David Lingmerth isn’t yet in the class of Henrik Stenson, but he hopes to be standing next to him as part of the two-man team representing Sweden in August at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Stenson’s spot is virtually locked up, as he is No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings, with the top 15 automatically making the 60-player field. A maximum of four golfers from one country are eligible.
Lingmerth, 28, made a big move toward Rio when he came from five strokes behind in the final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge two weeks ago by posting a 7-under-par 65 to catch Jason Dufner, who beat him on the second playoff hole.
Still, Lingmerth climbed 16 spots in the rankings to No. 36 in the world and is second among Swedish men and looking to improve his position even more this week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Kristoffer Broberg was third among Swedes at No. 67.
Lingmerth claimed his first PGA Tour victory last year in the Memorial Tournament.
“In 2016, I will be looking to accomplish even more and hope to challenge for a spot on both the European Ryder Cup team and Swedish Olympic team,” said Lingmerth, who claimed his only other professional victory in the 2012 Neediest Kids Championship on the Web.com Tour.
Lingmerth took last week off following a strong start to the year that saw him tie for 15th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and tie for 13th in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
His U.S. base is in Jacksonville, Fla., so he was preparing for the new year in warm weather before getting more of the same when he headed west.
“It’s nice to come out here,” said Lingmerth, who left Sweden to play college golf at West Florida and Arkansas. “The weather is always perfect for golf. If you’re feeling good, if you’re swinging it well and everything, it’s pretty good. You can shoot some numbers out here, which is fun.
“I’ve been feeling really good … been playing very solid tee to green, giving myself tons of opportunities and got off to a pretty decent start.”
Lingmerth would have been holding the trophy at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West had Dufner not made a couple of great escapes, saving par in regulation with a chip from the rocks on the 17th hole known as Alcatraz and holing an 11-foot putt for par on the first extra hole.
Dufner claimed his first victory since the 2013 PGA Championship after Lingmerth hit his second shot into the water in the playoff on what proved to be the final hole.
“It wasn’t really a bad swing, I don’t think,” said Lingmerth, who got his first set of golf clubs from his uncle, Goran, who was a kicker for the Cleveland Browns.
“I should have probably choked up a little bit more on the grip; that would have probably helped me not have the grass grab it so much. So it turned the ball over and it was really not a bad swing, just a small mistake that was very costly.”
Lingmerth is no stranger to playoffs, having lost to Brian Gay three years ago when the CareerBuilder was known as the Humana Challenge, and also falling to Peter Tomasulo in the 2012 United Leasing Championship on the Web.com Tour.
However, when he broke through last year in the Memorial, he took down major winner Justin Rose with a par on the third extra hole.
“I’ve been in a few playoffs,” Lingmerth said after staying alive with a bunker save on the first extra hole in the Memorial. “You win some, you lose some. But I didn’t feel that it was my turn to lose this time. …
“I can’t believe it right now. I’m so happy. It’s an honor being here, and winning is surreal.”
Tournament host Jack Nicklaus was impressed and told Lingmerth: “That (shot) you played on 18 in the first playoff hole was something else. I didn’t know how you could even get it … on the green and get in there. You almost holed it; you lipped it out of the cup.”
Lingmerth was ranked No. 212 in the world before that victory, which kick-started the best stretch of golf in his career.
Guess you can blame it on Rio.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre