Rikard Karlberg regained full European Tour playing privileges by securing a card on the number, on the final day of European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage, on the final hole of the six-day contest courtesy of a 50-foot birdie putt.
With his future hanging in the balance, the Swede left his approach into the closing hole short and right and was faced with a daunting 50-foot birdie putt to reach five under par for his round and 12 under par in total – the projected cut-off number for a European Tour card.
The 32-year-old was the last man to leave the practice ground following the fifth round as he went through putting drills, and it clearly paid dividends. He hit a perfectly-weighted putt that dripped in the centre of the hole to secure a dramatic closing birdie as the stress of a gruelling week and the joy of the thrilling finish hit home.
“I hit my second shot a bit further away from the pin than I wanted and had around 50 feet for birdie,” he said. “I had a feeling all day that the number would be 12 under par, so I knew I needed to hole it.
“When I hit it, I thought it should be good and then I saw it was tracing the line perfectly and saw the speed and thought ‘come on, just reach’.
“The euphoria I felt was just happiness. I don’t think anyone really likes this week. It’s horrible. It’s pressure all week and you’re walking with tension and you don’t have much room for error.
“This week has been so frustrating with my putter; I missed so many putts and then to be able to hole that one when I needed, it just feels fantastic.”
Karlberg has one European Tour win to his name – the 2015 Italian Open – and after being forced to take a break from golf due to a combination of depression coupled with a serious infection, he is returning to the top tier of European golf a better player.
“I think I am a better golfer now than I was then. I’ve played a few years on Tour and I’ve learned about the pressure and I’ve learned that you need to hit the shots, even if you’re nervous.”