Following a testing 2011 campaign which left him both physically and mentally drained, Oskar Henningsson is hoping to rediscover his love for the game at this week’s ALLIANZ Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne.
After winning the 2008 Qualifying School Final Stage and entering the winners’ enclosure on The European Tour at the Czech Open the following season, the amiable Swede appeared to have the world at his feet.
But having subsequently struggled to maintain his momentum in 2010 and 2011, Henningsson recently undertook a self-imposed absence from the fairways which he hopes will help him to rediscover the red-hot form that culminated in his triumph at Prosper Golf Resort three seasons ago.
Since finishing in a tie for 15th place at the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge, Henningsson has hardly touched his clubs, opting instead to become a house husband and look after his daughter Ruth, who turns two next month.
Whilst spending time with his young family has inevitably helped Henningsson get away from the stresses and strains of life on the Tour treadmill, it has also reignited his enthusiasm and passion for his chosen career.
He said: “It’s my first time out here, and so far I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Obviously there’s a slightly different intensity on the Challenge Tour to life on the main Tour, but maybe that’s what I need right now. I really enjoyed my time at home looking after my daughter because I’ve missed out on her growing up, so it was really nice to spend time together and give my girlfriend some time off from being a Mum. But now I’m really enjoying being back out on the golf course again.
“It was a long season last year, and it took it out of me mentally and physically. So I feel like I needed a break from competing, and hopefully I’ll come out here fresh and ready to go. I got off to a really slow start last year, and just never really recovered. The problem when you’re not picking up results is that you feel like you have to play your way out of a bad run of form, so you keep turning up week after week and sometimes you don’t really want to be there, but you feel like you have to be there.
“If you approach a tournament like that you’re never going to get the best out of yourself, because your confidence is already low, so you’re better off taking a break and starting back fresh. I definitely learned that lesson the hard way last season, because I was making the same mistakes and I felt like I went backwards as a player. But hopefully this year I can get back on track and work my way onto the main Tour, either through the Challenge Tour or the Q School. After such a long break I’m going to be feeling a little rusty here, but hopefully I can find my rhythm quickly and have a good week.”
Henningsson’s fellow European Tour champion Anton Haig, meanwhile, will make a welcome return to Europe after an 18-month absence when he tees up this week.
Haig, a winner of two Sunshine Tour and one Asian Tour titles, has been in the golfing wilderness since losing his European Tour card in 2010 following a testing campaign in which he made the cut on just five occasions.
But having returned to his native South Africa in a bid to rebuild his fragile confidence, Haig will now hope to rediscover the form which saw him triumph at the 2007 Johnnie Walker Classic on only his 18th start on The European Tour.
Haig has been joined at the picturesque Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André, in the Bretagne region of northern France, by his fellow European Tour champion Peter Baker of England.
The former Ryder Cup player won the inaugural tournament in 2007, and will this week be hoping to continue England’s dominance of the €160,000 event, with his compatriots Lee James, Sam Walker and last year’s champion Phil Archer having won the past three editions.
The leading home hope is Alexandre Kaleka, winner of the ALLIANZ Open de Lyon on his professional debut in 2009.