(Reuters) - Henrik Stenson’s game was a mess 18 months ago but his decision to reunite with a former mind guru sparked a dramatic change in fortunes that culminated in a remarkable $11.4 million FedExCup payday in Atlanta on Sunday.
He first worked with Torsten Hansson in 1994 and Stenson went on to claim a string of victories around the world and a spot in the 2006 and 2008 European Ryder Cup teams.
A win at the 2009 Players Championship in Florida, golf’s unofficial fifth major, lifted him to fourth in the world rankings but the 6-foot-1 Swede then suddenly suffered a form slump that saw him crash out of the top 200.
”He contacted me a couple of weeks before the 2012 French Open to ask if I was interested in working with him again,“ Hansson told Reuters. ”I said, ‘Of course, you are one of the main people in my life and I could never say no.
“I knew what we needed to do, what we had to sort out. People who end up in a chaotic and confused situation need to work with someone that can help them get back to where they want to go.”
The 37-year-old Stenson picked up a cheque for $1.4 million for winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sunday plus a $10 million bonus for ending the U.S. season in first place in the FedExCup playoff series.
”Henrik had a lot of problems in 2011 and 2012 and we had to start with what I call ‘the five processes’,“ said Hansson. ”We started off well because he almost won the French Open.
”The first process is physical, the second is mental, the third is technical, the fourth is the strategic and tactical one and the fifth is the social process.
“All five are very important - you can be off with one of them but there is no way you can be off with two. If you have control of the five processes like he has right now you can achieve anything,” Hansson added.
Stenson followed up a tie for seventh position at the French Open with three more top-10 finishes but the real breakthrough came when he triumphed at the South African Open in November.
“South Africa last year was very important because it was then we knew we were on the right track and that he could get that winning feeling again,” said the 66-year-old Hansson.
”A win like that gives so much energy and you can transfer that to the practice range, the putting green and the gym.
“The guy who is willing to put in the work, you know if they are doing the right things it is going to get results. People who think there’s an easy way out, they’re not the ones I want to work with.”
Hansson prefers to call himself a coach rather than a psychologist and was keen to stress that it was Team Stenson, individuals like swing coach Pete Cowan and caddie Gareth Lord, who are as responsible for the player’s resurgence as he is.
“Henrik and I have spoken on the phone since his win on Sunday and I know he’s thankful for the work we’ve done but it’s not only me, the most important person in the team for me is Gareth,” said Hansson.
“Without Gareth this would not have been possible.”
Hansson said Stenson’s work ethic always marked him out as a special golfer, going back to the time the pair first got together with the Swedish national team 19 years ago.
”No one in Swedish golf could have imagined we would one day have one of our golfers winning the FedExCup,“ he said. ”I used to have a lot of discussions with the leaders of the national team, they didn’t really believe in Henrik.
”But I said to them you are looking at the wrong things because he was one of the only guys in that team who had the potential to reach the highest level. We never agreed on that ... but I was proved right.
“Winners are different from normal people. There aren’t many winners in sport but you saw it with Henrik when he won last week, in his face you could see that determination, that focus, that hunger to reach his goals which is absolutely at the top level.”
Additional reporting by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm, editing by Martyn Herman