Six years ago, a friend and I were walking around Woburn Golf Club’s Marquess course during the 2015 British Masters Matt Fitzpatrick would go on to win. Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg was playing the 16th hole and we watched him hit a shot into the green.
“He looks a like a good player,” my friend said.
“He is,” I replied. “Remember his name: he’s going to win a lot of European tournaments and probably play in quite a few Ryder Cups.”
I told my friend how the strong Swede had stormed through the European Challenge Tour to claim his European Tour card in style. The Stockholm native won three tournaments in four weeks on the 2012 European Challenge Tour to gain automatic promotion to the main tour.
Broberg finished equal 17th that week at Woburn, seven shots behind Fitzpatrick. I looked like something of a genius when Broberg won that year’s BMW Masters in Shanghai, the penultimate event of the European season. He beat Patrick Reed at the first hole of a sudden death playoff by holing a 12-foot birdie putt.
My friend sent me a message that simply said:
“Good call on Broberg.”
Smug doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I honestly believed Broberg was the next Swedish star. I wasn’t alone. Others inside the game were making similar predictions.
I wonder if my friend now recalls that exchange considering Broberg has just won his second European Tour event. Probably not given Broberg has spent the best part of the last six years trying to find his game only to put in an outstanding performance to win the KLM Open.
He looked like he’d been in the wilderness for six years the way he played the final round.
After shooting to the top of the leaderboard with rounds of 68, 64 and 61 to take an eight-shot lead into the final round, the strain of trying to win again after so long was obvious. A nervy level-par 72 was good enough for a three-shot victory over Germany’s Matthias Schmid.
“I’m happy right now but my game wasn’t there today,” Broberg admitted. “I was struggling all day. I didn’t feel comfortable with the ball but I’m happy to pull it off.
“The first few days I played really good. Today I was struggling like I was in the off season. I thought my eight-shot lead would be enough today, but Matthias played some really beautiful golf.”
What happened between his first and second European Tour victories? “Six years of hell” is what Broberg says happened. Injuries took their toll and he lost his game.
"It’s been a nightmare (since 2015). I was so close to quitting, it’s been so… I don’t know the word for it, but it’s been a tough time. This is way bigger (than his last win in 2015), more emotions.
What does victory mean to a guy who came to throwing in the towel? A new lease of life, that’s what. Before The Netherlands, the Swede played when and where he could:
"I was in category 17 (after I) missed my card by €5,000.
“It’s (this win) going to be a game changer. I’ll get in to bigger events and can plan my schedule a little bit. Before this I was at home for a month. I didn’t know where the game was, but it was good enough."
It’s yet another seminal lesson, as if one was needed, that nothing can be taken for granted in this game. Broberg isn’t the first player to feel on top of the world only to fall into an abyss that seems bottomless. Proof that successes have to be enjoyed when they come because they may never come around again.
#JustSaying: “I don’t care what anybody says: the first tournament is not the hardest one to win. It’s always the second.” John Daly
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour