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One key to a free-flowing swing and longevity on the PGA Tour? A Total Body Stretch

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Golf

Henrik Stenson might not know you personally, but he still knows you.

He knows you change into soft spikes in the parking lot, pay your green fee and then maybe, at most, spend 10 seconds stretching your upper body by grabbing a rail of the golf cart.

"All the guys who run straight to the first tee box, you'll want to make sure to give yourself a better chance of hitting that first tee shot well," he said.

Stenson used to be more like you. Even on a chilly morning, he warmed up by hitting balls.

"You're on the range at 6:15, it's a bit cold and you're feeling like you're 100 years old," he said. "Instead, if you've done the warmup, you can basically take a 3-wood straight out of the bag and hit it."

Stenson is among the PGA Tour's most ardent believers in a new service called Total Body Stretch that Massage Envy introduced as part of its new partnership with the tour. Massage Envy's 10-player staff includes Stenson, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Thomas, the wunderkind who enters this week's BMW Championship at Conway Farms about as hot as the Cleveland Indians.

Thomas has won two of his last three events, including the PGA Championship and Dell Technologies, the FedEx Cup playoff event that preceded the BMW.

Thomas chuckled when asked about his glutes.

"They're great," he replied. "Between (the Total Body Stretch) and my physio team, we have a good routine to make sure I'm feeling as good as possible. It keeps me loose, keeps me limber."

Despite his 5-foot-10, 145-pound frame, the 24-year-old Thomas is the 10th-longest man on tour with an average drive of 309 yards.

"I mean I was long before that," he said. "It helps, the stretching and all that, but a lot else goes into it for sure."

Indeed, this stretch-and-massage routine is more about length of career than length off the tee.

"Stretching is part of my daily routine now," Stenson said. "Hopefully that gives me another couple of years on the back end."

In the morning, Stenson either uses a balance pad and bands in his hotel room or visits the PGA Tour Player Performance Center, a double-wide trailer where physical therapist Corey Hug was on call Tuesday.

"Guys come in on practice days, pro-am day and tournament days, and we make sure their flexibility and mobility are good," he said. "That way when they get to the range, they are ready to go. They don't have to wait until the fourth hole to be warmed up."

I endured and came to enjoy the Total Body Stretch at a Massage Envy in Chicago. My therapist, Ken Cook, who played volleyball at Ball State, stressed deep belly breathing and used spiky massage balls to activate neglected muscles in my legs.

When his pressure reached 7 out of 10, he told me to flag him.

"We're here to stretch you," he said, "not to hurt you."

Later he asked: "Are you comfortable with glute compressions?"

I said yes, as long as he could find them.

Asked about his glutes, Stenson replied: "They are fairly strong, I think. And, yes, they are firing."

The 41-year-old Swede who outdueled Phil Mickelson to win the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon enters the week 26th in FedEx Cup points among the field of 70. The top 30 advance to next week's Tour Championship in Atlanta.

"I'm lucky," Stenson said. "I have my own physio and trainer. We go through the body every morning to make sure everything is up and running. We do some stretching, some active movements and make sure I'm aligned.

"At the end of the day, you're tired. You have played and practiced. But if you can get 15 minutes of work done in the hotel room before you hit the shower and go to dinner ... it's like if someone does 20 pushups and 20 situps. It won't be a huge amount that day. But if you do it every day, it accumulates."

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