Karin Sjodin has had plenty of reasons to smile early in the 2012 season. Known for her pleasant demeanor and great length on the golf course, the 28-year-old Swede has recorded top-10 finishes in two of her last three starts, including a career-best tie for fourth in the Kraft Nabisco Championship two weeks ago. She ranks first in Greens in Regulation and 22nd on the money list.
Sjodin (pronounced CAR-in SHOW-deen) shared the third-round lead with Yani Tseng in the Kraft Nabisco before tailing off to a final-round 74 at Mission Hills. This came two weeks after a tie for 10th at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Her previous best finish was a tie for seventh in 2006.
Even though the season has put Sjodin on track to her best season as a professional, she didn’t get off to the greatest start. She contracted pneumonia in January at the European Tour Qualifying Tournament and had to withdraw. The result was some time off and a loss of her usual prodigious distance off the tee for a while. Then she suffered some pain in her ribs during the Kraft Nabisco but fought through it for her best finish.
The biggest blessing with the injuries may be dialing back on her powerful swing. After playing collegiately at Oklahoma State (she still resides in Stillwater, Okla.), she made a big early splash on the LPGA. She led the LPGA in Driving Distance with an all-time mark of 284.5 yards in 2006 and a second-most 275.6 in 2007. The 2006 distance championship earned an invitation to the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, where she finished seventh in the women’s category. However, in the years where she led the LPGA in Driving Distance she finished just 39th and 56th, respectively, in Greens in Regulation. Wrist surgery soon after curtailed some of that distance. This year, she leads the LPGA in Greens in Regulation at 77.8 percent and is 31st in Driving Distance with a more controllable long game thanks to the absence of a wild hook.
“In college and amateur golf, I lived off of my long drives,” Sjodin said at the Kraft Nabisco. “I never really realized what my weaknesses were because I could just bomb it up there and had such an advantage because of that. And coming out here all of a sudden there are a lot of people that hit it farther.
“It took me a while to first realize what I really needed to work on and I guess how to work on those things, to get a plan on how to work on putting when I'd never really dealt with it in the past. And I think now in every part of the game I know what I want to do and how to work on it, so that helps.”