The European Challenge Tour returns to Golf International de Pont Royal for the second edition of the Hopps Open de Provence with a buoyant Swede looking to recreate past success in the French challenge from September 26-29.
It was a successful week for Joel Sjöholm as he claimed a runner-up spot 12 months ago behind home favourite Romain Langasque, but since then, his outlook on life on tour has begun to change during the 2019 campaign.
Away from competing on the Challenge Tour, Sjöholm has been coaching budding golfers at his local club in Sweden, something which has struck a happy medium for Road to Mallorca Number 18.
“This whole season has been different for me,” he explained. “I’ve been working when I’ve been at home, not only on my own game, but on other people’s games.
“Sometimes a person needs to think about something else other than being obsessed about golf and I think this game can get me a little too obsessed sometimes. I love the game too much to just leave it alone sometimes, so if I help others it puts my mind somewhere else.
“I’ve split my time very nicely this year. I’ve been playing about 70 per cent and the 30 per cent I’ve been working at home. It’s helped me out with my economy as we all know it costs quite a bit to fly, to live – and when you like food like me – it costs a lot to eat. Life is where I want it to be.”
The Swede is playing in his 12th season since turning professional in 2008 and knows the effects a long campaign can have both mentally and physically, especially during the past few seasons.
“Of course, I have my bad behaviour when I’m playing golf because I still want to compete but the competition over the last few years has been to survive financially,” he said. “Every week I was trying to find the cheapest hotel, flights, and working out whether I needed to share with one or two people to keep the costs down. When you get to those problems, you have the wrong focus, and my focus has been a lot on that over the last four years.
“I was trying to follow what all the other players were doing, but when you do that, you can’t do things your own way, but now I am. I’m really, really pleased at the moment and hopefully I can have a competitive week. I’m just happy to have a chance to compete against these boys and hopefully win a few more euros so I can keep on moving forward towards the top.”
The 34-year-old recorded rounds of 68-68-69-71 for a runner-up finish alongside Joel Girrbach at last year’s event to clinch his best result in 2018. After a week off on the Challenge Tour, Sjöholm is eager to battle hard on French soil once again, especially after claiming four top tens so far on the Road to Mallorca.
“To be at home for a week has been absolutely amazing,” he said.
“It’s always nice to come back to a golf course where you have performed well. I got a little bit lucky here last year as Joel Girrbach made a double bogey on the last which saw me finish tied second, and that helped my season a lot. It’s great to be back here.
“It’s a tricky course. I won’t hit too many drivers here, as it’s more about trying to put the golf ball in a good position. This course suits me quite well because each golf course doesn’t suit everyone, but last year my game felt good around here. You have to really think about your shots and shape the golf ball quite a lot on some holes.
“This week I’m staying with one of the guys who was driving the players to and from the range last year. I also met him at The Ryder Cup as well, where we shared a few moments there. He contacted me three weeks ago and asked if I wanted to stay with him. He lives on the other side of the mountain and the views from there are wonderful.”
There are 39 French players teeing it up on home soil with two-time Challenge Tour winner Antoine Rozner looking to claim his third win of the season, which would seal automatic promotion to the European Tour, while compatriot Robin Roussel, who won the Hauts de France – Pas de Calais Golf Open, is looking for his second title in front of a home crowd in 2019.
The second staging of the Hopps Open de Provence gets under way at 8:10am local time on Thursday September 26, with the Swede teeing off from the tenth tee at 9:00am.