If there is ever a tournament in the game to help Rikard Karlberg get his career back on track then it is The DGC Open presented by Mastercard, which starts Thursday at Delhi Golf Club (DGC).
The Swedish golfer, who has slowly been battling back from a debilitating illness that nearly ended his career six years ago, is a two-time winner here on the iconic Indian golf course, with both of those victories coming 13 years ago on the Asian Tour.
“I just want to re-live a lot of great memories,” said Karlberg.
“I’ve been playing for the last couple of years, that’s exactly what I need to, I think, find some form again.”
Karlberg’s career was on a steep ascent when he won the SAIL Open in April of 2010 at DGC and then the Hero Honda Indian Open at the same venue in December.
Those two phenomenal displays of golf indicated what a special player Karlberg was, and it was not long after that he became a regular contender on the DP World Tour.
And after winning the Open d’Italia in 2015 more success was expected but two years later his health took a shocking turn for the worse.
“It was in the middle of 2017 I got an infection,” he explains.
“I didn’t really play that well at the beginning of the year. 2016 was my best year thus far, I was in the top 70 in the world, and from there you want to go into the top 50. So, I worked very hard but that infection … I should have probably rested it, but I couldn’t, you know.
“So, I was just full of antibiotics, paracetamol and ibuprofen to take away that fever and everything, but then I relapsed. It was like constant fever for 100 days, like three months, and in the end, I basically passed out and then I couldn’t get out of bed for six months. And that was just because I didn’t listen to the body. I listened more to what I wanted to achieve with this game, and that was a proper lesson for me.”
Remarkably and to the loss of European golf and his many friends and admirers on the Asian Tour it wasn’t until 2019 that he was able to play again, and only by 2021 did he feel 100%.
He admits that the relief and excitement at being back and fully fit then saw him try to do too much with his game, which also didn’t help his progress.
“I tried a little bit too much of the new stuff, and that kind of made me lose my confidence. Made me, you know, make this game a little bit too complicated. And, so for the last four months, I’ve been working hard on just making it simple again,” said Karlberg.
The 36-year-old has also recruited the services of the same caddie, Pramod, who helped him to victory in 2010.
“I remember like it was yesterday, we did a practice round and I missed a lot of putts and then he stepped in, showed me the lines,” said the Swede.
“And it made me so comfortable on the greens, so I put extremely well. And second, of course, is that you need to be straight here. And I think, you know, I kind of like the framing of this being tight between the trees.
“It just frames everything and makes it easier for me to see the shot, so instead of maybe getting scared it kind of makes it easier for me. Throughout the course of my career maybe one of my weakest links has been the driver, and here it’s not about that. You don’t really need to hit that club if you don’t want to. So, if you put all those things together, that’s what has been the magic ingredient for me.”
Hopefully, the DGC specialist can find some more magic this week so he can finish a career that started with so much promise.