By Tim Wharnsby
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Swede Henrik Stenson exhibited his usual quick wit when he was made aware a European has not won the Masters since Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
"Well, we'll make it happen this year then,” Stenson said with a mischievous grin on Monday.
Stenson was only part joking. He has arrived at Augusta National in fine form after a runner-up finish at the Houston Open on Sunday and buoyed by a more aggressive game plan he developed from watching Jordan Spieth win last year's Masters.
Poised to celebrate his 40th birthday on Tuesday, Stenson played his first two rounds with Spieth and liked the assertive manner in which the American won his first major.
Stenson attacked Augusta in his final round a year ago and posted a four-under-par 68 to jump up into a tie for 19th.
“My final round last year, I went more aggressive and that's the lowest score I've shot around here,” Stenson said. “So that kind of put me in that direction; that I need to play a bit more aggressive.
“But you've still got to play well, otherwise you're not going to get the score that you want to get anyway.”
Stenson has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2013 Tour Championship which earned him a $10 million bonus. His second-place showing in Houston was his eighth runner-up finish on the PGA and European Tours since his win 30 months ago.
The most frustrating time for Stenson was when he finished second in three of the four FedEx Cup tournaments in 2015 and when he three putted 15 and 16 to lose the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“In particular, the one (Deutsche Bank)in Boston, I made a late mistake and had a great fight with Rickie [Fowler] all the way around,” Stenson said. “Then you make a mistake on one hole towards the end and there's not room to make up for it, and similar at the Arnold Palmer last year. Those were the two that were kind of stinging.”
Stenson does not have a major championship among his 17 worldwide victories. But he has made the cut in his past 15 majors and has finished in the top-10 nine times.
“The ball doesn't know that I was T-3,” he said. “So I've got to teach it again this week where it needs to go.
"You're not going to get a given just because you had a close call in the past, that's for sure.”
(Editing by Steve Keating.)