From a loss of form and confidence last year to becoming one of the most consistent DP World Tour performers this season, Alexander Björk writes about a vital change to his game, Ryder Cup ambitions and being one of the shorter hitters in this week’s Enterprise Player Blog.
I would say I am back to the level I was performing at when I won the Volvo China Open in 2018. I came out onto the Tour in 2017 after graduating from the Challenge Tour and in 2018 I played really well, winning my maiden title. I am more consistent now. Between 2018 and now my performance has been up and down with some small injuries, and I lost confidence as a result, but the confidence is back as is my mental approach.
I think a return to the winner’s circle is just around the corner. I feel like I have had a few chances, just been a little unfortunate with how things just haven’t gone my way at the end of the tournaments. I’ve just been on the wrong side, but I feel as if I continue to play like this, I will continue to give myself more chances and then it will be my turn soon again.
I hope I am in the thoughts of Luke Donald for Ryder Cup consideration. I have had a really consistent season. I am leading the Scoring - Stroke Average category on Tour. I also played well in the Italian Open earlier this season at the Ryder Cup venue, Marco Simone. I think I have a chance if I have a good week or two before the qualification period ends in Switzerland. I believe I have a few good qualities for matchplay, especially foursomes, hitting a lot of fairways and as a good iron player. I hope with some more good results I will be close.
Last spring, I wasn’t playing well and knew I couldn’t continue in that way. I didn’t have enough control over my swing. After working with my coach, I changed my grip. At the outset, it wasn’t the aim but over time it became stronger and stronger, so we weakened the grip. Instead of moving the ball right to left, I want to move it left to right. Since the change, my stability is much better, and it’s enabled me to feel more comfortable. Even from that moment last year, I was playing a lot better even if I didn’t have it all pieced together. The form has improved through this season. The grip change and how I hit the ball combined with the mental side has been beneficial for me.
In the fall of last season, I started working with a mental coach. It’s largely basic thoughts, how I should approach things. I’ve been working a lot on my patience on the course, trying to keep calm when things aren’t going my way. That along with a better technique have been the two things that have helped me improve this year.
Of course, one of my goals is to play as many Majors as possible. I’ve played The Open five times and the US PGA a few times which are probably the easiest two to get into from the DP World Tour. Playing The Masters and US Open are definitely in my mind so hopefully if I continue to keep playing well I can get the chance to play in them. The Masters is the tournament I remember the most growing up. I have a lot of memories of watching it as a kid on the TV. My dad used to tape some of it when I was a younger. It would be great to play at Augusta – it’s the Major I want to play.
I know that PGA TOUR cards are up for grabs at the end of this season, but I’m not focusing on that. I’m just happy to be back playing good golf. My priority is ensuring I play well week-to-week. If that leads to a PGA TOUR card, it would be interesting and I would definitely go over there and play some events. I think there will be a benefit in reducing my travel. It’s hard to know really as it’s very new, with this year being the first year that we’re playing with those cards being available. I have never played on the PGA TOUR, so I don’t know what to expect if I gain one of those cards. I know they are there, and it maybe serves as an extra source of motivation to play a few more tournaments towards the end of the season if I am close to getting one. I hope to get one, absolutely.
I think statistics around driving distance can be misguiding. I don’t think a lot of holes are driver holes so it doesn’t give a true perception of how far I can hit the ball, but I am definitely not alone. I do feel I can hit it 20 yards further if I want to, but I haven’t wanted to. It often depends on the course too. In the background, I’ve been trying to see if I can gain distance, but I was started to hit it wider. I feel at the moment that I have two gears; my standard base and then one that goes a lot longer if I wanted to. I hit a lot of three woods so that can give a misleading impression of my driving distance. I don’t feel like I am as short as the driving stats might suggest.
I suffered a back injury towards the end of the season and took the decision to end my campaign after the Estrella Damm N.A Andalucía Masters. I initially took two weeks off but then after the first round at Valderrama on my return I wasn’t in a good place so needed to take a longer period of time off. I needed to really take care of my back because it was hurting all the time from August last year going through those events. And then in October, it was not improving. I couldn't strike the ball as I wanted. It was hurting all the time. I needed to check it out and take the time to recover.
I wasn’t exactly sure what the issue was at the beginning but luckily the prognosis was better than I thought it was going to be. That time was necessary to enable me to work with a physio at home to ensure the back was in a good place before I started again at the start of this year. I could have probably continued to play with the injury, but it was only going to get worse and worse, not only for the season but also the future.
Even if I had tried to play through the injury, I don’t think I would have played very well. I think it was only a few events that I missed out on. I was a bit down the Race to Dubai Rankings so wasn’t in line to play at Nedbank or DP World Tour Championship, so I felt like I needed to take the time off and it turned out to be the right decision. The season stopped a few weeks after and then I wasn’t due to play another tournament before the Middle East swing in January the following year.
The break in the DP World Tour schedule was perfect timing for me. It gives us players the chance to recover after a big spring and summer. I was really, really tired mentally after The Open at Royal Liverpool. I had played four tournaments in a row, and it was really windy in Scotland and then very wet at Hoylake. They were really tough weeks. Even before that I played a lot of events, playing from Japan all the way through to Sweden in mid-June.
You can take that time off without feeling that you miss out on points or places on the Race to Dubai Rankings. I have just been just at home with my family doing small trips in Sweden. We've had disappointing weather which hasn’t been great but good to have this period away from the game.
My family don’t travel with me all the time but they were with me for the last four tournaments; the Betfred British Masters, Made in HimmerLand, Genesis Scottish Open and The Open. That was actually the first tournament they were with me since January, except for when I played on home soil at the Volvo Scandinavian Mixed.
They are only with me between eight to ten weeks a year. It would be too much for them to spend 20 or25 weeks without them but at the same time they can’t travel every week, need to stay at home and spend time with their friends. It’s a case of trying to find the right balance. Whenever my wife and children can come and join me at events it is great but also spending time with them at home is important. I’m enjoying seeing my children start to grow up.