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King Karlberg rules Delhi’s golfing greens

Coming through the ranks of the Asian Tour’s qualifying school, the five-stroke victory at the SAIL Open assured the rookie in Rikard Karlberg that the golf course was where he belonged.

other Updated: Dec 05, 2010 23:42 IST
Robin Bose

Coming through the ranks of the Asian Tour’s qualifying school, the five-stroke victory at the SAIL Open assured the rookie in Rikard Karlberg that the golf course was where he belonged.

“A friend took me to the Scandinavian Masters and I got hooked,” Karlberg had said after winning his maiden Tour title at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) eight months ago.

The going since was ordinary till the amiable Swede teed off at the Barclays Singapore Open last month. Finishing T3 in a field that boasted of the world’s top-10 “gave him the receipt” that he could count among the best. Soon after, another bout of certainty followed during which he missed the cut at the UBS Hong Kong Open and realization dawned that a European Tour card could not be his. The words, “You never know where the future will take you,” plagued the mind, but Karlberg, who turned 24 during the Hero Honda Indian Open, descended at the DGC with the resolve to win and capture the No. 2 slot on the Tour’s order of merit. Also on offer was the novelty of winning a second title at the same venue.

Working his way up through the week, the going was not easy and even when he was struggling in the battle for supremacy with Manav Jaini and Baek Seuk-hyun on Sunday, the underlying confidence never deserted him, even when he fell off the joint lead, albeit briefly, with a dropped shot on the 14th. The tussle was nerve-wracking but the experience gathered at the venue came handy, especially in handling the pressure and the use of clubs towards the end.

Even as the home-bred Jaini, who was off to a whirlwind start with birdies on the first three holes, fell away after the 16th, Karlberg seized the initiative with a 20-feet birdie putt on the next. The lead was his but it was a grapple with nervousness when he teed off for the last time. “I was very nervous, but the shot came off well,” said Karlberg.

Done with the difficult bit, he went on to add some drama by landing the third shot into a sponsor’s marquee for a free drop and then holed the fourth. The unlikely birdie meant Baek’s final birdie putt had little bearing on the two-stroke victory margin and the cheque of $198,125 that accompanied it.

As Karlberg was being drenched with fizzy drinks, Jaini sat ruminating. “Had someone told me at about a T3 finish, I would have taken it, but not the way it came about. I was uncomfortable on the 16th and 17th through the week (he bogeyed both on Sunday) and that was my undoing,” he said, watching the animated action on the 18th green.

The occasion was overwhelming, but Karlberg did not forget to mention a few notables.

“It was after watching Tiger Woods win the 1997 US Masters that I realized that this (golf) was something I wanted to do, but it is the DGC that has caused a turnaround in my life,” he said with moist eyes.