Henrik Stenson admits he is not fully fit for this week’s Open championship but there was no way he was going to allow the chance of regaining the Claret Jug pass him by.
The Swede, who triumphed in a fascinating final day duel with Phil Mickelson to claim his maiden major at Royal Troon two years ago, withdrew from last week’s Scottish Open at Gullane due to an elbow injury.
But the 42-year-old is willing to play through the pain barrier as he goes in search of a second major victory.
He said: “My arm is still not 100 per cent but I’m hopeful that I’ll play and be able to compete at a decent level.
“If this had been a regular Tour event, I would certainly have debated whether to play.
“I haven’t had the preparation, although sometimes that can be good because it lowers your expectations.
“I’ve worked on my putting, worked on my short game, so I’ve still done some stuff.
“I played 18 holes in Sweden on Saturday and on Sunday morning just before we flew over here, the arm was stiff. I could feel the nine holes I’d played on Friday and the 18 from Saturday.
“But, given what week this is, I certainly want to be here and play. If I felt there was any risk of further injury or making it worse, I wouldn’t take any chances.
“I hope it gets better over time and I improve here this week.”
Stenson put up a stern defence of the Claret Jug 12 months ago, finishing tied 11th as Jordan Spieth claimed a three-shot victory at Royal Birkdale.
The week was not without its challenges for the Gothenburg golfer, who had to cope with the additional pressures and attention that comes with being the defending champion.
His rental home being burgled while he played his opening round was another unexpected test.
He said: “It’s time for me to take something back again. Hopefully I can take something home with me this year.
“The plan was to play Carnoustie last Sunday and Monday, before the Scottish Open, then to play Gullane but sometimes these things happen and you just do the best you can.
“I still feel like this is a good golf course for me because it’s got some long second shots, it’s pretty tough.
“I have played in the Dunhill Links for maybe ten years and I played in the 2007 Open here so I have played a lot of rounds at Carnoustie.
“I should be able to formalise a plan, while practising but not overdoing it.”
Stenson begins his Open championship at 12.31pm on Thursday. He will play in the opening two rounds alongside Tommy Fleetwood and American Jimmy Walker.