In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sebastian Söderberg reflects on returning to the Swiss Alps where he won his maiden DP World Tour title in 2019 in a five-man play-off, his emotions following subsequent near-misses, completing one of the fastest rounds in Tour history and his partnership with brother and caddie Jesper.
It's quite amazing to come back to Crans-Montana as a former champion of the Omega European Masters. The venue is very special in itself. We are up in the Swiss Alps, it’s almost dreamlike just to be playing a golf tournament here. The memories of me winning in 2019 will always be something I look back on with great pride.
This is a tournament with an incredible history, and an illustrious list of past champions. To have made this event my first DP World Tour title, especially since it was the first time I had played this course, it made it so special. Most of the players say it is a venue that you need time to get used to, but I guess I hit form that week.
I had struggled all season prior to that week in 2019 and I knew I needed some good results in the coming weeks to keep my Tour card. I arrived in Switzerland on the back of a top five on home soil in Sweden. I was playing my first season on the Tour after graduating the year before from the Challenge Tour and I wanted to make every event count.
I played with Rory McIlroy in the final round which was a big opportunity and an experience I learnt a lot from when I look back at things. I knew I had to put myself in a bubble and deal with the various emotions running through my head without distractions. I started the day four shots off the lead, but my putter got hot at the turn, and I made five birdies in a row to find myself at the top of the leaderboard. I made a three-putt bogey on the 17th but overall, I think I kept in control of my emotions well.
As a golf fan and not just as a player, I am a big supporter of Rory. It would have been a good experience just to watch him play and ask him some questions here and there but for me in that position, playing alongside him, it was a very important day in my career. I had to focus on my own game and I did not really pay too much attention to what he was doing.
I was full of adrenaline leading up to the final round but once the play-off started, I felt much calmer. Being told by my younger brother and caddie Jesper beforehand that I had at least secured my card for next year took some stress off my shoulders and allowed me to relax. I was more excited to be involved in the five-man play-off than I was nervous. Playing so well alongside Rory also gave me extra confidence that I could get the win. I knew if I could get a good tee shot away at the 18th then I would only have a wedge in to the green and that would at least give me a good chance to extend the play-off. When I holed my birdie putt, I thought it was just to have a chance on another extra hole because both Rory and Kalle Samooja were closer to the pin with their approaches. It was a shock that they both missed, and it took a little time for everything to sink in and realise what I had accomplished at that moment.
I have been close to my second win on Tour since then. I have mixed feelings about my runner-up finish at Valderrama last year. I’d had a horrible season before that week in Spain and to play as well as I did on that course was a good feeling for me. I performed well for most of the final round, but the pressure got the better of me on the closing couple of holes. Looking back, I think it was a big ask to have won at Valderrama, being one of the toughest courses we play during the season. It’s bittersweet for sure. Once a few days had passed I was still pleased with my result, and I took that optimism into the next week in Mallorca and finished runner-up again there. Hopefully I can learn a thing or two from how I finished at Valderrama but overall, it was a good tournament.
More recently at The Belfry in May, I played well in the final round to set the clubhouse target. I knew the par putt I made at the 18th was important to give myself a chance. Jesper and I thought it could be good enough for solo third, but we didn’t expect to win the tournament, with plenty of players still out on the course. We were just watching the golf, and everything just went my way for an hour. A lot of the players behind had par fives to play but the 18th is a really tough tee shot and if your ball is not in play, it is also a tough approach shot. Towards the end I thought I had a pretty good chance of a play-off and then suddenly Thorbjørn Olesen produced the eagle-birdie finish for the second day running. My expectation wasn’t really to win so it didn’t really hurt. I think it was tougher for my friends and brother who were with me and expected me to win.
I played last week in the Czech Republic after a month’s break, and I feel refreshed and reenergised. Last year was the first time I took a long summer break. When I played on the Challenge Tour you have a really busy summer and you’re lucky if you have two weeks off in a row. I struggled for form so much I decided to take a month off in 2021, enjoy a vacation and then put in some practice. I had a good rest of the season and thought maybe it’s something I should keep doing. I’m now going to play eight of the next nine weeks with a lot of important events in there. I used to be worried about missing tournaments and dropping down the season-long rankings but now I feel more comfortable that taking a break will do me good in the longer run.
Qualifying for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai for the first time is my objective for the remaining weeks of the season. I was first reserve in 2019 and I think I missed by five or six places last year, so I’ve put myself in a good position sitting 42nd at the moment. I would like to climb higher and maybe see if I can get a few guaranteed starts into The Open and World Golf Championships next year.
It’s cool to hold a record of the fastest round on Tour. I had played horrendous in the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic. I didn’t have any motivation to shoot a certain number so Jesper thought it would be fun to make something of the day and try and play as fast as possible. We initially said we’d do it for the first four or five holes. If I felt it was having an impact on my game and I was risking scoring 105 or something, then I’d have stopped but it was going fine. The amazing quirk of that round is that I missed every single fairway. To have gone round in three over was a good score because it was tough day. It was a fun experience, but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again!
Jesper has been very important to me as a caddie in my career. We’re out on Tour for 25 weeks a year, so for me it is a no-brainer to have someone like my brother, to work alongside. Once I secured my Tour card, I quickly asked him because he had caddied for me a couple of times before and he was a decent golfer when he was younger. He’s only 25 which is quite young, caddie wise, but he’s got to know my game well and I trust him when it comes to decision-making on shots.