By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - Henrik Stenson's mind coach Torsten Hansson was a proud and happy man on Monday after having been in Dubai to witness his protégé accomplish the task of climbing "the world's highest golfing mountain".
A win at the 2009 Players Championship in Florida, the sport's unofficial fifth major, took the Swede up to fourth in the world before he suffered the second big form slump of his career to crash out of the top 200.
Stenson decided to reunite with his former mind coach Hansson in 2012 and since then he has fought his way back to the top, culminating in Sunday's historic six-shot triumph at the DP World Tour Championship in the Middle East.
Not only did the victory enable the former Ryder Cup player to finish the season as Europe's number one golfer, it also meant world number three Stenson became the first man to land the Race To Dubai and U.S. FedExCup double.
"I used a metaphor these last four days when we were working hard to try and get these titles that we were attempting to climb the highest mountain in the world," Hansson told Reuters by telephone just moments after arriving back in his native Sweden.
"We had been struggling in the bushes and then the woods but then suddenly we could see above the tree tops and we could actually start climbing.
"In these last four days we were in the last stages of our climb and I told Henrik, 'It's going to be hard because you're totally worn out and it's freezing up there but you must be really aware of where you're putting your hands and feet'," said Hansson.
"After he finished and we were having dinner last night I talked about the metaphor we had used and I gave him a flag because that's the only thing he forgot to do, put the flag at the top of the mountain."
During the course of the European Tour's season-ending $8 million tournament in Dubai, Hansson said he wanted Stenson to be sure of every step he took.
"On the flag there's an inscription that says no one has ever been here before and you are the first one," he added.
"When you're at that level of climbing you have to be 100 percent certain where you put your hands and feet so I was just trying to tell him, 'Don't move anything unless you are sure you have a good grip'.
"We take it one shot at a time and we don't do anything unless he's absolutely positive about the shot he's about to play."
Not surprisingly, given the scale of his achievement, Stenson resembled something of a busted flush on Sunday night.
"We had a low-key party really," said Hansson. "I was with Henrik, his family and his close friends.
"I think he was more relieved and surprised than overwhelmed. Most athletes tell me the same, that they can't really get in touch with their feelings because they're so absolutely worn out.
"There wasn't much drinking from Henrik last night, he's not really into that stuff."
Stenson will remain in Dubai for a couple of days before jetting to South Africa for a family holiday and rounding off his golfing year by competing in the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City that starts on December 5.
The 37-year-old has been troubled by a wrist injury for the last month but Hansson said he was confident two weeks of rest would cure the problem.
"Not only is his wrist sore now, everywhere in the body is sore after the last couple of weeks we've had, what with playing, praticising, training and all the effort he's put in," he explained.
"I think if we give him 14 days rest he'll be ready again."
Britain's Ian Poulter, who battled Stenson all the way only to finish second in the Race To Dubai money list, said the Swede could justifiably be called "the best player on the planet" right now.
Stenson trails second-placed Australian Adam Scott and 14-times major winner Tiger Woods in the rankings but Hansson had no argument with Poulter's assertion.
"You saw the performance he gave yesterday," said Hansson. "With all that pressure, all that media scrutiny and then to top it all with an eagle at the 18th, how can you ever explain it in any other way?
"I've told him so many times if we stick to the plans and work really hard there will be moments when we have the golfing gods with us and he had that.
"The gods wanted him to win yesterday and they wanted him to win in a really spectacular way so that everyone in the world could see how good he is," said Hansson.
"We really feel he can reach number one in the world. Now we have new goals and new mountains to climb."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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- Henrik Stenson