Six months ago Bernd Wiesberger sat outside the top 300 in the world following a spell away from golf with a wrist injury. In an exclusive interview with europeantour.com in April, he spoke of the difficulties he faced during that time.
By Bernd Wiesberger
Even though it’s not an experience you necessarily want to have, my injury probably gave me a wider view on things. I’ve had a lot of downtime with friends and family and that was really good to have. It puts everything into perspective. When everything becomes a daily routine and is so deeply engrained in your life and then it gets ripped away from you, you look forward to having it back and being able to enjoy the feeling of playing again.
That’s been the approach for me – enjoy it, but work hard no matter what and I’m looking forward to being able to put myself in the positions I did before my injury.
At the Volvo China Open in April last year, I missed the cut and didn’t play great. I took a hard decision to split with my caddie of seven years and then the injury came out of the blue the week after.
I had never had any issues with my wrist, I didn’t feel any problems coming up or anything on the horizon. I played at a company day for one of my long-time sponsors and hit a three-wood up to a par five and felt a sharp pain in my left wrist.
That was the last full golf shot I hit until October.
It was probably a long shot for me to make The 2018 Ryder Cup initially. The 2017 season was obviously quite a good one for me. I wasn’t quite there but managed to finish top ten in the Race to Dubai. I was struggling a little bit from the US PGA Championship onward and wasn’t playing very well, but due to my good first half of the year I was able to play for Thomas Bjørn at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia. We had a great week, beating a strong Asia team on Sunday there.
I know I’m good enough to make a Ryder Cup team some day and I want to prove that one day by making it onto Team Europe. But I have to say the most difficult thing during the injury was withdrawing from tournaments you’ve worked your whole life to get into – The Open Championship, the US PGA Championship and the big European Tour events.
Initially I felt like I still had a chance to play those big events in the summer and would have the end of summer to catch up, so that was by far the hardest part, withdrawing week after week and knowing I wasn’t going to be able to get better in time for them.
I’ve been in a fortunate position where I’ve been able to play in these Major Championships but I’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into being able to do that too, and if something like that is taken from you so abruptly it’s tough to take sometimes. But my sole drive now is to get myself into these big events where I feel like I belong and where I feel like I can compete.
I was very grateful to be given the opportunity to work on the TV side at The Ryder Cup, but whilst it was interesting to see how TV works at such a big event, it was also quite mundane if I’m honest. I was just summing up the play after the morning games and looking ahead to the next matches, trying to guess how the afternoon matches would go, or the next morning.
It just doesn’t compare to being on the golf course and playing. Even more so because it’s a team event and in front of the home crowd. I would rather play the next one than commentate on it!
It’s what we do, we’re all competitors and love the feeling of being out there and getting into contention to win a title. Some have that satisfaction more often than others but regardless – if you ask Nick Dougherty, who is so great on TV, if he could he would probably still say he’d rather be playing out there. Especially on the big stage.
I was in Paris for Sky Germany and Sky UK, so I was able to bring a little bit of knowledge for the viewers but it was also really nice to be there because I had a chance to see the team room and I was able to walk the course with the boys on one of the days before it started.
I was able to walk a few holes and see how it was playing, how it was set up and obviously I knew everyone on the team so I was able to sneak into the team room with some of the guys every now and then, just to catch up.
I was just starting to hit balls again at that time so it was just more casual chats with the guys in the team, rather than trying to pick their brains for the media stuff. I know I wouldn’t want anybody else to do that to me in that situation so it was just friendly catch-ups, which was really nice.
I hadn’t been at The Ryder Cup before and I was able to watch the first tee shots in the mornings and experience that different atmosphere. I’ve been on teams in the EurAsia Cup and Seve Trophy but it doesn’t compare to The Ryder Cup.
But I have to say, all of the guys — even the rookies like Tyrrell (Hatton), Alex (Noren) and Tommy (Fleetwood) – were all quite relaxed. I’m sure it had a lot to do with Thomas doing a great job in making everyone feel that way. From what I could see they were prepared really well, everyone knew what to expect.
You take a lot of stuff for granted when you’re out there week after week and you’re healthy, not worrying about things. Sometimes things happen that you can’t predict or plan and it’s a new experience. I’ve never lost the belief that I can win, regardless of what has happened in the last year or more.
I was really fortunate to have a lot of really good people in place in a really short space of time, and I’m very thankful for their help during that time.
I had a good belief and good trust in Doug Campbell, who is actually on the European Tour Medical Board, and who did the operation in July. He is probably the best you can get when it comes down to those injuries, especially in rugby and golf. He did all sorts of research on what happened to me so he knew what I was going to face and what happened. It was good to have someone in place who was so knowledgeable about it, because I had never had any injuries like this one before, where I was set back for more than a couple of days.
I could have technically played the Turkish Airlines Open but it would have been my second week of coming back hitting balls. I hadn’t played four rounds of golf, not even nine-hole rounds back-to-back. There would have been too much of a mental scar that early. I knew it would be hard going back out in the first couple of weeks, but going out not having practiced to the degree where I normally would be, and going to a Rolex Series event, I don’t think it would have made much sense. So I decided to start again at the end of November.
Still week by week I’m trying to improve. I’m not where I feel like I’m going to be at the end of all of this but each week is an improvement on the last.
If you rest up any part of your body for that length of time, you’re cautious of what it does when you put it back into speed. I was hitting shorts chips and pitches and then working my way up but once you stand over driver and you want to go full speed, it’s just not the same. You want to hold back because you know what happened the last time and you’re a bit cautious.
You need to get through that as quickly as possible. I figured that as soon as I could hit mid irons to any kind of speed, I need to get driver in my hand and hit it as hard as I can to get rid of that mental block – that it’s not going to hurt me anymore. Yes, progressively you need to work into your swing, but sometimes you just need to hit one and trust it.
I was swinging my driver at 115/116mph club head speed before the injury and all of a sudden I wasn’t even getting 105 out of it, so that was a big gap. But it’s good to see how that is progressing and how I’m becoming more comfortable putting speed into it.
That was the one thing I found was the biggest difference. Obviously technically, if my wrist and forearm aren’t as supportive of the golf club as they were before, there is work to do there to strengthen it, but also to stretch it out. At the beginning when I removed the cast the movement on my wrist was hardly even ten degrees each way, but now it’s more than even with the right wrist. It was a good process and it’s so much more rewarding then when you can go back out and compete again.
As great as it was to watch Tiger win the Masters, I’d rather have been teeing it up that Sunday too! It’s a great motivator, if you ever needed one, to get back there and be in those events. The goal is to get back into the top 50 and get back into those big events again, but obviously I’ve dropped back in the world rankings a little bit and that’s tough to take.
Luckily there are other ways to get into the U.S. Open and The Open, and if you have a good stretch at the right time you can make a lot back up. Earlier in the year it’s tough to get those world ranking points and move up that list, but I’m going to stay positive and hope to play some Major golf this year.
If it’s 2020 though that’s fine and it’s only part of the process, I just need to stick to playing good golf and hopefully continuing on this path. Everything else will sort itself out and hopefully I can be inside the ropes next time at The Ryder Cup.
I don’t remember too much about the whole week when I last won here in Shenzhen in 2017. Sometimes you have tournaments where you’ve been successful and you remember a lot of shots but that’s not really the case with this one. Maybe it’s because it was the only time I’ve been here, but the memories I have are obviously really good.
It was quite intense having to dig deep on Sunday with Tommy Fleetwood putting the pressure on – it wasn’t my best golf and it wasn’t the easiest of days for me but it was lovely to get another win in. I remember I was playing pretty well coming up to that with a couple of good results and luckily I was able to finish the deal on this one.
I think it’s always good to come back to courses where you’ve won. It’s a shame I was not able to defend my title, I would have loved to do that, and I suppose in some way this is my defence on the golf course – but I don’t want to take anything away from the defending Volvo China Open champion Alexander Björk.
I’m quite looking forward to it though with all these good memories. Yesterday when I went to dinner in the restaurant at the players’ hotel, there was a picture on the wall of myself and the chefs after my win last year. There are a couple pieces of memorabilia hanging around the clubhouse here to remind me – not that I need reminding. But it’s good to be back.