x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Joel Sjoholm is another plus for golf in Sweden

Emerging star is attracting attention in Dubai – and not only because of his flamboyant outfit.

Joel Sjoholm watches his tee shot on the ninth during the third round of the Classic.
Joel Sjoholm watches his tee shot on the ninth during the third round of the Classic.

The Emirates Golf Club is getting ready to say farewell to a much-loved resident Swede today, but Henrik Stenson's long goodbye is in danger of being drowned out by a flamboyant European Tour newcomer from his homeland.

Joel Sjoholm is the pre-eminent Swedish player in the Dubai Desert Classic at present. He will start his final round at 13-under par this morning, two shots behind the leader, Lee Westwood, and three ahead of his compatriot, Stenson.

However, telling the world No 332's story in numbers alone is like saying Bill Gates is good at computers: it leaves the canvas criminally bare.

Sjoholm goes by the alias "Swedish Toro" (or "Bull"). He dresses in plus fours, specifically to attract attention after he lost his sponsors last year.

"When I look at golfers, everybody looks quite the same," said Sjoholm, 26. "I don't see myself as the guy that steps into line and just does whatever everyone else is doing.

"Plus fours are quite a fun outfit and people laugh and feel more for the guy whatever happens."

His get-up is better suited to a baseball diamond than the golf course. Which is by design: he is keen on the Atlanta Braves, having lived there for four years.

His etymology is as alternative as his gear. He was born in Chile - hence the use of Spanish in "Toro" - was adopted by Swedish parents when he was a baby, and was schooled in the United States.

And he has an expensive habit: he is a shopaholic. "Another problem I have is buying too much stuff," he said.

"And then I figured, when I don't have a sponsor I can just wear the hats that I like to wear. It is fun for me."

Fun clearly suits him. While the likes of Colin Montgomerie, whose third-round 77 caused him to stomp around the course like thunder yesterday, prefer the grumpy look, a sunny disposition aids Sjoholm's game.

His 66 yesterday was the lowest of the round, one better than a clutch of 67s that included another famous flamboyant dresser, John Daly. His strong form was sparked by a laugh.

"I did something [on Friday] which I had never done before," Sjoholm said. "I holed a 40-metre putt on 17 and it was almost silly. I started laughing. Golf is cruel game. When you have those days you walk off the course feeling blessed more than anything else."

Talking of walking off the course, Stenson will leave the Majlis for the last time as a resident of Dubai this evening.

The former Ryder Cup player, who is a more sombre Swede than Sjoholm - superficially, at least - has lived just up the road from the Emirates for the past eight years.

However, he has sold his home in the Meadows as he and his family are planning to relocate to his other home in Orlando. They will move out for good this week.

While he has not quite reprised the form which brought him the 2007 Classic title, ahead of Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, he has at least given his soon-to-be erstwhile club mates a forget-me-not.

Stenson has struggled with poor form, a remodelled game and injury in recent times, but his 10-under par aggregate has been a reminder of the good old days.

"I am going to be back and playing in this tournament, but it is going to be a slightly different feeling when I am not living here any more," Stenson said. "It has been approaching quick in the past couple of weeks and it has been sinking in that, gosh, soon we are not going to have the house [here] any more."

The family Stenson are moving so that their five-year-old daughter Emma will suffer less upheaval now she is starting school.

The move to the US will also compliment Stenson's increased playing commitments on the PGA Tour.

"It has been a merry-go-round," Stenson said of having bases in Dubai, Orlando and his native Sweden. "There are always things with houses that need to be looked after. It is going to be one less distraction, so I think it will be good in the long term."

pradley@thenational.ae