10 Nov 2023

Alexander Björk – Emerging from the shadows

Alexander Björk is an unexpected standout star on the DP World Tour this season, who now finds himself on the verge of PGA Tour privileges. Will Kent recently had the opportunity to speak with the Swedish golfer, delving into the rapid improvements in his game while also finding out exactly how close he came to making Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup team.

Many would describe Alexander Björk as a journeyman pro; I would describe him as unlucky. In truth, it’s been an unexpected and remarkable year for the 33-year-old which now has him on the verge of obtaining a PGA Tour card through his Race to Dubai ranking. But despite this flourishing season of European golf, he was still unable to force his way into Ryder Cup selection.

“I played with Luke Donald in the Czech Masters, the second last tournament of qualifying, and he requested to play with me,” said Björk. “I shot 13 under and was leading, so I thought I had quite a good chance.

“I finished second the week after just before the cut off. I thought I was 50/50 to get in.

“I got a phone call from Luke after the close of play of that tournament which unfortunately for me was a negative one. I’m guessing I was one of a few that just missed out.

“I watched a little bit on TV with mixed feelings because I was close to getting on the team. It’s always a great tournament to watch. It was a really strong performance from the European team and I’m happy for the guys.”

Granted, it’s hard to argue with Donald’s choices now given the result. And admittedly the Swede isn’t a household name, nor does he have a high-profile CV of wins. But he’s had eight top ten finishes on the DP World Tour this year – more than any other competitor. He’s one of the most improved players in the sport.

“I’ve hit my driver a lot straighter than I’ve done before and my mental approach is a little different,” Bjork responded when quizzed about what’s clicked in 2023. “I think those two pieces are the biggest things that have been a lot better this year.

“I’ve been seeing a mental coach since October 2022. I felt like last year I didn’t enjoy playing. I was not happy on the course and I felt like there was a lot of stuff I needed to work on.

“I’ve tried a new thing in working with a mental coach and it’s really helped me in having the right perspective in things. It’s helped both on and off the course to focus on the right things.”

The 2018 Volvo China Open winner ranks third this year for driving accuracy, finding the fairway 68% of the time. That’s a ten percent increase when compared to last year. Professionals often talk about how they are desperately looking for those one or two percent gain, so this improvement is massive.

“I’ve not really been working specifically on trying to hit more fairways,” continued Björk.

“For me it’s more been about the mental side of it with regards to how I feel when I get on the tee. You always try to hit it straight, but I haven’t been working on anything extra in that.

“I think definitely the Callaway Paradym driver has helped me. It’s the best driver for me that I’ve ever had. When I started hitting it in January, I felt like I had a much more confidence with it. It’s really forgiving for me and it’s the best driver I’ve had.

“Also, because I’m in the fairway more my iron game this season has been a lot better this year. I had a really strong season in 2018 when my irons were really, really good. Since then it’s been up and down, but this year it’s close to where I want it to be.”

There’s still work to be done to cap off a brilliant season, with a possible Masters invite looming as well as the previously mentioned PGA Tour card. The strategic alliance may have received it’s criticism over recent months for lacking any genuine impact for DP World Tour players, but we are starting to see the benefits now at the business end of the campaign.

“I’m trying to focus on making a really good finish to the season and play well in the tournaments I have left,” added Björk.

“It would be a fun opportunity to play in the US on the PGA Tour, I definitely hope I can make it. I’ve never played there before.

“I understand that the category is not the best. You won’t get in a lot of the big events, but I think there’s a safety net if you’re not having a good year on the PGA Tour, you can go back to play DP the next season in a good category. There’s not really any risk to go over there, it’s an opportunity.

“I definitely want to play the Masters as well. With a really strong finish, I think I can get close. I’ve always wanted to play the Masters.”

If Björk is to break into the Official World Golf Ranking top 50 before the year’s end and therefore claim an invite to Augusta, he’s going to need a strong result at the upcoming DP World Tour Championship.

While the presence of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy make the task of winning the event all the more difficult, Björk has had some fantastic success of his own before at the Earth course including a runner-up finish in 2021.

The Swede is a combined 37 under par for his three appearances at the event, with his best round there being a 65 back in 2018. The tournament traditionally puts a priority on hitting the fairway, which then opens up birdies opportunities. It suits Björk’s game.

“I’m really excited,” he added. “That’s one of my absolute favourite events that I’ve ever played. I like that course, and I really like to play in Dubai.

“It wasn’t great not being able to play last year because of my form, so I’m really happy to be back in the final. It’s a tournament I feel I can do really well in.

“It’s a course where accuracy is key and also the greens – you play into small areas which benefits my approach game. The greens are always perfect and I like to putt on fast greens.”

In the Middle East, it’s common for golfing careers to take substantial strides due to the opportunities and prizes offered at tournaments here. This year is no exception, especially for Björk. After 14 years as a professional, the Swede is now on the brink of a life-changing opportunity with PGA Tour status within his reach.

While some may perceive him as a late bloomer, this month presents a golden opportunity for him to transform his commendable career into a great one.

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