HOYLAKE, England — There is a major championship golf trophy with a spot on it just awaiting the name Henrik Stenson. Maybe it will be the one they engrave here Sunday at the end of the 143rd British Open at Royal Liverpool.
Statistical evidence speaks to that. So does media sentiment. We shall address the latter first.
Many pro golfers face their contractual duties of answering questions from the great unwashed, ink-stained wretches with a ready snarl. Wander far from the safe haven of five-irons and stimpmeters and run the risk of being glared to a cinder.
Stenson comes to the media fray with a twinkle in his eye. He is a walking one-liner, just waiting for one of us to push the start button.
The image of the pro tour, especially the U.S. part of it, remains one of blue-eyed, blond-haired, recent Southern college stars with ice-cream-sweet swings and vanilla personalities.
Except for an ice-cream-sweet swing, Stenson is the antithesis. His dry sense of humor is irresistible, and he seldom resists using it when prompted.
He is questioned about the dynamics of being paired with Tiger Woods, as he is here, and Tiger even having his own dedicated TV channel.
"Where did mine go?" Stenson quips.
He is asked, tongue in cheek, if he thinks, when Tiger sees he is paired with Stenson, that it strikes fear in Tiger's heart.
"Yeah, I think it would have been a lot of sleepless nights for him of late," Stenson says. "When did the draw come out? He looked tired, didn't he?"
Another questioner framed his query about motivation by saying that Stenson has had a good life and has lots of money.
"Do you need a loan?" Stenson asks.
He is asked about his incredible run at the end of last year and he responds that it triggered exhaustion.
"That ruined Christmas a lot," he says. "I was running on fumes when I saw Santa Claus."
Significantly, all this quickness of quip, understanding of tone and sense of nuance is coming from someone not speaking his first language.
Stenson is Swedish. Certainly not a household name in most U.S. households, where golf is followed generally but not addictively, Stenson deserves a longer look. He is 38 years old, the same as Woods, and currently one of the best in the world, No. 2 behind Adam Scott.
Were you to study the form chart as if this British Open were the Santa Anita Handicap, you'd be drawn to Stenson as a top-value bet. He has been hanging around the top of the leaderboard at major events of late, kind of checking it out so he knows what to say in his own victory speech.
He was second in last year's British Open and led for a short while on the final day at Muirfield, until Phil Mickelson replaced golf clubs with magic wands over the last six holes.
Stenson was third in last year's PGA, fourth in this year's U.S. Open and has a best finish of 14th in the Masters. That was this year. He also has two other third-place finishes in the British.
In 2013, he won what he proudly calls his "double-double."
As a member of both the U.S. and European Tours, he won the season-ending U.S. Tour Championship and with it the FedEx Cup and then went to Europe and won that tour's equivalent season-ending DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai. Nobody had ever done that.
The FedEx Cup comes with a $10 million check. Asked what a $10 million check looks like, Stenson says, with a twinkle, "Don't know. It was a wire transfer."
He is the highest-ranking Swede ever. That's especially significant in that, battling injuries and mediocre golf, he was No. 230 in the early part of 2012. Then he began his climb back.
"It was some good work, put in by my team, over a long period of time," Stenson says, "that put me where I could play such consistent golf. And then it was just down to the mind to keep on going, really, and the body to stay with it."
He joked that the body might not have stayed with it as well as it should have.
"I felt like I was in good physical shape, at that time, at least," he says, "before all the barbecues and ice cream I've had in the last couple of months."
Stenson, positioned to be the first Swede to win a major, says his career has had bigger ups and bigger downs than many other golfers. One of the bigger downs was at the 2012 Masters.
He was playing on his 36th birthday, April 5, in the opening round. He was one hole away from walking into the locker room with the lead, but then he hit the ball into some trees on his drive on No. 18, had trouble getting out and made an eight.
Afterward, with a few reporters waiting for him, he disappeared. That was both understandable and un-Stenson-like. In minutes, he showed up and talked.
His philosophy about ups and downs, which feeds his unusual perspective at hard moments, is that that is the natural progressions of things.
"Nothing is just a straight line," he says, "and if it is, I don't think we're in the right place."
That wrong place?
The eyes twinkle again. The sides of his mouth curl a tad.
"Might be a coffin," he says.