In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Peter Hanson reflects on his career as he prepares to make his final appearance as a player at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed and shares his future goals.
It means a lot to be able to play in one final event on home soil at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed. I haven’t been able to play and practise as much as I would have liked so I am a little nervous! I grew up and played a lot of golf with Henrik and both of us along with Annika lived at Lake Nona in Florida for many years. We know each other very well and I am pleased they have taken on the role of hosts. The tournament is a great way to put the limelight on both the men’s and women’s game in the same week and the event was a big success last year in Sweden, and I think we can make it an even bigger this year.
Retiring wasn’t an easy decision to make but eventually I knew in my heart it was the right time. I love the game of golf and have given so much of my life to the sport. However, the Covid-19 pandemic, travelling and staying in hotel rooms away from family was not easy. I was sitting in a hotel room last year, I can’t remember exactly where it was, and I asked myself a few questions.
Did I have the motivation and drive to make one more push and try to hopefully win a couple more tournaments? I know how much work it takes and how dedicated you must be to achieve success. I also asked myself whether I had the fitness required to get back to the top of the game for a prolonged period. The answers to these questions were all no. In the end that made my decision to call the 2021 season as my last rather easy in the end.
I look back on my career with a great deal of pride. I am very happy with the six victories I have registered on the DP World Tour. A major highlight of my career is undoubtedly playing in two Ryder Cup-winning teams. The one thing missing is obviously a Green Jacket or one of the Majors, but I made a good effort and came reasonably close a couple of times so overall I am very happy with my accomplishments.
It would be a great honour to be a Captain or a Vice Captain of the European Ryder Cup team in the future. In my generation, there is a huge line of possible Vice Captains. We need to focus on the players and make sure that we can put together a strong team and I know that is what Henrik wants as well. We need to get the players performing and get them ready to play a good match against Team USA in Rome next September.
I first got into golf through my neighbours. Their family played golf and were members at my home club called Bokskogen in Bara. I loved all kinds of sport, and they took me to the golf course and from that day I was hooked. Before that I was more interested in tennis up until I was 12 or 13 years old. Tennis was a huge sport in Sweden back then with Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander, and we had a lot of role models and top players. It took me a few years to figure out that I wasn’t probably going to be as successful in tennis. My interest was leaning more and more towards golf. I started playing when I was ten and by the time that I was 13, I was spending more and more time on the golf course and less time on the tennis court.
We had a big junior programme and a lot of leaders at the club who really pushed for the kids to have a really good time on the golf course. What I remember is there were a lot of matches against my friends, and I do believe that had a big effect on my career as I went on to win all three play-offs I was involved in as a professional. I was fortunate from an early age to play against good opponents and enjoy the competitiveness. It helps your development when you have a lot of friends you can hang out with. All the hours we spend on a golf course is more fun when you get to spend it with someone else.
I was lucky enough to play many years on the Swedish National Team. I didn’t go to college in America but both Henrik and I played a lot of amateur events around Europe and in the UK but also the Eisenhower Trophy in Chile along with some other tournaments. That was a good schooling to bridging the gap before turning professional. The Challenge Tour was the next step up and I played a couple of years there which was hugely important. Learning to play four rounds of golf was a big step in comparison to playing 36-hole events or match play events.
I thought I was more ready than I was when I began to play on the DP World Tour. My first year was in 2001 and I assumed I would just continue performing at the level I had done before. But pretty much right away I understood that the opponents and the competition were quite a lot harder than I had seen before. Instead of fighting to win I was fighting to make cuts. I had to make quite a few changes in my swing and how I approached the game in 2002 to try and really build a strong foundation and be competitive on the level that I wanted to be which was to win tournaments and not fight to make cuts. That was a huge step on the ladder. It took a bit of work and when I came back in 2004, I got into the Volvo Masters at Valderrama for the final event of the season, now the DP World Tour Championship. So, from 2004 I felt like I had a different level in my game and one that was going to enable me to be more competitive.
The first win is always very special. It was in southern Spain where I have spent a lot of time and we now actually have an apartment just next door to a golf course called Los Anchos. I was familiar with the course and had a great week playing well. I remember Paul McGinley was in the field and he was the highest ranked player at the time. It was just a dream come true to play well at a tough golf course and I managed to squeeze out that play-off victory over my countryman Peter Gustafsson.
The presence of several other Swedish professional golfers helped me progress as a player. You compete against each other, but you also have someone else to spend time in the evenings with, go out for dinner with and play practice rounds. In Henrik, Johan Edfors and Fredrik Andersson Hed, who is no longer with us, we had fantastic camaraderie on and off the course. We were really enjoying life on Tour. We all brought out that competitive edge in each other and wanted to succeed. You might play a practice round with someone who won on Tour last week and you think ‘Oh I have beaten this guy, why can’t I win on Tour?’ That mindset really helped me in trying to take the next step in my career. A couple of years went by with no wins before I won my second title at the SAS Masters on Swedish soil in 2008. To play in front of a home crowd is always special but to win as well was amazing. It was a dream come true.
As a Swede we often dream about winning The Open and the Ryder Cup. Those are the two events in golf that stand out above the rest but to qualify for the 2010 Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor meant a lot. I was playing well and all throughout the summer I was just outside the cut line to qualify so to pull out a victory in the Czech Republic just a couple of weeks before the qualification period ended and sneak in as the last guy in on the team was great. I remember that I spoke to Captain Colin Montgomerie shortly afterwards and I said, ‘I am just so happy to be here’. If I had only played just one match, I would have been happy. I was sitting in the back of the team room listening to everything and learning from everyone around me. Ultimately, I was trying to get comfortable in that environment which can be a little bit scary at times. It was an amazing week and with the weather it turned out that I got to play quite a bit. I played a couple of matches with Miguel Ángel Jiménez, and we managed to win one and lose one.
Playing at Celtic Manor hugely motivated me to take that step. I was in and around the top 50 in the world at that time. In 2012 I moved up to the top 20, but the 2010 Ryder Cup gave me a big push to take the next step. I put in a lot of hard work in from 2010 onwards because playing against the best players in the world made me even more determined to be back in the next team. In 2012, the year started amazingly with me having a good chance of winning at both the World Golf Championship events, first the Match Play Championship and then I came close in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral a couple of weeks later. The lead up to the Masters was probably some of the best golf that I have played. I was high in confidence and happy with my game. I set my expectations high and arrived at Augusta National Golf Club with a positive mindset. I held a one-shot lead with one round to go and unfortunately Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen played too well. I didn’t play my best golf, so I ended up in third position, a couple of shots behind Bubba.
Before playing at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, I won the KLM Open in the Netherlands at the end of an emotionally challenging week. My one-year-old son Tim contracted a respiratory virus and was in hospital in America. I was constantly on the phone and was even allowed by the referees to phone my wife who was in the hospital. I was ready to get on a plane on Saturday morning but the doctor that looked after my son reassured me that he had everything under control and that I could focus on playing golf. When I think back about that situation and how it panned out, I wonder how I was able to play so well under those circumstances. Knowing the doctor was confident that everything would be fine with my son put me in the right spot mentally.
Medinah was personally tough for me. In comparison to Celtic Manor, when I was sitting at the back of the team room and I had qualified last, I knew I was going to play at Medinah early in the season. So, my expectations were of course to play a lot and it didn’t end up that way. I should have prepared for that a little bit better and handled my expectations. That is something that I have learned to accept over time. However, bringing the trophy back as a team after that memorable Sunday comeback outweighs the personal disappointment for me. My form around the 2012 Ryder Cup was probably the best of my life because I went to win the BMW Masters in Shanghai a few weeks later.
Unfortunately, I sustained a back injury while I was preparing for the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February 2013. I think it came down to pushing a little too hard. To be honest we see it so much now in modern golf with players pushing themselves. It is always the body that gives up. It is part of sport nowadays that injuries are going to be a big part of what we do because it becomes increasingly more physical. We spend so much time in the gym and hitting balls over long hours on the range. When you add all the traveling, different time zones it becomes almost inevitable that injuries occur.
With the experience and the knowledge, I have picked up from travelling around the world, playing on amazing courses, it would be silly not to stay involved in the sport. One of my goals is to coach the next generation of Swedish players. We have a huge group of Swedish amateurs that are doing well. Along with my countryman and former player Niclas Fasth, we are working with the Swedish National Team to help pass on our experiences as professionals playing on Tour at the highest level so that they can achieve their full potential.