HUMBLE, Texas – Henrik Stenson recently said goodbye to an old friend.
Since 2011, Stenson had played a Callaway Diablo Octane Tour 3-wood, a club that helped him rocket from near-obscurity all the way up to No. 2 in the world with eight wins, including the Open Championship in 2016 and a FedExCup-winning Tour Championship in 2013. But after the face of his third replacement caved in before last month’s BMW PGA Championship, Stenson knew it was time to move on.
This week at the Houston Open, Stenson’s bag includes a shiny new Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero 3-wood, a move that was first reported Tuesday by PGATour.com.
“When a club gives out that you’ve had for a long time, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to,” said Stenson, who first replaced his trusty Diablo in February 2017. His last version of the club was only about “75 percent as good” as the original, he estimated.
“It was time to get something new,” Stenson added. “Technology has moved on.”
It will be a week full of adjustments. Stenson also had to replace the 3-wood’s 15-plus-year-old Grafalloy Blue shaft with a Project X HZRDUS Yellow prototype – painted blue, of course. This will be the first time that he’s seen the Golf Club of Houston in the fall, as the tournament moved this year from its usual pre-Masters April slot and brought with it a change from ryegrass to Bermuda.
And Stenson, at age 43, is trying to rediscover some of that form that brought him so much success for much of the past decade. Still playing the percentages, Stenson guessed Wednesday that he was “50 percent, maybe” the player he was when he lifted the claret jug just three years ago.
“I don’t feel like I’m going to go out there and shoot 63 in the final round at the moment,” Stenson said.
Stenson took an extended break after the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in July, skipping the FedExCup Playoffs, and returned to finish T-3 at the European Tour’s Scandinavian Invitation. He then took three more weeks off prior to tying for 17th at Wentworth last month.
“I was just playing golf to play golf in Memphis and that’s not what you want to feel when you’re at one of the biggest tournaments of the year. You don’t want to feel like you’re just going through the motions,” Stenson said. “I guess at 43, even though it was a very hard decision not to come back and play the FedExCup Playoffs, I just felt like I had not much left to give.”
Now, Stenson is back in Houston, feeling somewhat recharged at a place where he’s finished in the top 3 on three different occasions. Last year, he tied for sixth. This week, he is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 37 in the world.
Asked how surprised he was by that fact, Stenson quipped: “Maybe not highest-ranked, but if I’m the favorite you may have to reconsider.”
Especially without one of the most iconic fairway woods in golf history.