After grabbing his first Tour win in 2015, Sweden’s David Lingmerth, 28, has a bold New Year’s resolution: To play in the Ryder Cup.
You won your first PGA Tour event last June, beating Justin Rose in a playoff at the Memorial. What moment stands out?
That feeling when you know you have a four- or five-footer to win the tournament and seal the deal. That’s a special feeling, and the first time you have it, it’s hard to explain. I’d been putting so well that week, and I was feeling very confident. And to see that putt [to win] go in, and to know I was finally a Tour winner, was amazing.
What was different about your game that week?
My mental game was so strong. And going into the playoff, I felt really calm. I knew what I was trying to do out there, and nothing really rattled me. I was cool. My mental game is what got me through the four rounds and the playoff. And I’ll have to work hard to get that mental game every week, [because] that mindset is easier said than done.
How has your life changed since the win?
My tournament schedule changed a lot, because I became eligible to play a lot of tournaments that I wasn’t eligible to play before. So that’s a nice change. And then, obviously, just having that win—that’s something no one can take away from me. It’s one thing to be a PGA Tour player, but it’s another thing to be a PGA Tour winner. I thought I was a good player, but now I have it in black and white that I can win. It’s a boost of confidence.
Another perk, of course, is a spot in the Masters.
Oh, yeah. I’ve had chances to go to the Masters as a spectator, but I didn’t want to make the trip until I was there as a player. And I’ve been watching it for so many years on TV—it’s the best tournament to watch. But at the same time, it’s been killing me the last few years [to not play in the tournament]. I don’t want to watch it. [Laughs] I want to be there. It’s going to be really cool when that week comes around.
You were born in Sweden, where golf is very popular. Who were your golf idols growing up?
Obviously, Jesper Parnevik and Annika Sorenstam are big names. They stood out as role models. Annika was amazing. She always won, so she got a lot of attention. And I believe Jesper was a top-five player in the world for a while. He had an amazing career, and everybody knew who he was, because of the way he dressed and his hat. Stylish.
Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Jonas Blixt, Anna Nordqvist — the community of Swedes on the professional tours is tight-knit. Do you all give each other support?
Yes, absolutely. We have an amazing amount of really good golfers from Sweden, considering how cold it is and how short the season is. That’s a testament to how good our golf federation is. And [in Sweden] they make golf available for kids. It’s affordable, and they have a good program in place.
You went to college at the University of Arkansas. Did you know that golf was in your future even then?
At 15, I decided to give golf a real try. And I wasn’t great. I was good, but I was not a great player. I didn’t get recruited out of high school. So I fought hard to try to get to college somewhere and somehow. And I had to work hard in high school and throughout college and everything to try to steadily improve. It was a lot of effort. It eventually worked out the way I wanted it to, but it wasn’t easy. It shows what hard work can accomplish. Arkansas was a great university. I never second-guessed the decision [to go there]. I had an awesome time.
This season is jam-packed with big events: the majors, of course, but also the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. What would mean more — playing in the Olympics or your first Ryder Cup?
I really want to give myself a chance to make the European Ryder Cup team, so I’m going to join the European Tour and play some tournaments over there, which means I’ll be traveling all over the world. My schedule is going to be quite hectic. I took a couple of weeks off [in the off-season], because I’m not going to have a lot of time off [during the 2016 season].
So playing on the Ryder Cup team — that’s the big dream?
It’s the ultimate dream and honor to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup. I still have a long way to go to make that team, but I feel like it can be attainable. And I’m going to give it a good try this year and see if we can make that happen. That would be amazing, to say the least.