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Past Players champion Henrik Stenson looks for big week at Bay Hill

By Garry Smits
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ORLANDO -- Henrik Stenson has been close to the follow-up hit to his first major championship almost every week he's teed it up since that magical week at Royal Troon last July when he set the Open Championship record at 20-under par and beat Phil Mickelson by three shots and everyone else by almost a dozen or more.

This week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational would be a good time for the talented Swede, whose 2009 Players title was his break-out victory.

Stenson has finished among the top-five in the last three Palmer Invitationals at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, and has been 15th or better in the last five. He has only one over-par round during that span and has shot in the 60s in half of his trips around the long, testy track since 2012.

His best chance was in 2015, when he had a three-shot lead entering the final round. Stenson finished with a 70 but Matt Every stormed from behind with a 66 and Stenson lost by one shot.

"There's no question it was one of the tougher losses that I had in 2015 when I didn't manage to win, despite having a great opportunity," he said earlier this week during a news conference at Bay Hill. "That's the way it goes sometimes but I hope I can make up for it and I win this tournament in the future."

The future may be closer than anyone things. Stenson, ranked fifth in the world this week, has finished ninth or better in every one of his starts on the PGA Tour and the European PGA Tour this season, including a tie for seventh last week at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor. He has had two runner-up finishes on both tours, at the World Golf Championship in China last fall and in Dubai.

Since winning the Open, Stenson has finished among the top-10 in nine of 10 worldwide starts and, for good measure, added the Silver Medal in the Rio Olympics. Stenson said he's on a positive track for the Masters in three weeks.

"I played a lot of good golf last year and managed to pick it up pretty much where I left it off," he said. "I hope to step it up another notch every week I play and get ready for early April."

This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.