In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Kristoffer Broberg reflects on being back in the winner’s circle after six years of injury troubles that almost saw him give up the game.
For the last six years, I’ve felt like every time I’ve taken one small step forward, something would push me back again, and that’s why being back in the winner’s circle means so much. I’ve been through so much since my first win in 2015. I went from winning in China and being 65th in the World Rankings and going in the right direction, to having so many injuries, and surgeries, and wondering if I’d ever hit a golf ball or play tournament golf again. They say when you are going up Everest you are climbing every day but when you get to the top you’re only going down, and that’s what I’ve felt like every time I’ve taken a step to coming back. It’s been a really tough journey, so to be back to where I think I belong now, has been really emotional.
With that first win, I didn’t even celebrate because I was thinking that was the starting point for me. I didn’t have any injuries and I played really well. And then I hurt my calf muscle in Dubai in the final event of the year. It didn’t seem that significant and I didn’t take care of it, but I thought for a while that was the main key to my issues. And then I had more injury issues, and in 2016 hell just started.
As a last option, I went to the Swedish Olympic Committee for another opinion. One of the physios I have worked with – Per Johannson – had a good friend who is one of the doctors for the Skiing team. We went to him, and he told me there was a surgery I could have. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do it because it was going to be 50/50 whether it’s good or bad and some athletes don’t come back from it. But it was the only option I had. This was the last chance for my career, so I just tried it. They went into my hip without x-rays or MRI scans and then they saw a lot of bone structures on my hip. They shaved that off, and then I had 6 months of rehab.
It was a long six months. I was so weak on my left side because I’d been on crutches for a long time – including when I’d had the big surgery on my knee – and I needed to rebuild my left side. I couldn’t put any pressure on my foot for five weeks, but after that I could at least walk with crutches.
One of the things that helped me through was just setting myself physical goals to get stronger, when I couldn’t hit golf balls. I was in the gym seven days a week, and I went through changing my diet, and I’m in really good shape now because of it but I needed that new goal to move forward.
But things don’t get better instantly, and it took me a while to realise that because my body has changed, I also needed to change how I play and practice. I tried a couple of small comebacks because I wanted to get into tournaments again, but it didn’t feel right. When I started to try come back and play in 2020 I really thought it was the end, because I didn’t feel great, and it felt so bad to hit a golf ball because I was trying to hit it like I was before I had any of the injuries. I was just constantly searching to get this feeling or that feeling that I had had before all of the problems started.
But my body had changed, and I needed to change my set up and change my swing a little bit. Once I realised that, it was easier to focus on what I needed to do. Now I try to focus a lot on my set up and body angles, and just making sure my spine and hips are in the correct position so I can swing it. A lot of the work I do now on the course is just trying to hit shapes – draws or fades – and even on the driving range now I’m not doing any super technical stuff anymore. I’m just trying to feel the shots rather than trying to think I need to do this, this and this to my swing. I just want to feel the weight of the club and have a free motion through the hip. Of course, there’s still a lot of scar tissue so it can be sore and I need to do exercises every single day, but now at least I can trust it because there is no pain there anymore. I still struggle with trusting my driver sometimes because that was the worst club when it all started, but I am a lot more confident with the rest of my game.
But it’s been about more than just technique or approach, because throughout all that struggle, I have also had to rediscover that self-belief. My team and family have been really supportive, telling me to keep going because everything will turn around, but it’s been tough on them too, because I didn’t have that same belief. It’s actually hard to explain how I felt because it was that bad, and I really got to that stage where I wondered whether I would be able to hit a golf ball again, or be able to play tournament golf again. Even when I was practicing again, I felt like everyone was so far ahead of me because I’d been away for so long , and I thought about how much I’d need to practice to compete with these guys.
I do approach the game a little differently now too, and I think a lot more about what I’m doing. I can’t stand on the range hitting thousands of golf balls like I used to, and I’m more focused on short game. Of course I’m hitting golf balls, but I’m playing a lot more now than actually hitting balls because I can’t do that.
I’m hitting it really well with my irons, but in general I’m really trying to manage my way around and play smart, easy, percentage golf rather than going for every pin. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this sport, it’s that you can’t win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it on a Thursday. So I’ve been trying to play smarter, and I’m happy with how I’ve played these last few weeks. I’ve been trying to play percentage golf, easy golf: If the pin is left, aim a little bit to the right to give you a bit more room. It was great to play well in the Dunhill last week too, because it means I’m doing the right things.
In Holland, it felt like everything came together. Me and my caddie Adrian worked on the range that week just employing all of those things like hitting big fades and super big draws and slices, letting ourselves be creative because the practice facilities were amazing. But it was also the perfect course for me, because I could afford to hit it a little bit off with my driver. It was the worst club of the week, and the last round I was struggling to keep it in play, but my irons were really great the first three rounds. But it was also one of the weeks that the putter was also super hot.
One of the biggest differences to my putting is that I put a contact lens in my right eye, which has really helped. I was struggling all year to see the lines on the greens because they couldn’t match where I was aiming the putter face, so I went to the optician where I live and they saw on the eye test that I couldn’t see anything with my right eye but my left eye is really good and really dominant so they needed to balance it out. They put a contact lens in my right eye and it’s amazing how huge the difference is. It’s like ‘Oh, I can see now’, and now I can see the lines and where my putter is aiming, I just need to put some good strokes on it - but it worked pretty well in Holland! I’d only started three or four weeks before I won just to get used to it, and now it’s there all the time.
I tried really hard not to get ahead of myself on Saturday night, because I know that anything can happen in golf. I got lots of texts the night before telling me I was going to win, but both me and my caddie said nothing is done. I could shoot three over and someone could shoot five under and then it would be a play-off, so I knew I needed to take one shot at a time no matter how difficult that was. And Matti Schmid played some amazing golf, he missed just one shot that entire round, but we managed to play our way round and I won by three so I’m super happy.
I didn’t have any energy after to celebrate. We had dinner after I won with a couple of other Swedes but I didn’t have any energy left the whole week. Because I love to practice I went to practice two days after my win, but I didn’t even have the energy for that so I went home and I was on the couch from like Monday to Saturday and then used Saturday to practice for Scotland. But I think it was that it almost felt like six years of energy went into that win, and that’s why I broke down on the 18th and it was so emotional.
At the start of the year, my main goal was to keep my card, and it takes off that pressure now, too. I missed my medical exemption by only 5,000 euros so I was in Category 17, and now it’s really nice because I can plan my schedule, and play in the Rolex Series events and the bigger events and plan a schedule a little easier. At some point I will look for a new goal, but right now after everything I’ve been through, I’m just really glad to be playing, and competing, again.