Robert Karlsson, whose best finish at Quail Hollow is a tie for 24th, is contending in his adopted hometown.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Granted, Robert Karlsson and Ryan Moore each gave a stroke back as they played Quail Hollow's tough three-hole finishing stretch nicknamed "The Green Mile."
But as the leaders were teeing off in the Wells Fargo Championship the two veterans were living proof birdies were to be had on Saturday. Moore birdied five of his first seven holes while Karlsson, the Swede who now lives in Charlotte, made his move up the leaderboard with a 69 that included five birdies.
The two are tied at 6 under, as a result, with John Senden, who shot 67; Derek Ernest and Lee Westwood, who shot 72s, and David Lynn, who birdied the last two holes for his 71. Even better, they are only two strokes off the lead.
"I got off to a hot start," Moore acknowledged. "It was a pretty tough, blustery, windy day and the course is playing long. So you had a lot of long irons, hybrids and even fairway woods into the par 4s. So obviously to get into a off to a hot start like that was great.
"I found myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine and kind of started missing some fairways but I was able to scramble and keep it a reasonable round."
Karlsson, who lives about 20 minutes from Quail Hollow, birdied the first hole for the third time this week. He agreed with Moore about the conditions.
"It's nice to come off to a good start and play well and manage to keep it going," he said. "It's very testing conditions out there. We've got a lot of wind and the greens are not easy to hole a lot of putts on. So it's very important to keep patient and keep going because you never know what's going to happen. If you get a good streak, it could be very good."
The weather is expected to worsen on Sunday and tournament officials have moved tee times up in hopes of getting play complete before the worst of the rain arrives. Players will be sent off in threesomes from 6:45-9:45 a.m.
"I hope the weather holds off," Moore said. "If something pretty tough hits us first thing in the morning I'm not sure what they're going to do to the event. Hopefully it holds off until the afternoon like they're thinking. I'm just gonna go off, keep my head down and see what happens."
"It's obviously not ideal to tee off on Sunday at 7 o'clock in the morning," Karlsson said. "But we'll have to do what we can to get the round finished if the weather's going to be really bad. We're getting used to this this year. We've had a lot of bad weather, and we just need to deal with it."
Robert Karlsson discusses his second-place finishes the previous two years in Memphis.
Robert Karlsson sees it like this -- no player has beaten him in 144 holes of regulation play the last two years at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Unfortunately for the Swede ...
"It's those extra holes," he said Wednesday.
Specifically, seven extra holes.
Last year, Karlsson lost a playoff to Harrison Frazar by making a bogey on the third playoff hole. The year before, he lost to Lee Westwood, who birdied the fourth playoff hole.
Those seven extra holes are the reasons why Karlsson is coming to TPC Southwind this week as the two-time runner-up instead of the two-time defending champ. It's also the reason why he's on the list of favorites.
Is Karlsson haunted by coming up short in the playoffs the last two years? Does it keep him up at night? Hardly.
"Sometimes it's a cruel game," he said, "but, I mean, I went home from here second with many dollars in the bank account and I was a happy man."
Karlsson led by one stroke after 54 holes last year but had to make a clutch 8-foot putt to save par on the 72nd hole to force a playoff. He was happy with his birdie putt on the second playoff hole but it didn’t fall. His bogey on the third playoff hole was just his seventh of the week.
"I was very, very happy with the way I played," Karlsson said. "If I play like that, I cannot be angry."
In 2010, Robert Garrigus had a three-shot lead going into the final hole but triple-bogeyed the last hole, allowing Karlsson and Westwood to tie him. Garrigus bowed out of the playoff on the first extra hole. Karlsson and Westwood then went toe-to-toe, matching a par and a bogey until Westwood won the fourth playoff hole after sticking his approach to six feet.
Karlsson felt fortunate just being in a playoff, given that Garrigus had the tournament in his hands going into the 72nd hole.
"I was second in that event the whole week," Karlsson said. "I mean, the whole last day. It was his to win.
"And that didn't happen, so all of a sudden it felt a bit funny to be in the playoff."
Karlsson enters this week as the first player on the PGA TOUR to finish runner-up in consecutive years at the same event since Tim Clark at the 2008-09 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
He also enters this week having shot in the 60s in all eight of his career rounds at TPC Southwind.
That's why no one would be surprised if he breaks out of his 2012 doldrums this week. In 11 stroke-play starts on the PGA TOUR and European Tour, he's suffered four missed cuts and has yet to post a top-10 finish. In a Ryder Cup year, he currently ranks 44th on the European list.
But he said his game is starting to come around. Plus, he obviously likes this course.
As he's learned the last two years, though, there are no guarantees.
"As a golf player, you can only do your best," Karlsson said, "and some weeks, your best is 45th and some weeks it's first. And you're playing the course.
"I try to play the course as best I can, and if I walk off the 72nd -- or 75th hole in this case or 76th -- feeling you've done your best and you've played well, I'm not disappointed."
Still, he wouldn't mind finishing first this year ... not matter how many holes it takes.
The pairings have been unveiled for this week’s PGA TOUR Matchups Game on Facebook. You can check out the Matchups for the FedEx St. Jude Classic below, or on the PGA TOUR’s Facebook page.
Participants have until 6 a.m. ET Thursday to make their picks. Log on to the PGA TOUR Facebook page and click the Matchups link to make your picks for this week, or to sign up.
|Rory McIlroy vs. Graeme McDowell||These two friends have won the last two U.S. Opens|
|David Toms vs. Justin Leonard||Both have two wins each in this event|
|Harrison Frazar vs. Robert Karlsson||Can Karlsson enact revenge from his loss in 2011?|
|Davis Love III vs. Zach Johnson||Both veterans in good form ahead of TPC Southwind|
|Dustin Johnson vs. J.B. Holmes||Short hitters do well here. They must dial back.|
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In 2008, Robert Karlsson tied for eighth at the Masters, which remains the highest finish ever by a Swede in the season's first major championship.
"I hope it will be broken by two today," the good-natured Karlsson said Sunday after finishing off a round of 71.
Two of his countrymen, Peter Hanson and Henrik Stenson, were still awaiting their tee times in the final round of the 76th Masters. Hanson, who finished in the top-five at both World Golf Championships this year, owns a one-stroke lead at 9 under and will play with Phil Mickelson in the final group.
Meanwhile, Hanson's childhood friend, Stenson, trails by five.
A Swede has never won a major championship. Jesper Parnevik finished second at the British Open in 1994 and '97 while Niclas Fasth did the same in 2001. Karlsson would love for that drought to end on Sunday.
"Obviously it would mean a lot," Karlsson said. "Swedish golf has been close a couple of times with Jesper, he's had a few chances. Peter's never been this close but he showed earlier on this year that he can play well with the best players. Now it's just for him to see if he can put together another good round.
"Obviously, it will not be easy with Phil in the last group even though Phil is a great guy to play with so it's not that. But the atmosphere if Phil starts to play good, it's going to be challenging. Hopefully (Peter) can feed off it as well. So we'll see."
Karlsson is eight years older than Hanson so the two didn't really get acquainted until both were playing on the European Tour. They did team up once in the World Cup, though.
"He's a very, very solid player," Karlsson said. "I thought if he was going to win one of these it most likely was not going to be this one because his game is more set up for a U.S. Open-style golf course because he's a very very solid ball-striker. This is more of a long-hitter's and short game course, which I probably wouldn't say is his stronger suit.
"But if he keeps playing like he's doing, he's definitely taken a step up and developed a lot this year and proven to himself that he can play under these circumstances. So that's good."
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
ORLANDO, Fla. – Titleist dominates the golf ball market, led by its iconic ProV1. This year, the company is taking a renewed run at the part of the market it doesn’t have.
And by its standards, Titleist is getting a little crazy in the process.
The company launched a revamped line outside the unchanged ProV1 and ProV1x this week at the PGA Merchandise Show, including a pure distance ball and – hold on tight – two offerings in yellow.
The NXT line includes a new NXT Tour and NXT Tour S (for soft), with the latter available in white and yellow. The SoLo is also available in white and yellow.
Titleist has sold yellow balls in Japan for a few years but it hasn’t had such an offering in the U.S. in at least 15 years. The company tested many shades of yellow with customers and the colors used on the NXT Tour S and SoLo are slightly different.
The company’s other new offering is the Velocity, a pure distance ball. A high-speed solid core is enveloped in a NaZ2 cover (two parts zinc, one part sodium) with a 332 icosahedral dimple design. Its price point is between the SoLo and NXT, and available with double-digit orange numerals – 00, 11, 22, 33.
For those not quite ready to go so crazy, the Velocity also is offered with regular 1-4 numbers.
MORE BALLS: Bridgestone is releasing updated versions of its popular B330 series on March 1. The company is heavy into ball fitting, with more than 40,000 fittings in 2011 and hundreds more on-site at the Show this week, and slots customers into one of four B330 models.
The B330, used on the PGA TOUR by Davis Love III, Brandt Snedeker and Fred Couples, is their Tour-style ball for swing speeds of 105 mph or more. The B330-S is a spin model, preferred on TOUR by Matt Kuchar and Billy Hurley III.
For swing speeds under 105, Bridgestone offers the B330RX and B330RX-S (the 330 refers to number of dimples; and all models feature new dual-dimple technology), and the B330RX is offered in white and yellow. Bridgestone estimates that in other models offered in both colors, yellow is preferred 30 percent of the time.
ADAMS MAN: Robert Karlsson, second in a playoff at last year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, switched allegiances from Titleist to Adams Golf over the offseason. On a trip to the company’s test facility in Dallas, he took an immediate liking to the new Speedline Fast 12 driver. He signed a contract with the company, then later bought Adams Golf stock.
CAR CLUBS: Callaway has touted an allegiance with Lamborghini to develop materials for its drivers, but a new company on the Show floor takes the car relationship even further.
Mercedes AMG Formula One Team (that’s the entire name) has released a complete line of clubs, balls, clothes and accessories, targeting buyers who want the prestige of a racecar team on their golf bag. The prestige comes at a price – a driver’s suggested retail price is $499 and a set of irons with graphite shafts is $1,299.
With the price comes technology inspired by the actual Formula One team. The driver features a “Venturi Channel” on the sole, an aerodynamic cavity that disperses air and increases swing speed.
But make no mistake, the Mercedes AMG Formula One Team buyer wants to show off the name. On the company’s driver, the words “Mercedes AMG” appear six times.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Robert Karlsson started his week at TPC Boston on Friday with a bogey. Soon, another bogey, A brief bounce-back birdie was followed by a double bogey. Then a triple bogey when he found the water.
Seven holes into the Deutsche Bank Championship, the Swede was 6 over.
What was he thinking at that point?
"You don't want to know," he said.
From that point on, however, Karlsson has been one of the hottest golfers at TPC Boston. In the last 47 holes since that horrendous start, Karlsson is a collective 14 under. That includes the bogey-free 7-under 64 he shot in Sunday's third round that left him at 8 under for the tournament.
He's gone from desperate times to now hoping that another big move Monday might carry him to the top of the leaderboard.
"For me, it's just great to be here," he said after Sunday's round. "I've done a good job coming back. I'm proud about that. Now we'll go from here."
Karlsson, who entered this week ranked 45th in FedExCup points, said he didn't panic after his poor start on Friday that included "a couple of stupid mistakes." His mindset was simply to collect himself and not play his way out of the tournament.
"I just tried to put some score together so that I could have a chance (to make the cut)," he said.
After his triple bogey at the par-3 16th (his seventh hole) on Friday, Karlsson righted the ship with a couple of pars to end his front nine. He then produced a bogey-free 3-under 33 on his second nine that left him with an opening 74.
In Saturday's third round, he opened with three consecutive birdies and only had one slip -- a double-bogey at the par-3 11th when he three-putted after missing the green -- en route to a 67.
Sunday's 64 -- his lowest round of the year -- reflects more of what we've seen of the 41-year-old TOUR rookie lately. Among his last six starts, he's lost in a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, finished a respectable T-17 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, and tied for fourth at the PGA Championship.
"I knew I was playing pretty well," Karlsson said, then added again: "It's good to be here."
PGA TOUR rookie Robert Karlsson of Sweden, in a column he wrote for USA Today, addressed the notion that the world order in golf has changed forever, and that all is gloom and doom for American golfers.
“It is not quite as straightforward as that,” wrote the 41-year-old Karlsson, who thinks the future of golf in the U.S. is safe, especially with Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan on the rise.
Karlsson, who spent the last 20 years primarily on the European Tour before joining the PGA TOUR this year, did have a theory why there are fewer Americans in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking that at any other time since the rankings began in 1987.
He thinks Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been so dominant that other Americans have been lost in their shadows.
“It must be a little dispiriting for the next generation,” Karlsson wrote. “They are top, top players, but are not getting the level of support or attention that the likes of Tiger and Phil enjoy. In my view, it is holding them back.”
He added later in his column that “the Bubbas, Hunters and Dustins of today are not enjoying that level of attention and adulation despite the excellence of their game. They totally deserve it. And I think they need it to kick on to the next step of being established top 10 greats.”
So what do you think? Fill out the form below and let us know.
With two months to go before the first tee shot is struck in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, much remains to be sorted out.
The top 125 players in the FedExCup standings are eligible to begin the four-event Playoffs series at The Barclays, which will be held Aug. 25-28 at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. A year ago, it took 380 points to make the field for The Barclays – and a total of 83 players have already earned that many points in 2011.
Seven rookies are among those 83 -- including Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (No. 19); HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Keegan Bradley (No. 22); Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas (No. 24); Valero Texas Open winner Brendan Steele (No. 31); Robert Karlsson, who recently lost in a sudden-death playoff to Harrison Frazar at the FedEx St. Jude Classic; Chris Kirk (No. 50), who tied for second at the Shell Houston Open; and Kevin Chappell (No. 61), who tied for third last week at the U.S. Open.
Another rookie, Scott Stallings, is knocking on the door as well. at No. 84 in the standings.
The history of the FedExCup has shown that it takes more than just qualifying for the Playoffs to make a run at the title and the $10 million bonus, though. In the four previous season-long competitions, only three rookies total have managed to qualify for the Playoffs and advance to the finale at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola: Marc Leishman (2009); Andres Romero (2008); and Brandt Snedeker (2007). All three went on to win Rookie of the Year that season.
Of the players who were in the FedExCup top 30 entering The Barclays in 2010, all but eight continued their strong play through the Playoffs and advanced to the TOUR Championship. And while all 30 players at the TOUR Championship will have a mathematical chance to win the FedExCup, the top five in the standings control their own destiny and can win the FedExCup with a victory in Atlanta. So position in the FedExCup standings entering the Playoffs is key.
With that in mind, Bubba Watson could regain the No. 1 position the FedExCup this week at the Travelers Championship, where he won his first PGA TOUR title last year. Watson, currently No. 2, is only 38 points behind leader Luke Donald, who is idle this week. Watson gained the FedExCup lead in May when he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and held it for five weeks, until Donald took over when he tied for seventh at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
Of the other players in the current top 20 who are competing at the Travelers Championship, Nick Watney (No. 6), David Toms (No. 8), Brandt Snedeker (No. 12), Martin Laird (No. 15), Webb Simpson (No. 16), Aaron Baddeley (No. 17) and Hunter Mahan (No. 18) could take over the FedExCup lead this week. All but Watney and Toms would need a win to do so.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Another year, same result for Robert Karlsson.
In a finish eerily similar to last year’s tournament, the Swede watched someone collapse on the 18th hole only to find himself come up short in a playoff again.
In 2010, it was Robert Garrigus who blew a three-shot lead that led to a three-man playoff that also included Karlsson and eventual winner Lee Westwood. This time it was Harrison Frazar hitting it in the water on the 18th -- only he outlasted Karlsson in the head-to-head battle, beating him on the third extra hole.
“I cannot say I could have done much more,” Karlsson said. “It was a great match, and someone has got to win and someone has got to lose.”
Karlsson had a chance to extend the playoff to a fourth hole, but his chip shot on No. 12 settled nearly 12 feet away to leave him a difficult par putt.
The Swede missed and Frazar got his first career victory, something Karlsson, who has 11 wins on the European Tour, will have to wait for on the PGA TOUR.
”Chipping here is quite difficult in general,” Karlsson said. “The ball wasn't lying that great. I thought I had the right club and just came at it a bit too low and landed in the down grain and just released too much.”
Still, Karlsson tried to keep his head high after another runner-up in Memphis.
“It was good fun,” he said. “That's why were here. That's why we play. That's the challenge of the game to be here and to play.
“He played great and I played good as well. It's one of those days where I think most of us had a lot of fun out there.”
The playoff between Robert Karlsson and Harrison Frazar will begin on the 18th hole, where Frazar just hit it in the water on his way to a bogey that resulted in the playoff. The order of holes in the playoff will go No. 18, then Nos. 11 and 12 and then back to the 18th if necessary.
18TH HOLE: Karlsson and Frazar both hit it on the green in two on the first hole of sudden-death. Frazar is closer, about 17 feet away. Karlsson is much farther away at 38 feet. Both two-putted for par, however, and the playoff will now move to the par-3 11th hole.
11TH HOLE: Frazar hit a gap wedge on the 134-yard par-3 and did so to the back of the green about 45 feet away. But Karlsson this time was the one who was closer, hitting it to around 20 feet or so. Frazar lagged his putt to tap-in distance, while Frazar missed just right. On they go. Up next: No. 12.
12TH HOLE: Frazar teed off first on the 12th, which has water to the right off the tee. He split the fairway, however, and Karlsson did the same -- though Karlsson is well back of Frazar after what looked like a 3- or 5-wood. There’s about a 70-yard difference between the two. Karlsson still had just a 9-iron in, but he missed the green to the right. Frazar, meanwhile, hit a lob wedge to about 20 feet.
After Karlsson hit an indifferent shot to around 10 feet, Frazar two-putted for par. Karlsson then missed his par putt, giving Frazar his first victory in 355 career starts on the PGA TOUR.
“The last couple years have been really long and really hard,” an emotional Frazar told CBS following the win. “It’s pretty cool.”