SHARE
COPY LINK

SPORT

‘There will be times when you want to get mad, but you’ve got to stay focused’

Will Sweden's Henrik Stenson tee off to victory in the US Open or will a new first-timer claim the top spot?

'There will be times when you want to get mad, but you've got to stay focused'
Henrik Stenson at the Nordea Masters in Barsebäck in June. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Ever since Jason Day lifted the PGA Championship in 2015, the past six majors have been shared by players who had never won a major before.

Danny Willett's 2016 Masters victory was followed by Dustin Johnson's maiden triumph at the US Open at Oakmont.

Sweden's Stenson then landed his breakthrough major at the British Open before Jimmy Walker closed out 2016 with the PGA Championship.

The streak continued at the Masters this year, when Sergio Garcia's long wait for a first major ended with a playoff win over Justin Rose.

Stenson believes the slew of first-time winners reflect the fiercely competitive health of men's golf.

“I think the competition on a weekly basis is so tight out there and so tough,” Stenson said on Monday after studying the course at Erin Hills, venue for this week's US Open, which tees off on Thursday.

“It's so many players in the field that can win,” the world number six added.

Stenson is uncertain whether the recent streak will continue, or whether the crop of first-timers will go on to become second or third-time winners.

But he agreed with the suggestion that first-time winners were inspiring other players to dream of victory.

“There could be something in that,” he said. “A lot of times you see that. If I go back to Sweden, I'm sure that success is kind of pushing on more success. We've seen that within countries, for sure.”

“It might be the case as well that you say, 'OK, he won his first major, why shouldn't I win mine?'”

Stenson believes patience will be the key for whoever prevails this week.

“Patience and par is always a good score,” Stenson said. “No matter how easy a hole might seem, stress-free pars are always going to be good in a US Open, and patience. You've got to take the hits.”

“There will be times when you want to get mad and it's going to get to you, but you've just got to stay focused and press on.”

Stenson is also predicting a roaring trade for local pharmacists.

“This is hayfever heaven, and I expect any local pharmacy to sell out of antihistamines,” he joked.

“I forgot to take my pills this morning, and I've been sneezing about 50 times already.”

SPORT

Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”

SHOW COMMENTS