With qualification for the 2012 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, limited to the top 60 European Tour golfers, Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm knows his “best ever tournament” may well have booked his place at the $8 million finale of The Race to Dubai.
Fourth place at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland provided the biggest pay day of the powerful Swede’s short career and launched him from 87th to 55th place in The Race to Dubai. And for the man who travels the world as golfing ambassador for Atlantis, The Palm – Official Hotel of the DP World Tour Championship – there’s a good chance of ending the season on ‘home’ soil.
“At the start of the year, my aim was to win a tournament, qualify for the DP World Tour Championship and keep my playing card,” said Sjoholm. “I could say my ambitions were to win 14 tournaments and be World Number One within five weeks but you have to be realistic and set achievable goals.”
That Race to Dubai goal is now within his grasp after the flamboyant Scandinavian in the plus-fours produced his best golf of the year in Scotland following a week’s break at Atlantis, The Palm. That spell in the Dubai sunshine seems to have paid off and left him on track to join the 60-man field on the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates from 22-25 November.
“I love playing the golf courses in Dubai – they are fantastic and set up to make you play better golf,” he said. “You have to be a long hitter and be good around the greens to do well on the Earth course. I really believe if you can play well there then you can play well anywhere on The European Tour.”
Although he has yet to win a tournament, ‘The Man from Atlantis’ believes he is more than capable of making a serious splash on The European Tour. “I think the win is coming - I have to believe that. That’s why I keep practicing because when the day comes that I don’t believe it then I’ll pack it in and stop playing.”
“But every week I don’t win, I remind myself that I have to work harder. Being a professional golfer is a tough job but it’s also one of the best in the world.”
While players flirting with the cut off point in the top 60 are among the best in the world, they are also golf fans at heart just like the 40,000 spectators that are expected to descend on the Earth course next month. And for Sjoholm, qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship will give him the chance to tee it up alongside the very best in the business.
“Lee Westwood is the best player I’ve ever played with,” he said. “I played with him in Abu Dhabi earlier this year and he is amazing and a really nice guy. When you play alongside any of the top ten you know that while your best shot is as good as theirs, your poorest shot is 48 times worse than theirs! Of course, I know how to get back in shape from a bad shot but with those guys it is their consistency that is so pure.”
While players such as 2009 Race to Dubai Champion Westwood, World Number One and Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy and the rest of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup team have already qualified for the final event of the year, Sjoholm still has work to do before he can confirm another week in Dubai.
And after a year that also saw him marry childhood sweetheart Christina – “I now play with a smile on my face” – and tie for ninth place at the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Sjoholm is desperate to make his DP World Tour Championship debut.
“Being in the top 60 makes a big difference because when I was 87th I was 20 places behind where I wanted to be,” he said. “I’m close now but I still have to hunt to make sure. I have to stay focused all the way to the end of the year… I know what I have to do.”