Previously in this top-5-golfers series we have looked at splitting the men’s and women’s lists given that they compete on different tours. But this post is going to be a little different as it is simply going to be a list of the best Swedish golfers ever.
The Scandinavian Mixed is taking place this week on the European Tour in Sweden and is being hosted by two of Sweden’s greatest ever golfers, Annika Sörenstam and Henrik Stenson. As the name suggests, it is a mixed event with 78 men and 78 women taking part for the top prize. It is co-sanctioned by the European and Ladies European Tours and represents another great step towards inclusivity in golf.
Sweden is a country that has produced some amazing golfers over the years. Major champions in both the men’s and women’s game. Solheim and Ryder Cup stars. Wins all over the world. And in some cases, sporting icons. And that plethora of talent has made this a very difficult article to write.
The men’s and women’s games are different yet the same. Does a major win on the men’s tour mean more than a win on the women’s? Or vice-versa?
And how do you even rank the best golfers anyway? Is it down to majors? World golf rankings? Longevity?
We have been able to avoid such questions thus far in the series but now they are rearing their head in a big way. We hope you enjoy the article and do let us know if you agree with our picks.
Even trying to pick an honourable mention is very difficult. It came down to four people, each one with superb golfing pedigree and careers; Jesper Parnevik, Alexander Noren, Sophie Gustafson and Helen Alfredsson.
But in the end, Parnevik made it in. The man they call ‘Spaceman’ has one of the most eclectic and eccentric fashion styles of the last twenty-five years and stood out on the course. Always decked out in his famous up-turned bill cap, Parnevik was a leading light for Swedish golf in the late 90s, early 00s.
Despite not being the first Swede to win on the PGA Tour – that honour goes to Gabriel Hjerstedt – he would blaze a trail for others to follow. He won 5 times on the European Tour and 4 times on the PGA Tour, spending a total of 38 weeks in the world’s top ten in ’00 and ’01. He is a 3-time participant in the Ryder Cup, enjoying successful outings in ’97 and ’02, suffering defeat in the ’99 edition, famously known as ‘The Battle of Brookline’.
Unfortunately for Parnevik he could never quite get over the line in major championships, finishing runner up twice in the Open Championship as well as recording another 4 major top ten finishes.
A series of hip injuries starting in ’00 slowed his career and a serious boating injury to his hand in ’09 nearly ended his career completely. Happily though, he was able to make a return and joined the Champions Tour in 2015 where he would record his one and only seniors victory at the Insperity Invitational in 2016.
Parnevik is now aged 56 and has only made one top ten on the Champions Tour since 2019. While his career might be winding down, the ‘Spaceman’ and his unique fashion will forever live on in golfing memories.
5. Anna Nordqvist
Nordqvist burst into the professional game after a successful amateur career that saw her finish runner up in the British Amateur twice before finally winning it in 2008. In the same year she also claimed the Smyth Salver for being the lowest ranked amateur at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
She won her first major – the Women’s PGA Championship – in 2009 aged 22 in only her fifth LPGA Tour start and would win again later that year at the Tour Championship. Her performances earned her a captain’s pick to debut at the Solheim Cup and she won the Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year award although she narrowly missed out on the honour on the LPGA Tour.
Nordqvist had a bit of a wait before touching LPGA silverware again, until she recorded two wins in little over a month in 2014. Four wins in the next three years followed including a second major, the Evian Championship, and saw her rise to a career best of 4th in the world.
A muted spell has followed since and in the last three years she has managed one runner up and five further top tens, a disappointing return for someone of her quality. At one point in 2020 she slipped outside the world’s top 100 but now sits in 56th place in the rankings.
While Nordqvist’s results haven’t matched her previous form, expect a strong second half to the season as she pushes for a seventh Solheim Cup appearance. She has racked up a total of 13 points in the event, putting her sixth in the overall standings and her experience would be invaluable to the team.
Aged thirty-three, Nordqvist still has a lot of years left in the game. Expect her to hit form again at some point and add a few more wins to her record.
4. Robert Karlsson
Standing at 6”5, Karlsson is one of the tallest golfers to have graced the professional game. A particularly contemplative and analytical approach to the game earned him the nickname “The Scientist”, a moniker that now has been adopted by Bryson DeChambeau.
Karlsson turned pro in 1989 and enjoyed his first full year on the European Tour in 1991. In ’92 he cracked the top 100 in the world for the first time and in ’95 he won his first professional event, The Turespana Open Mediterrania.
He added another 4 victories to his tally by 2002. This was not without issue though as his form was known to drop off at times such as the ’96, ’00 and ’04 seasons resulting in a slump in the world rankings.
In 2006 Karlsson really kicked it up a gear and truly staked his claim as a world-class golfer. He produced a series of fine performances throughout the year that led him to two European Tour victories and a 4th place finish on the Order of Merit.
Two years later, he would better this after having a stunning year on tour including 2 wins, 2 runner up finishes, 2 third place finishes and 4 further top tens and took top spot on the Order of Merit. He finished the year in a career high position of 6th in the world.
Another two wins would follow in 2010 before Karlsson’s performances slipped somewhat. An unsuccessful transition onto the PGA Tour in 2011 and 2012 before playing on the tour fully in 2013 was met with results not reflecting his ability. The Swede moved back to the European Tour in 2014 and while enjoying some strong finishes, he could never reproduce his quality of old and get back into the winner’s circle.
Despite the quality he displayed throughout his career, Karlsson failed to win on American soil, having been beaten twice in playoffs. He now calls the Champions Tour home and despite a strong start on the tour, he still seeks that elusive American victory.
3. Liselotte Neumann
The woman known as “Lotta” is somewhat of a trailblazer for Swedish golf with a long list of accolades and victories to her name. After turning pro aged in 1985, it didn’t take her long to make an impact on the Ladies European Tour, claiming her first victory a few months after her nineteenth birthday and claiming her second only a couple of weeks after that.
This was the start of a great career that resulted in 36 professional wins worldwide. Including 13 on the LPGA Tour and 11 on the LET Tour. In 1988, aged just 22, she won the U.S Women’s Open, the only major of her career which led to her winning the LPGA Rookie of the Year award.
In the many years of success for Neumann, 1994 stands out as being the best. 3 wins on the European Tour and 3 on the LPGA as well as three third place finishes in majors saw her top the European Order of Merit and finish third on the LPGA money list.
Neumann would continue to put her prodigious talents to good use all around the world, winning in countries far from her native Sweden such as Australia and Japan on five different occasions.
After 1998, her career started to slow down although she was still able to add one more singles victory to her already impressive tally in 2004. In 2006 she joined forces with Annika Sörenstam to win the World Cup of Golf for Sweden.
A 6-time veteran of the Ryder Cup as well as 1 stint of being captain, Neumann now plies her trade on the LPGA Legend’s Tour, the tour for women over 45 years old. She has won 3 singles events on the tour, the last coming in 2017.
While it looks like her days of racking up victories is over, she will forever be one of the leading lights of Swedish golf.
2. Henrik Stenson
The Iceman.. A seasoned campaigner that has won some of the biggest tournaments, achieved historic results and faced career threatening swing issues only to come back better than ever.
The start of Stenson’s rise to superstardom began in 2000 when he won three times on the Challenge Tour. This earned him a European Tour card which he put to full use, winning his first event in 2001.
Plain sailing from here, right? Wrong!
Stenson developed the full swing yips and fell outside the world’s top 600 in the years that followed. After rebuilding himself with the help of his coach, Pete Cowen, he once again found the winning formula when he captured victory in 2004. Game and confidence back, Stenson hit the ground running for a second time.
Multiple wins later and Stenson broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time in 2007 and stayed there until early 2010. In that time, he captured some of the biggest prizes in golf such as the Players Championship and the WGC Match Play.
But then disaster struck as Stenson’s swing started to prove troublesome once more and he finished the 2011 season with only a single top ten to his name as well as missing 11 cuts out of 25 events. Stenson worked tirelessly to rebuild himself for a second time with coach Cowen and proceeded to play some of the finest golf of his career.
His form from 2013 to 2016 was nothing short of sensational. In 2013 he won the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour, the first person to have ever achieved this historic double. Stenson himself calls it the “double-double” as he also won the season finales of both tours, the Tour Championship and the DP World Tour Championship.
A major victory continued to elude the Swede, however, until the 2016 Open Championship when he went toe to toe with Phil Mickelson in the final round at Royal Troon in what is arguably the best shootout between two golfers of the modern era. Capitalising on this superb performance, Stenson secured a Silver Medal at the Olympics only a month later.
But with every Stenson high comes a Stenson low. In 2020 he missed 6 of 14 cuts and this year he has missed 8 of 12, failing to register a single top ten in the process. Henrik is now aged 45 and the question is, can he rebuild again? Can the Iceman once more challenge for titles and feature on the main stage?
We hope the answer is yes and we look forward to seeing the next resurgence in his career.
1. Annika Sörenstam
Who else could it be? Sörenstam is nothing short of an icon. A World Golf Hall of Famer, 7-time LPGA Player of the Year, winner of 94 events worldwide and the only female to shoot a 59 in competition. The list of accolades goes on and on and makes for remarkable reading.
Sörenstam has won 10 majors in her career. To put this in context, Swedish golfers have claimed a total of 16 majors, 15 of which were won by female golfers. Sörenstam’s level of dominance can only be match by a few in the game (Nicklaus and Woods spring to mind) and in our estimation she is the greatest female golfer to have ever played the game.
She turned pro in 1992, aged 22, and played her debut season on the Ladies European Tour the year after. Four top ten finishes saw her win the LET Rookie of the Year award. In 1994 she played her first full season on the LPGA Tour, again being crowned the Rookie of the Year after 3 top ten finishes.
1995 was the year everything kicked into gear for phenom that people would come to know. 19 events with 12 top tens, including a third place finish, 3 runner ups and 3 victories, one of which was her first major, the US Women’s Open. And that was just on the LPGA Tour. On the LET, she recorded another two victories!
And thus began Sörenstam’s dominance. She won year in, year out and out of a total of 307 LPGA Tour appearances, she recorded 72 wins and a total of 212 top tens. There were no blips, no falters. Sörenstam treated every event with the same intensity and laser focus.
Trying to pick a year to highlight in all of this is extremely difficult but two do jump out. In 2002 Sörenstam played in 23 events on the LPGA Tour, finishing in the top 10 on twenty occasions and winning a massive 11 tournaments while in 2005 she made the cut in all 20 of the events she played, recording a total of 10 victories.
Stepping away from her singles career, she also had a successful Solheim Cup career, featuring on the team 8 times and recording 24 points out of 37 matches, leaving her second in the all-time European points list behind Laura Davies.
And then sadly for world golf she announced her early retirement at the end of the 2008 season at the age of 38, citing a desire to focus on different projects such as her entrepreneurial endeavours as being a reason for her decision. She left on a high and recorded 4 wins that year, three on the LPGA Tour and one on the European Tour.
A rare, once-in-a-lifetime talent, Sörenstam is the greatest Swedish golfer of all time, the greatest female golfer of all time and an icon with few peers.
We hope you enjoyed this list of the Top 5 Swedish Golfers of All Time. Annika and Henrik are paired with Thomas Bjorn for the first two rounds of the Scandinavian Mixed and we will be watching it closely. If you enjoyed this post then follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with all the latest news and updates from Halpenny Golf.