Magnus making waves at SA Open
A lot of the hype at this week’s South African Open Championship at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate in Ekurhuleni has centred on the explosive golf produced by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, and the performances of the numerous marquee players in the field.
One man who has quietly played his way into contention is Stenson’s countryman Magnus A Carlsson, whose opening rounds of 68 and 67 have seen him take sole possession of third place - four strokes behind the leader Stenson.
Many would term Carlsson as the “classic journeyman.” The 32 year-old certainly hasn’t had it all his own way since he turned pro in 2001. Intermittent seasons on the European Tour have been overshadowed by seven visits to European Tour Qualifying School and a lot of time spent playing the Challenge Tour.
Carlsson has thus struggled to establish himself on the main tour, but he never lost his determination and always believed he could succeed.
“I’ve always known that if I practice a little bit harder I am going to get better. Even though I’ve had a couple of downs - going to the Q-school and missing the card. I’ve always known I can get better at golf, and that’s what has kept me motivated,” he said.
This year the Swede has enjoyed one of the finest seasons of his career, and, despite only being a category 12 member in 2012 - and having limited opportunities to play- he has already secured his place in the top 115 in the Race to Dubai. The feat will ensure a full-playing card for 2013, but, surprisingly, the inspiration came from his trip to the Africa Open at the beginning of the year.
“I practised really hard at the beginning of the season when I didn’t get to play that much. The funny thing is, I played with Thomas Aiken in South Africa in January, and he said that a couple of years back he only had a category 12 membership and got his card, so why not! It’s been really good for me,” he said.
Intriguingly, the Republic is a place where Carlsson has played some of his best golf. The best example of this was at the 2008 Joburg Open when he went around the two courses at Royal Johannesbug in 271 strokes, only to be denied his maiden European Tour victory by Richard Sterne. Nonetheless, it is a place Carlsson loves playing his golf.
“I love it here! South Africa always takes good care of me and the weather’s always really nice. This time of year back in Sweden it’s really cold so it’s nice to come down here and play your fantastic golf courses,” he said.
Two solid rounds have put Carlsson right in the mix, and he now finds himself in the final three-ball with Merrick Bremner and Stenson on Saturday afternoon. Ironically, the two Swedes have never played together before, but Carlsson is looking forward to the occasion and will be doing his utmost to keep up with his rampant countryman.
“It’s the first time I’ve played with him actually. We talk a bit, but it’s the first time and I think it will be great fun.
“He seems to be playing very well. A great performance in the US last week as well, so he’s in great form. But I’m going to try and do my best,” he said.
Stenson will certainly be difficult to stop, but Carlsson has already proved that he has what it takes to win in South Africa. If he were to claim that elusive maiden victory at Serengeti this weekend, it truly would be the cherry on top of what has already been a magnificent season for him.