further away, up the back of the green. We're going to start with the one that's nearby first. So this first flag is only just a couple of yards on. What are your thoughts now?

MARTIN KAYMER, GOLFER: Oh, see, now I want to put it like a couple yards in front of the hole. So my stance is a little bit open. Try to hit a little bit back, so my feet are aligned and there's a little bit left on the hole. My club face is always facing to the target. You don't want to mess around with a club face too much.

So it was perfect. It was a little fast, so it hits two yards in front of the hole, and then it will roll out like a puck (ph).

O'DONOGHUE: And to make a fat shot, as you say, you know, at impact, do you -- two or three inches behind?

KAYMER: It's a feel thing. You see the shot, and then you do it automatically, through practice, over and over again.

O'DONOGHUE: One more question. Just some -- in terms of your legs, as you go through the shot. Is there anything that you remember?

KAYMER: The whole work is up here. Like your shoulders, your arms, your hands, they all work together. So down there, if we have a shot -- I have a shot like this, there shouldn't be much movement here.

O'DONOGHUE: Maybe I'll try one.

KAYMER: I would love to see that.

My advice would be to open your left foot a tiny bit more. Because then it's easy to go through the ball.

O'DONOGHUE: OK.

KAYMER: And swing your feet -- feet alignment along. Hit a little bit fat, and then it will go into the hole.

O'DONOGHUE: Swing on the line of your feet?

KAYMER: Yes.

O'DONOGHUE: OK.

KAYMER: Good shot. Better than me!

O'DONOGHUE: Martin, we've gone through your technique with the shorter distance bunker shot. Now we're faced with a shot that's about 20 yards from the sand. It's a little bit of an elevated green.

KAYMER: You can play with a sand wedge. Just pretty much the same technique that I just explained to you for the short one. Just a little bit of a longer swing. Or you hit this a little bit fatter and then it will release even more.

Or you could take a gap wedge and make the same swing that we just did with the little one, because the loft, it's less loft. It comes a little bit lower, and it releases a little bit more. But same -- it's the same technique.

My left foot a little bit open, swing a little bit out to the inside. Hit it down, really into the sand and the ball pops up. Hit it a little bit fat, have a little bit less spin. And then this should be it.

O'DONOGHUE: Now, the other wedge is going to show us a different way of playing this.

KAYMER: Yes, the 54 obviously, you don't really need to open it at all. So it comes out lower, but it release a lot more. So you really have to pay attention where you want to pitch it, but that's an option that you have.

O'DONOGHUE: So just to recap the tips for the short bunker shot, the basic essentials, as far as you're concerned?

KAYMER: For me, obviously, open -- open stance. In my case, I open the left foot a little bit. Open the club face a tiny bit. Swing it outside inside, your feet alignment along.

And for the long bunker shot, just make a longer swing. But stick to the same technique. I'm not a fan of changing the technique on every single shot. It's not necessary. But for the longer shot, you have an option to do the same -- do the same swing that you did for the short one, just for the gap wedge for the longer one.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, Martin is one of the best exponents out of sand in professional golf. Another great "Hot Shot" here on LIVING GOLF.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Martin Kaymer.

Now, from here in Dubai to another move into new territory. This is Argentina's Emiliano Grillo warming up. Last month we spoke to him in Buenos Aires about the development of new talent there. Well, since then, something pretty significant has been going on back in his home country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: Buenos Aires, where three of the most powerful men in golf have gathered.

(voice-over): And they're bringing the Masters, the Open and the U.S. Open to Latin America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING SPANISH) Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to bid you a very warm welcome here this morning.

BILLY PAYNE, CHAIRMAN, AUGUSTA GOLF CLUB: On behalf of the membership of Augusta National Golf Club and our staff, I bring warm greetings from Augusta, Georgia.

O'DONOGHUE: From January next year, an annual Latin America annual championship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a great up and down.

O'DONOGHUE: The winner gets a spot in the Masters plus, along with the runner-up, straight into final qualifying for the Open and U.S. Open.

MIKE DAVIS: We're excited about the positive impact we believe this competition will have, not only in the competitive amateur game, but also in the recreational game.

ANGEL CABRERA, WINNER, U.S. OPEN 2007, THE MASTERS 2009: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

GRAPHIC: I think it's going to be very important for the younger lads, for the amateurs that are trying to achieve something better. Playing Augusta is the biggest aspiration any player can have. It's very important for everybody.

O'DONOGHUE: All 27 golf federations in Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean will be able to enter at least two amateurs, based on the world rankings. That makes it different to the existing South American amateur championship, which is open to all from around the world.

PAYNE: It will motivated thousands of kids, basically, to want to be a part of it. Perhaps even to take up the game. And they will come to Augusta, the winner, with eyes this big, you know, these kids showing up at that wonderful venue. But as we discovered last year, it was some of the professionals whose eyes got really big, watching the talents of these kids.

PETER DAWSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, THE R&A: We have been working here and in other parts of the world for a long time with our golf development programs and our working for golf programs. But I think this is different in that we've actually got the organizers of three major championships, the Open championship, the U.S. Open and the Masters, coming together to give back to the game in an organized fashion, together. I think that's exactly what major championship organizers should be doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you feel it back on that shelf?

O'DONOGHUE: The aim? To find a Latino American Hideki Matsuyama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he can. Beautifully done there by Matsuyama.

O'DONOGHUE: Or Guan Tianlang. Both won the Asia Pacific amateur championship, the forerunner of this latest tournament, started five years ago by the Masters and the R&A.

Guan was already a gifted 12-year-old when we first met him in Shanghai in 2010. But by winning the Asian Amateur, he secured a place at last year's Masters, made the cut and, at just 14, became a star.

GUY KINNINGS, GLOBAL HEAD OF GOLF, IMG: I think back to the success of the Asian Amateur. If the intent is that -- providing that focus in Latin America, support of obviously, Augusta and the USGA, will give the same sort of boost to the -- to the game that, obviously, the Olympics will as a focus in '16, then that can only be good.

It's all about inclusivity. It's all about bringing people to the game, because that gives people the sense that they get to the very upper reaches of this game via an amateur event like that, then we all have to be delighted they're doing it. It's a good move.

O'DONOGHUE: The first Latin America Amateur will be at Pilar Golf Club on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, home of Argentina's elite academy. Then it will move around Central and South America. And with Rio hosting golf's return to the Olympics in 2016, there's certainly going to be no shortage of inspiration for young players across the continent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONOGHUE: And so the game continues to break new ground. That's all from us here in Dubai. Don't forget: all our reports are online, and you can keep a cross (ph) what we're up to on Twitter.

The patch of green is lonely no more. And the Tour has now reached far beyond the sand into Asia and Africa. Next month, we'll be reporting from the United States on where the global game is going.

But for now, from all of us here in the Middle East, good bye.

END