Swedish Sweep for Carlsson in Kazakhstan

9/22/2013 3:28:00 PM
Johan Carlsson (Phil Inglis) ()
Johan Carlsson (Phil Inglis) ()
Sweden’s Johan Carlsson showed nerves of steel to wrap up his maiden European Challenge Tour title with a seven-shot victory at the Kazakhstan Open on a day when his compatriot Henrik Stenson was hoping to seal a huge victory of his own.

The 27 year old from Gothenburg entered the final day with a two shot lead in Almaty but as his contenders to the throne slowly began to drop away, Carlsson hammered home the win with an incredible show of composure to card a bogey-free five under par round of 67 and record the biggest winning margin in the tournament’s history.

The win, in the most lucrative regular Challenge Tour event of the season, earned him a €64,000 cheque and means the San Diego State graduate is virtually guaranteed a place on The European Tour next year.

“It feels surreal,” said Carlsson, who finished with an aggregate total of 18 under par over the extremely challenging Nurtau Golf Club. “It is amazing. It hasn’t even sunk in yet but to win by seven shots is incredible.

“If somebody told me before this tournament started that I would have won by seven shots I would not have believed them one bit. I can’t believe how calm I was out there, I was just so comfortable. There were a couple of shots where I got a little bit nervous but other than that, I was just totally calm.

“I don’t know if it was because everything went so well. I never got that pressure where I felt like they were chasing me. They made a couple of mistakes early on and I just had one of those days where I played steady and avoided the mistakes. That’s what I wanted to do when I started.

“I have been putting really well for so long now and it makes the game so much easier when you feel so good on the greens.

“I got an early birdie, which I hit too hard but it rammed in the back of the whole, so I was thinking it must be one of those days. In one way I was enjoying myself out there but in another way I just wanted to get it over with. It was a strange feeling and the closer I got to the 18th the more I just couldn’t believe it.”

Carlsson moved from 39th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings to fifth and is now looking forward to a rookie season on The European Tour after a rapid rise, having only turned professional in 2011 before rocketing through the two developmental tiers of European pro golf in the space of two years.

He cannot wait to get going on the top tier and hopes to follow in the path of current Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson, himself a Challenge Tour graduate having won the Rankings in 2000.

“I’m going to be playing The European Tour next year and that is just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s a dream come true, I cannot believe it.

“It will take some time to sink in. Obviously I have proven to myself that I should be able to handle the kind of pressure that comes with these big occasions so I cannot wait.”

Adrian Otaegui of Spain was the only player who looked to be mounting any kind of challenge to the title after two birdies in the opening three holes but he could not quite build up a head of steam and had to be content with a tied second place alongside England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Scot Duncan Stewart on 11 under par.

Nevertheless, the 20 year old from San Sebastian did enough to virtually secure his European Tour card for next season by moving to fourth in the Rankings, a huge consolation for missing out on outright second place with a bogey at the last hole.

“I was pretty calm at the beginning but I missed a few birdie chances at the par fives which I missed,” said Otaegui. “I didn’t make many putts but made one birdie at 13. Unfortunately I made a bogey at the 15th even though I hit a good shot just short of the green, but didn’t get up and down.

“I missed another birdie at the 16th so I gave away a few shots at the beginning so I'm a bit disappointed about that but I'm happy to finish second, my third of the year.

“It’s great to secure my European Tour card for next year so I'm really happy with that. Obviously it was the objective at the start of the year and I really wanted it.

“I'm confident and I'm playing well and I just need to learn from these mistakes and get better. Of course I feel like a better player this year, not only my game but mentally I have a better idea of where I'm going so that experience will help.” 

Stewart and Hatton moved to 14th and 15th place in the Rankings, respectively, while 2008 Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson finished in a tie for fifth on ten under par alongside his compatriot Robert Dinwiddie.