STENSON HAILS COWEN INFLUENCE

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Henrik Stenson paid tribute to his coach Peter Cowen after winning the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday.

Henrik Stenson paid tribute to his coach Peter Cowen after winning the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday.
Stenson carded a four-under-par 68 to edge three-time tournament winner Ernie Els by one shot at The Emirates Golf Club.
Els had started the final day as overnight leader but he made a lacklustre start on Sunday to card his worst score of the tournament, a one-under-par 71.
Defending champion Tiger Woods finished tied in third place alongside Niclas Fasth after disappointing bogeys on the 10th and 11th.
The world number one recovered to make three successive birdies from the 13th but it was too late to deny Stenson his fifth European Tour victory.
And the 30-year-old Swede praised the influence his coach has had on his career.
“Peter is a great coach and he has helped me enormously,” he said. “He turned my career around when I was struggling.
“We worked hard for a couple of years without really getting anything. We were going in the right direction, but I wasn’t getting the results.
“I always listen to his advice and he has been there for me and he is one of the best coaches in the world. I owe him a lot.”
Stenson continues to go from strength to strength after winning the Qatar Masters and BMW International Open last year.
The Swede is now a regular fixture in the top 20 and he say he will continue to do his best to stay there.
He added: “I feel my career has always been slowly progressing in the right direction with a bit of a hiccup in 2002 and 2003 was when I played really bad.
“But after the comeback at the end of 2004, the next year was when I really stepped it up.
“Even though I didn’t win a tournament that year, I really played solid the whole season and established myself in the top 50 in the world.
“Then, last year I had a fantastic Desert Swing, just as I have had this year.
“I feel I have established myself as a world top 20 player and everything is moving in the right direction.
“I just have to try and keep up all the hard work and do a fraction better all the time.”
Els, meanwhile, was able to take the positives out of his narrow defeat to Stenson, despite it being his second successive runner-up finish in Dubai.
Last year he was denied a fourth Classic title by Woods in a sudden death play-off and though he was not able to avenge that defeat with victory this year, he was still pleased with his performance.
“I did okay and I am not too disappointed,” said Els. “I was striking putts nicely. I just have to find the one stroke I am happy with.
“Sometimes I go with a long, slow one and sometimes a little compact one. I just have to get those things going.
“It was important to finish second on my own, a spot better than last week.”
Els has made a habit of playing all around the world throughout his career and now Stenson has set his sights on achieving a first victory as he too widens his net.
“I want to try and win in America,” the 30-year-old Ryder Cup star said after his win on Sunday.
“That is the main goal, to try and improve my positions and try and challenge for one of the big ones.”
Did winning a tournament ahead of the likes of Woods and Els mean anything?
“Yes, it was especially nice to beat Tiger, obviously,” he added. .
“I have played with him a few times and I have enjoyed it.He is a great player, so of course that gives me extra satisfaction.
“Nevertheless, to play four rounds with Ernie and beat him by a shot coming down the stretch gives me just as much satisfaction.
“It really is good to have a win under my belt, especially in a tournament when I was up against Tiger and Ernie.”
The victory was all the more sweet for Stenson as it came on his ‘home’ course.
He has lived in Dubai for the last three years and always had a high supportive gallery.
“Dubai is very special now,” he added. “It is unbelievable to win your own tournament. I got so close in Sweden two years ago when I lost in a play-off at the Scandinavian Masters.
“Obviously, being based down here, this is my second home, so to be able to win in front of family, friends and supporters it is just unbelievable.”
Els, who finished third in the Qatar Masters last week, once again had to settle for a second-placed finish after carding his worst round of the tournament – a one-under-par 71.
Last year, he was unable to successful defend his 2005 Dubai title when Woods defeated him in a play-off.
But the Gulf’s new 37-year-old ‘nearly man’ was gracious in defeat, however, despite his disappointment, and preferred to pay tribute to Stenson rather than dwell on his close miss.
“Henrik was great,” he said. “It was great playing with him for four days. One shot separated us on all four days, but I had a good time.
“I played well. I knew after the start I just wanted to give myself a chance coming down the stretch. I really got out of sorts on the greens and had a couple of bad swings.
“I just got a bit off the pace and I am still kind of experimenting with my stroke.
“Some of the strokes I made out there were not quite me.”
Woods, who came to Dubai fresh from winning his 7th successive US PGA Tour title at the Buick Invitational, squarely laid the blame for the loss of his title on a cold putter.
“That is one of the worst putting weeks I have had in a long time,” he 31-year-old said with disgust.
“It’s very frustrating. I’ll have to do a lot of work when I go home.
“I hit well enough to give myself chance, but I just did not putt at all well. I putted poorly all week and it is frustrating because normally, I only don’t putt well on poor greens.
“I come over here to the best greens we have seen in a long time and I miss a bunch of putts.”

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