'When people are talking about majors it just hits me and that’s when it sounds surreal'July 6, 2018
Meet Europe’s latest major champion – Pernilla Lindberg. The Swede reflects on her win at the ANA and looks ahead to Lytham
It takes a huge amount of all of your skills to win a major but to sleep on a lead after every round, take on a seven-time winner and World No 1 over eight extra holes and do it all without any professional win in the bank is something else.
At the ANA Inspiration Pernilla Lindberg putted the lights out to take down Inbee Park and closed her out with a 30-footer.
When Lindberg got to high school she wrote about her dream scenario, to win a major and leave a mark in history. But at the same time she felt like it was too big of a dream to come true.
As she showed at Mission Hills this year it wasn’t..
How much has the ANA all settled in?
It has in one way but in others it still hasn’t. When I watched the last few holes of the play-off of the US Women’s Open people were talking about Ariya winning a major and it hit me that that’s what I did this year.
When people are talking about majors it just hits me and that’s when it sounds surreal and I think that’s how it will be for a very long time.
What was the attitude going into play-off?
To start off I felt like I was trying to win it but I was also a bit nervous. I had played well all week so I was trying to play the same way but when Jennifer Song was eliminated and going into Monday with just Inbee that added to the feeling that I had nothing to lose and it was a matchplay situation. She was back as the World No 1 so I was the clear underdog.
But she had the pressure on her and that relaxed me and I had such a clear task in front of me. I had to do something and she wasn’t going to give it to me.
Your short putting was exceptional, what do you think about when stood over a six-foot putt?
When I putt my best I don’t think about much. It could be something as simple as breathing. I almost synch the stroke with my breathing and that helps with a nice, relaxed grip pressure and rhythm. If I struggle a bit with my putting then I think about it more in terms of the line and the stroke and the speed.
If I can keep it simple then I trust my read and stroke and let go of all those thoughts.
You said the ANA was up there with your favourite course/tournament, how much does that help?
It brings the best out of my game for some reason and that obviously helps with confidence. The fairways are quite narrow and the rough is quite thick and I tend to hit the driver quite straight there.
I get really dialled in and I love the weather in the desert. It’s not that windy, I can hit high iron shots which is what I like to do and I love the greens. I see the lines well there so these things all help a lot.
Are you still being congratulated?
At every tour stop someone will congratulate me and I never get tired of hearing that!
The most special was Henrik Stenson sending me a message. They were at Augusta on the Monday when I won so that was pretty cool, I went to school with Rickie Fowler and he, Annika Sorenstam both reached out.
And Prince Daniel of Sweden is a big golf fan and he grew up quite near me and he called me. Otherwise I went to the Players at Sawgrass and I got to meet some of the guys, Steve Stricker came up and was joking about asking for a putting lesson so that was such a nice compliment.
Not that there’s an easy way to win but you did it from the front. How well did you sleep and how were the nerves throughout the week?
I slept on the lead for four nights. I tend to be a good sleeper, I maybe didn’t sleep my best going into the weekend but I had this calm all week and I surprised myself with how well I slept.
The nerves kicked in just before I teed off on Sunday with a three-shot lead. That did affect things for the first few holes but I managed myself well and I told myself that I couldn’t play my best if I was tense so I turned it around.
That comes from a lot of experiences over the years. I surprised myself with how calm I was over the week and I stayed off my phone a lot just to not get caught up in everything that was going on.
Off the course I would just hang out with my fiancé and parents.
How much have you watched the Sunday/Monday on tape?
I have the whole coverage of every day and I sat down and watched most of Sunday and the whole of Monday and I am still really nervous watching it. I know the ending but every time I still get nervous.
Have you got used to starters saying ‘major champion’ on the 1st tee?
This was my first professional win so they had still been using my college achievements so that felt really old and I’m happy to finally replace that.
Have you played Lytham before?
I wasn’t on tour in 2009 so I haven’t played there and I don’t know much about it. I just know about the opening par 3 and there are a lot of bunkers, I’ll have to figure it out when I get there.
What is your favourite WBO venue?
I would have to say Kingsbarns after playing there last year. It is such a cool course, maybe not your typical old-school links but I really liked it.
Should it always be played on a links?
I don’t really have a strong opinion on that. We were at Woburn a few years ago and that was pretty cool, I like both. Some girls think it should be on a links but I don’t think it takes anything away from it by going inland.
What was your first experience of links golf?
My first experience was at Troon as an amateur and I played really badly. I was last going into the last round so I played in the first group out on the Sunday. I had a lot to learn, I wasn’t able to control the ball as well as I should but I have learnt a lot since.
Would you like it blowing at 25mph or flat calm?
It’s a great experience when it is blowing hard and it makes it challenging. If I’m hitting the ball well then I would say give me the wind as it will benefit anyone who is playing well. If you want a more relaxing round then you want it calm.
You have to be ready mentally when it’s windy and it can be very rewarding.
What’s the best tip for putting in high winds?
I’m still trying to figure that out myself. It is hard to read putts when it is windy, I would say it is best to feel very balanced and to trust what you are doing rather then trying to control your stroke more and gripping it tighter. It’s better to keep rocking your shoulders.
What do you think of fish and chips?
It is probably not the healthiest food so it wouldn’t be my choice every night. But it’s tasty and my fiancé is English. The food is a bit heavier than I would like to eat at tournaments but I’ll have fish and chips once in the week.
What the caddie (and fiancé) thought…
“Pernilla was much calmer at the ANA than usual and everything went right. We missed in good places when we didn’t hit the green and she holed a few more longer putts than expected.
“She never looks at leaderboards, she just sets herself a goal for the round and tries to achieve it. What I do well for her is help her make decisions fast and be decisive when it’s needed. So we complement each other well on the course.”