Robert Karlsson became the seventh wire-to-wire winner on The 2002 European Tour International Schedule when he claimed victory in the Omega European Masters over the newly named ‘Seve Ballesteros Course’ at Crans-sur-Sierre.
Appropriately amidst the towering Swiss Alps, the lanky Swede stood tall, a final round 71 giving him a 14 under par total of 270, four shots clear of South Africa’s Trevor Immelman and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie with Bradley Dredge and Simon Dyson sharing fourth on 275.
Karlsson picked up the winners’ cheque of €250,000 (£158,407) and moved to 33rd in the Volvo Order of Merit with €479,814 (£304,024) and he immediately dedicated the win to his former sports psychologist, Dr Bengt Stern, who passed away on Friday.
“I got the message on Friday afternoon and I felt I wanted to do this for him so it was nice I could,” said Karlsson. “I worked with him between 1996 and 2000, not so much in the last couple of years, but he was still a person I talked to regularly. He has been a very important person in my career.
“One of the most important things he got me to understand was that if I feel I am playing badly, it is only actually a thought, it doesn’t have to be the truth. If you are playing badly on the golf course, it is only a feeling and it is important to realise I am not my feelings. I am Robert.”
It was a mantra which worked well for Karlsson in the early stages of the final round as he saw his two shot overnight lead whittled away as he bogeyed three holes in a row from the second, his first bogeys of the tournament since the 11th hole of the opening round.
At that stage, England’s Barry Lane grabbed pole position but when Karlsson birdied the eighth hole as Lane bogeyed the ninth, to begin a slide which saw him eventually finish in a share of 13th place, the Swede moved back in front and never looked back.
Turning for home Karlsson flourished and birdies at the 11th, 13th and 15th, the 13th courtesy of an audacious pitch-in from the back of the green, saw him move six shots clear of a chasing pack who were all faltering. In the end, the Swede could afford to bogey both the 17th and 18th and still win comfortably.
For a while into the back nine, it looked like Karlsson’s main threat was going to come from Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open Golf Champion and the winner of The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open last month.
The 33 year old Scot got within a shot of Karlsson but saw his chance of victory slip away in the closing stages where uncharacteristic clubbing errors saw him drop three shots in the last five holes and he had to settle for a closing 72 for a ten under par total of 274.
“It was disappointing to finish like that but it has been a good week,” said Lawrie. “I played well overall apart from the last few holes but there was more good than bad. Second is all right. It’s not first, but it’s better than third.”
Sharing the runners-up spot with the Scot was Trevor Immelman, who took the bridesmaid’s tag for the third time this season following his second place finishes in the Novotel Perrier Open de France and the Volvo Scandinavian Masters.
Far from being upset however, the 22 year old South African, who acknowledged he let chances of victory slip in France and Sweden, admitted after early errors in the final round, to battle back to claim second was an achievement to be credited this time.
Dropped shots at the first and third holes saw him out in 38 and when he made another bogey at the 12th courtesy of a pushed tee shot, a podium place seemed beyond him. But he showed character to birdie the 14th and 15th and par the remaining three holes for a closing 72.
“This is a second place that I am happy and proud of because I really did gut it out, out there today,” said Immelman. “I definitely played the worst golf today that I have done in the past few months but I really hung in there and that shows a lot.
“I said to my caddie on the two par fives, let’s try and make a couple of birdies and make the top five. Then I made them and everybody else was making bogeys so I said, ‘Hey man, let’s try and finish second, so that’s what I did and I’m very proud of that.”