SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y., June 14 (Reuters) - When Henrik Stenson watched high winds wreak havoc on the early starters at the U.S. Open on Thursday the smooth-swinging Swede knew the conditions suited his game and gave him a chance to get into contention.
Stenson, who won the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon where foul weather also blew many players out of contention, overcame a rocky start at Shinnecock Hills to card a one-over-par 71 that left him two shots back of the four co-leaders.
“When it’s hard, it good for me,” Stenson said after what may have been the toughest scoring day of the year. “Whenever we play courses where the pars are coming hard, then I think that plays to my favour a lot of times.
“I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens, and I think I was way, way up there in greens in regulation today. So that’s certainly going to pay off, even though you still got extremely difficult two-putts.”
Prior to arriving at Shinnecock Hills, where he was one of the final groups to tee off, Stenson watched on television as high winds and tough conditions knocked out many of the game’s biggest names and left only a handful of survivors.
When his time came, Stenson found a way to steer clear of the ruthless rough at the link-style layout and mostly held it together on the glossy greens that scuppered the chances of many in the 156-player field.
“It’s a very tricky golf course, and in these windy conditions, yeah, it doesn’t get much harder than this,” said the world number 17.
“You know, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry, and I guess we chose to laugh today, which is obviously the better option.”
When Stenson triumphed at Royal Troon it came at the end of a week where those who played early on Thursday and late on Friday were effectively blown out of contention.
Stenson, who collected his sixth PGA Tour win at last August’s Wyndham Championship, said both the U.S. Open and The Open in Britain required players to work hard just to get round in level par.
“A lot of times at The Open you have to grind it for pars as well. I would say the birdies come a little easier at The Open unless the weather is horrendous,” said Stenson.
“This is what we’ve got in front of us, and I’m here to grind it out another three days.” (Reporting by Andrew Both; Writing by Frank Pingue; Editing by Peter Rutherford )