Karin Sjodin on IK Kim’s missed putt at the 72nd hole

Golf News

The Swedish star tells the story of how close she came to winning last year’s Kraft Championship to Mark Townsend

KARIN Sjodin arrived at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco ranked 216th in the world and very possibly dislocated a rib halfway through her second round.

Come the end of the third round the Swede was in a tie for the lead with the World No 1 Yani Tseng.
We first heard about Sjodin when she was part of the winning Swedish team at the Espirito Santo Trophy, otherwise known as the World Amateur Team Championship, in 2004. She also finished as the leading individual. Runners-up that year were Canada and the United States who had Paula Creamer in their trio.

She then made it onto the LPGA Tour at her first attempt and was quickly known as one of the longest hitters on tour but not the straightest. She recorded just two top 10s in six years but a lot of hard work later she threatened to break her own (and Europe’s seven-year) duck at the year’s opening Major.

I had missed all three cuts there before so I don’t know what was different last year. I have always liked the course and I think it suits me pretty well. The first time I played I was still an amateur so everything was new to me, I had never had a caddy before, or seen that kind of rough or played with those kind of players. I just somehow started the year well and played very steady in Phoenix two weeks before the Kraft and felt good about my game.

I’m not sure Mission Hills suits big hitters particularly, a lot of big and short hitters have won it and done well there. You definitely have to keep it in the fairway and hit a lot of greens, the up and downs are really tough on pretty much every single hole.

I have cut back on how far I hit it, I used to hit it about a club and half further but with a push draw or a pull hook and I realised that I couldn’t control the ball on the tighter courses. Now I claim I am hitting it short and straight but I was still in the top 10 of the driving distances last year (Sjodin also topped the Greens in Regulation stats).

I work a lot with my coach EJ Pfister and I tended to be very long and across the line at the top which causes me to come from the inside on the downswing. So by controlling the position on the backswing I seem to be able to attack the ball from a better position.

On the Friday I don’t know what happened to my rib. There was an indentation on my back where the rib is supposed to attach to the spine and it was out of place. I don’t know if it was dislocated or not but it wasn’t very pleasant.

It clicked walking between the 9th green and the 10th tee, I have no idea what I did but, all of a sudden, there was this sharp pain and it was hard to breathe. I hit the tee shot on 10 and called out the trainer and I got treated on the fairway, luckily we were playing in the last group.

After a while the painkillers kicked in. It was very strange but I heard later that it happens to a lot of golfers. We put a lot of torque on the rib cage and some of my friends have had their ribs pop out in their sleep.

She had won pretty much every tournament for the last few years so the pressure was on her Playing with Yani in the last round of a Major was a great experience and it helped to take a lot of the pressure off me. She had won pretty much every tournament for the last few years so the pressure was on her.

I talk a lot when I play, mainly to my caddy, but we chatted when it slowed down and we knew each other from playing together over the years. She is easy to play with, she has a good tempo in terms of pace of play.

When you play with someone you don’t pay that much attention to what the other players are doing, particularly in that type of situation where you are focusing so hard on your own game. Clearly her results are incredibly impressive but when you are stood on the same tee you try not to be too impressed by it.

I had been in the last group of another LPGA event but I can’t even remember where I finished so it can’t have been that successful. When I was with the Swedish team and we won the World Amateur Championship in 2004 that was very nerve-wracking to have your team on your back and you really need to pull through for everyone.

I didn’t exactly picture myself going into Poppie’s Pond if I won but I do know that I thought about not wearing white when I was picking my outfit the night before. I’m not a very gracious diver so I guess it would have been some sort of cannonball and sloppy entry.

I eagled the 2nd on the final day but I had no idea where I was. When people watch on TV they think it is hard to believe that players don’t look at the leaderboards but when you are in the middle of it there are so many other things to focus on. I then dropped a few shots but I still felt like I was hitting it well. Some of the bounces didn’t go my way but I never thought I was out of it.

I don’t have a video of the final day and I’m afraid my memory of my own golf is generally awful! I remember the eagle and the 18th hole but not much of everything in between. We were waiting to hit our approaches to the last when IK Kim missed her putt. It looked like a short putt, she took a bit of a break to look at it but the fact that she hadn’t marked it we assumed it was a very short putt.

It was the creepiest feeling I have ever felt, there was so much energy around the course that afternoon then all of a sudden the excitement just turned to horror. It was just awful.

Off the course I definitely smile a lot, on the course it is a little more dependent on how I play. It is a lot easier to smile when you are doing well. I am one of the smilier players out there. I don’t see a sports psychologist, I think it is something that comes quite naturally.

The most satisfying thing was that I had worked on certain things and I knew deep inside they were the right things but, on the course, I hadn’t managed to put things together. This was proof that I had made progress and that I could compete against the top players in the world.

There were about 16 or 17 Swedish golfers before me at Oklahoma State so it is a bit of a pipeline and some of my good friends were already there. As an athlete you probably don’t lead the sort of university life that you see in films or on TV but I had some great team- mates and made some great friends. Being on a scholarship is an amazing thing as you are being spoilt for a number of years for doing what you love. I still live there now.

I wouldn’t say I watched that much golf, it wasn’t on TV too much. I was more into the soccer and tennis and used to love watching Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras play.
I only got into golf when I was 15 or 16 when I quit soccer. I was a goalie and I was an alternate for the junior national team, at tennis I had a good forehand and that was about it!

I can’t qualify through the European points as I don’t play the LET much so I would have to get in through the world list or as a captain’s pick. It is definitely something I dream about.

Read our interview with the 1995 Kraft Championship winner Nanci Bowen HERE

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