It might be a sweltering Monday afternoon — the kind of heat you can see, the type that surrounds cars like an aura and permeates even the shadiest area — but pro golfer Henrik Stenson hasn’t broken a sweat. He’s just flown in from a staggering multi-leg flight, but if the unflappable Swede is at all uncomfortable, he doesn’t show it. It’s starting to become evident why they call the 2016 Open Champion the Iceman.
“It’s an old nickname,” he laughs. “It came up a long time ago, when I won a tournament back in 2000 — they thought I was the Iceman because I was very calm and collected, and I guess it just stuck. I can see why some people think it fits, because when I’m focused on something, I don’t show much emotion, and I’m very much in the moment and doing my thing.”
And he’s certainly focused on doing his best at the upcoming SMBC Singapore Golf Open this weekend. He’s arrived in Singapore a few days ahead of the Open to host a golf clinic with Audemars Piguet, where he’s been an ambassador for the last 7 years — and his first port of call after his grueling flight was the Tanah Merah Country Club, making Stenson nothing if not dedicated.
But just because he’s jetlagged beyond reason doesn’t mean he’ll go easy on the sixty-something golfers gathered to play alongside him at the country club. “I tend to win more than I lose at these golf clinics, I’d say,” he quips wryly. “I definitely don’t go easy on the golfers at my clinics.”
When he’ll really need his famous cool is at this weekend’s Open. Though the Swede has worn his Iceman moniker for the two decades that he’s been on the green, he sheepishly admits there are times when the ice does melt: much to the chagrin of his team, and the delight of some very bemused cameramen and commentators.
“There’s been a few retired golf clubs over the years…” He demurs, then adds, sotto: “…Maybe a couple of fines.”
But its not for nothing. Golf is a deceptively easy game, as Stenson’s quick to note. “I think everyone that plays this game can feel the frustration at times when things aren’t going your way,” he says. “When you’re standing out there practicing for hours and hours, and sometimes when it doesn’t go the way you want it to — that can be very frustrating.”
Thankfully for Stenson’s team (and his assemblage of clubs), there’s hardly a time these days when he truly loses his temper. (“When you get older, that tends to happen less,” he shrugs.)
Stenson’s famous levelheadedness translates well to life off the tee as well. His long-running partnership with Audemars Piguet is literally older than his third child, an affiliation that he doesn’t take lightly. “For me, I look at things long term, and when I’m affiliated with a brand you really want it to be something that you stand for,” he says. “And I can say that I feel that way a hundred percent about Audemars Piguet.”
And despite owning more watches than there are days in the week (“I always say we should start a 12-day week,” he muses), Stenson’s favourite Audemars Piguet timepiece remains the first one he’d received back in 2014 — a black ceramic Royal Oak Offshore. “I wore that pretty much everyday for a year,” he says fondly.
It goes to show that Stenson does have a heart beneath his steely exterior. The genial father-of-three even launched a children’s book last year, hoping to impart some of his own life lessons to kids. Go For It, Hank! is a whimsical tale about a little mouse who learns — of course — to golf. Co-written with Swedish author Ebba Ómarsson, Stenson made sure that the book had themes he felt strongly about, namely, that it told of the virtues of patience, planning, and believing in yourself. It’s all very down-to-earth for a man who’s set many world firsts as a Swedish golfer.
“I’d say there was a little bit of me in that story,” he laughs, then adds: “Maybe I should read it more, because sometimes my patience isn’t always the best.”