For Robert Karlsson, the decision to play in the Web.com Tours Chiquita Classic this week turned out to be easy.
Living on the 12th hole at the Club at Longview, where the Chiquita Classic is being played for the first time, Karlsson can literally walk outside and be on the course. Never underestimate the value of convenience.
Karlssons decision to play, however, is based on more than his address. The 43-year old Swede is battling through a dreadful PGA Tour season, which finds him outside the Top 125 money winners (hes No. 160) with four fall series events remaining to play himself back into the fully exempt category for 2013.
Last year, Karlsson was the 15th-ranked player in the world. This week, hes 75th and going the wrong direction.
I didnt play well, Karlsson said, standing behind Longviews water-guarded 18th green.
Its hard to say why those things happen. Over the summer, I didnt perform well the weeks I normally perform well. I felt like I was playing pretty decent. It just didnt happen.
Id make a mistake here, make a double there. When things are going badly, theres a small margin in this game.
Karlssons European Tour record this year (hes a full-time member of both the PGA and European Tours) hasnt been much better, though he is encouraged by a recent top-30 finish in the BMW Italian Open. Its why Karlsson, a member of the 2006 and 2008 European Ryder Cup teams, isnt at Medinah this week.
At the British Open in July, Karlssons struggles reached the point that he walked off the course at Royal Lytham & St. Annes during a practice round and withdrew from the championship. He found himself almost mentally paralyzed before shots, making it difficult for him to start his swing.
I wasnt happy with the way I felt over the ball. I was standing a long time over the ball so I just decided Im not going to play. Im going to take it completely off and start over. Thats what I did, Karlsson said.
It actually starts with bad decisions. I didnt really make a clear decision before I stepped over the ball. I stood over the ball and thought about what I was going to do. All of a sudden, just come on, pull it, hit it. One thing leads to another and it just gets very uncomfortable. I just decided not to play the British.
Karlsson returned to Longview to work through his issues. At the PGA Championship at Kiawah Islands Ocean Course in August, Karlsson was one-under par through 27 holes on the windswept layout and in good shape to make the cut. Then his game and confidence came apart on the back nine Friday and he wound up missing the cut.
All of a sudden, it seemed difficult again, especially around Kiawah, Karlsson said.
With a break in his schedule and the Chiquita Classic in his backyard, Karlsson decided to play this week because he needs more tournament rounds to regain his sharpness. There are good things to build on from his recent play in Italy, he said.
Its usually the bad years where you learn more about yourself if you can come out stronger. It can be a good thing thought it doesnt feel like it when its happening, Karlsson said.
Member moment: Paul Tucker, 33, is a member at Longview, who spent portions of Monday and Tuesday working at his familys lumber business when he wasnt on the golf course.
Tucker has no illusions about playing professional golf but the former North Carolina and Carolinas Mid-Amateur champion is thrilled to be playing on a sponsor exemption this week.
Theres an advantage in knowing the golf course but I dont get to practice or play nearly as much as the other guys out here. But its fun to take my game up against some of the best players, Tucker said.
Tucker caddied a few times for his wife, Kristina, who played professionally on the LPGA and Futures Tour in the mid-2000s. He also gave professional golf a brief try after graduating from Duke more than a decade ago.
Ive learned a lot the last 10 years on how to manage my game and how to play and not hit shots Im not capable of hitting. This is fun, Tucker said.
Its always been a dream as a kid to grow up and play with the big boys. This isnt the highest level but its high enough for me.
Im trying to stay away from expectations. It would be great to play well and to be able to play all four days and be in the mix. But I have to set my expectations to know I need to play well to do that. Im just having fun this week.
Locals qualify: Two former Charlotte 49ers golfers Trevor Murphy and Stefan Weidergruen along with Gastonias Harold Varner III and Jack Fields of Southern Pines were among 14 players to qualify Monday for the Chiquita Championship.
Also earning spots in the field were Chris Epperson, Patrick Cantlay, Josh Geary, James Woodson, Tim ONeal, Mike Van Sickle, James Marshall, Travis Ross, Train Lee and Jon McDonald.