REIGNING Open champion Henrik Stenson was the victim of a well-planned burglary as he began the defence of his title.
The property he is renting in Southport was broken into while he was on the course at Birkdale on Thursday, and apparently everything he left behind was looted.
Stenson, 41, even had to contact his sponsors to send him emergency clothing supplies to wear in the second round, because the outfit he planned to wear was among the items that were stolen.
Stenson said: “When I finished my round yesterday I was informed that the house where I am staying had been burgled.
“It is obviously very special for me to be playing here in front of the fantastic Birkdale crowds as the defending Open Champion so I am going to try not to let this spoil the week in any way.
“I am extremely grateful that my family were not in the house at the time.
“As many of you know the Claret Jug was returned to the R&A on Monday but unfortunately, along with some valuable personal items, they have taken all of my clothing for the week.”
A source close to Stenson said he was “visibly uspet” by what had happened.
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There are fears Stenson may have been followed to his temporary address and that the burglars deliberately struck while he was on the course after taking note of his mid-morning tee time.
The fact that the burglary took place during the daylight hours supports the view that this was a carefully-planned break-in.
The Swedish star was said to be shocked rather than upset at the theft of his belongings.
He has actually suffered a much greater financial loss in the past – he was swindled out of more than £6million in 2009 when he invested in bogus investment scheme set up by American financier Allen Stanford.
Stanford was convicted for a £5billion fraud, and is currently serving a 110-year prison sentence.
He recouped that money with interest four years later, when he won the FedEx Cup series in America. It carries a bonus prize of more than £6m.
His tournament winnings meant is bank balance was boosted by almost £8m in all.
Stenson earlier this week joked about the size of his wedding ring being bigger than recently married Rory McIlroy’s.
The world No 8 said his one weighs “three kilos” and said of McIlroy: “He’s probably got a smaller ring, not in the same kind of bracket as I am!”
In 2014 Stenson, who has been as high as second in the world rankings, was rated the 64th highest-earning athlete in the world by Forbes.
Stenson won the Open at Troon last year in record-breaking style.
His 20 under par total is the best in the 157 year history of the event.
Sportsmen, particularly footballers, are regular targets for thieves who work out when they are not at home.
In March ex-England captain John Terry’s mansion was ransacked while he was on a family skiing holiday.
Terry, who this month signed for Aston Villa from Chelsea, posted photos of his holiday on Instagram, alerting burglars that his £5million home in Oxshott, Surrey, would be empty.
Liverpool star Roberto Firmino was burgled last December when a gang stole £70,000 in jewellery and watches after staking out his house in the city for several days.
And Romelu Lukaku, who recently moved for £75million from Everton to Manchester United, was targeted by burglars in September 2015 who robbed his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire while he was away on international duty with Belgium.
Detective Inspector Simon Vaughan of Merseyside Police said: “We are determined to identify those responsible and as with every burglary victim, we are carrying out a thorough investigation, offering reassurance and crime prevention advice.
“The Hugo Boss clothing taken is very personal to the victim and can be identified by a distinctive NETJETS sponsorship logo, so if anyone is offered such clothing, please contact us immediately.
“If you saw anyone acting suspiciously in the Freshfield Road area between these times, please call us. Any small detail could be vital to the investigation.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously and for free on 0800 555 111 or via their online form: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information-online
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