Robert Karlsson | Player Profile | Nedbank Golf Challengeon October 26, 2011
A long jump pit seems an odd place for the start of a golf career. But Sweden’s Robert Karlsson credits the pure freedom he felt playing there as a child with the start of his successful, but often frustrating, path in the game.
The first golf club he picked up was a five iron, and fuelled by a competitive streak to be better at the game than a friend who was two years older than him, Karlsson began driving himself towards a career that would include 11 victories on the European Tour, Ryder Cup appearances and rankings within the top 10 in the world. At the age of 16, this son of a greenkeeper won the Swedish Boys Championship and gained his national colours. He turned professional in 1989, joining the Swedish Tour at first. A year later he was on the European Tour, and has been one of the most methodically consistent performers on the circuit.
The highlight was no doubt the Order of Merit title he won in 2008, becoming the first Swedish golfer to do so, and being ranked in the top 10 in the world. But the 6 ft 5 in golfer admits it hasn’t always been easy. “I can safely say that it was a pretty rough road up to the game that I play now. Despite some successes, on multiple occasions I seriously considered giving up my professional career. I was annoyed at myself and thought I was not good enough. I knew that I had the capacity to be much better, but I could not reach my potential during tournaments. “If anyone had asked me a few years ago if I thought I would be ranked in the top 10 in the world during my career, I had not thought it possible. I have always known that I had more to give than my results had shown. I carried this immense frustration that I did not live up to my own expectations.”
In 2003, the same year he married his wife Ebba, Karlsson decided to take more control of his destiny. “I focused on developing my personal leadership in every area of my life. Now that I have experienced more of my potential, I know that there is still much more to improve within myself.”
Karlsson’s natural ability was nowhere more evident than during the BMW PGA Championship last year. After thinking he had missed the cut, he flew home that Friday afternoon. But just as he reached his house in Monaco, a phone call from the European Tour informed him that he had actually made the cut. He went straight back to the airport, flew to Paris, had two hours’ sleep, flew to London and just made his 8.55am tee time. Then he shot a course record 62.
Karlsson’s record in the Majors hasn’t always been at the level he expects from himself. His top finishes include fifth in the Open Championship in 1992, eighth in the Masters and US Open in 2008, and fourth in the PGA Championship in 2011.
But with a new focus to grow more as a person than just as a golfer, one of the tallest professionals in world golf seems destined to reach still greater heights.
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