PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Robert Karlsson believes following process will lead to victory
May 20, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- May 20, 2021
- Robert Karlsson is focusing on himself rather than chasing victory on the PGA TOUR Champions. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Robert Karlsson had his welcome-to-PGA-TOUR-Champions-moment after his very first round.
The 6-foot-5 native of Sweden, who won 11 times on the European PGA TOUR and won the Order of Merit in 2008, had shot a first-round 2-under 69 at the 2020 Chubb Classic and was feeling pretty good about himself.
Then he checked the leaderboard.
“My caddie said let’s just be patient and take our time and let things happen,” Karlsson said. “I ended with 69 and I was like, ‘Yeah, OK. That was decent.’ And I was like 24th or whatever. And I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ It was a bit of a slap in the face right away.
“I had to change my frame of mind a little bit and play more aggressive from the start. It was very clear. Most of the events you have to be 14- to 18-under par to be up near the top. It’s more about aggressive play. If things don’t go your way you can use the next 36 holes to work on your game because there’s no cut. On the PGA TOUR you have the weekend off.”
Karlsson made the adjustment quickly after finishing T23 at the Chubb. His next results were a solo eighth at the Cologuard Classic and a tie for second at the Hoag Classic before the coronavirus pandemic caused a nearly five-month shutdown of PGA TOUR Champions.
He was a little rusty after the layoff, but even a rusty Karlsson has yet to finish outside the top 38 in any of his 18 starts. He has 10 top-10 finishes, including his T10 at last week’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic in Duluth, Georgia. In this extended superseason that encompasses 2020 and 2021, his number of top-10s ranks behind only Bernhard Langer (15), Kevin Sutherland (12) and Ernie Els (11). All three of them have played in at least one more event than Karlsson.
Karlsson has been stellar from tee to green. He ranks in the top 10 in driving distance (ninth), greens in regulation (10th), putting average (third), eagles (third), birdie average (fifth) and scoring average (third). He’s seventh in the Schwab Cup standings, and he has won the most money of any player without a win.
That’s the only thing Karlsson hasn’t done so far is win. There have been a handful of close calls, but surprisingly he makes it sound like it’s the last thing on his mind.
“America is very much a country of winners. There’s so much focus on winning tournaments,” Karlsson said. “I’m not really trying to play that game. I’m trying to shoot the best score I can. If I do that and I’ve done my part I’m happy with that. I can only control my golf ball. My goal is just to become better each week and improve the things I didn’t do last week so well. …
“I’m looking at the longer perspective and trying to enjoy the golf as much as I can and shoot the best scores I can. Winning and losing doesn’t matter that much. If I play really well, if I do my job well, that gives me satisfaction, not the winning and losing.”
Make no mistake: Karlsson said he wants to win. But he also sees an inherent danger on being hell-bent to hold a trophy.
“It’s very easy to lose focus if you’re chasing wins,” Karlsson said. “The way I win is by playing well. That has been proven. If I play well and do my processes that I can control, the wins will come.”
Karlsson said he likes where his game is. And it’s hard to quibble with his statistical performance. It would seem as though that breakthrough victory is only a matter of time.
“I think twice on the European Tour I won wire to wire,” Karlsson said. “And I remember shooting a 66 in a final round in tough conditions to win from six shots back. So we’ll see. The most important thing is I’m enjoying my game and trying to improve on my game each week. I’m sure the wins will take care of themselves.”