Hjorth happy with refined physical, mental game
BY NEAL REID
For the longest time, Maria Hjorth was her own worst enemy.
Sure, she’d found success on Tour from the start, winning twice in her sophomore season as a pro in 1999, but it didn’t last. In 2000, Hjorth started missing more cuts and, with the exception of nine top-10s in 2001, she was finding it difficult to finish among the elite players.
Hjorth had a seven-year winless streak from 2000-06, the low point coming in 2004, when her best finish was 17th place and she made just nine of 22 cuts. She still qualified for the 2002 and 2005 Solheim Cups as part of the European squad, but those ended in disappointing losses.
From 2002-06, Hjorth notched just nine top-10 finishes. She turned things around in 2007 with her third career win and eight top-10s, but managed just seven top-10s and no wins from 2008-09.
She was on a see-saw, roller-coaster ride and was drifting a bit.
Her personal life changed greatly, as she married PGA Tour caddie Shaun McBride on Dec. 31, 2007, and gave birth to their first child, daughter Emily, in 2009. Those changes made Hjorth a happier person, shifted her priorities and gave her new perspective on life.
That, in turn, helped Hjorth take her golf game to a new level.
She won again in 2010 and had five top-10 finishes, and this year has been even better. Hjorth has yet to miss a cut in 13 events, won the Avnet LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala., in April and already has five top-10s.
“This year has been very good and consistent, and that’s really what I’ve been trying to achieve for a while – to just have the consistency to be able to win golf tournaments,” said Hjorth, who has more than $5.8 million in career earnings. “It feels like I’m close to winning again, and I think I just need a few extra breaks and to make a few extra putts to get up there and be right at the top.”
Hjorth said the keys to her success have been subtle changes on both the mental and physical side of the game.
“There’s nothing technically that I’ve changed, but there are just a few adjustments I’ve made,” she said. “My body had been doing the same thing for a long, long time, so I was making the same mistakes. It just takes a little while to get out of bad habits.”
The bad habits weren’t only physical for the highly self-critical Swede.
“I think it’s more of a mental approach, and I’ve been working more on that side to allow myself to not be perfect,” she said. “If I get irritated with myself, that might cause a bad shot on the next shot. That’s really where I had to work hard to change myself and accept that a 70- or 75-percent perfect shot might work as well and it doesn’t have to be 100 percent all the time.
“You can be a really bad enemy to yourself and make it so much harder for yourself than you need to be. You also waste a lot of energy, and you’re out there for so long that you need to save as much energy as you can for the whole round. If I start to get annoyed by little things I don’t need to get annoyed about, then I’m not saving a lot of energy for later in the round.”
That extra energy can be the difference between making and missing cuts and winning and losing tournaments. Luckily for Hjorth, she’s clearly figured out that riddle.