Conversations with Champions: 2022 RSM Classic winner Adam Svensson credits a return to Korn Ferry Tour for finding discipline to win on PGA Tour

“Conversations with Champions presented by Sentry” is a weekly series from Golfweek. This week: Adam Svensson, winner of the 2022 RSM Classic.

A slow start Thursday, a late eagle Friday and the lifting of a trophy Sunday.

It was a high-wire act of sorts for Adam Svensson at the 2022 RSM Classic.

The first-time PGA Tour winner shot a 1-over 73 in the first round and it turned out to be the highest opening-round score by a winner in more than two years.

An eagle on the 15th hole Friday assured him of making the weekend and that’s when started heating up in the chilly temperatures at Sea Island’s Plantation Course in St Simons Island, Georgia.

A round of 62 vaulted him up the leaderboard Saturday and a Sunday 64 brought the 28-year-old his first Tour title.

This is everything Svensson said after claiming his maiden victory.

AS: The first round I was playing great, I just got nothing out of it. And going into Friday I was like keep doing what I’m doing. To be honest, I don’t even know. I was playing so good, I knew if I just kept doing what I’m doing and I will work my way up. But to come out on top, it’s unbelievable.

Q: Our second Canadian winner of the season, you move up to No. 6 in the FedEx Cup standings. Just talk a little bit about how this changes your goals going forward.

AS: Yeah, it definitely changes my schedule a lot. Obviously, I’ll be into more events now. I’ll have more time at home to work on my game and prepare for obviously bigger events now, so I’m excited.

2022 RSM Classic
2022 RSM Classic

Adam Svensson holds the trophy after winning the 2022 RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press)

Q: Can you talk about the birdies on 16 and 17 that helped pull you over the line?

AS: I looked on the leaderboard on 15, the par 5 there, and hit a poor wedge shot and made par. But I knew there’s a couple good birdie chances on 16 and 17 with a front flag. And the shot on 16, it kind of spun back but it was kind of an easy putt uphill left to right and I just knew I hit it hard enough and it went in. And the one on 17, I didn’t think it was going to go in and somehow it just dove in, I don’t know.

Q: Was there any frustration at all thinking that, because you started on the Plantation course, it’s the easier of the two courses, what was your mindset?

AS: I was very frustrated. I just knew like I just keep doing what I’m doing. I flushed it on Thursday and I just got nothing out of my round, and going into Friday I just was grinding. I don’t even know, I just was putting great, hitting it great and I just kept hitting the fairway, hitting it on the green and just kept doing what I’m doing. I don’t really know. I just knew if I just keep playing great, good things will happen. Last week I found something in my golf swing and just kind of took it into this week.

Q: What do you think the difference was between Thursday and the rest of the week?

AS: Putting, for sure. I kind of tweaked, I changed my stroke a little bit on Friday and then it was feeling really good. I just kind of stuck with it, yeah.

Q: Adam, on Friday do you watch the leaderboard enough to know how far behind you were behind what you thought the cut might be?

AS: I figured on Thursday I needed to shoot about 4-under par, I told my caddie that. We just had a game plan to shoot that and make the cut and just keep moving up.

Q: The money’s good and the two-year exemption is good, but how soon after the last putt did you start thinking Kapalua, Masters, Players, things like that?

AS: I didn’t even think about it until it was brought up to me 15 minutes ago. I’m more proud of what I’ve accomplished from the direction I was to the direction I’ve gone now, it’s more fulfilling than money to me. I’m more just proud of myself for things I’ve been doing.

Q: When did you start thinking, I could actually win this tournament?

AS: When I teed off. I don’t know, I knew I was playing great, I just had to stay out of my own way. At the start of the day, I told myself just don’t make a bogey and I’m putting well and I just had to keep myself under control.

Q: How long have you been working with John Graham?

AS: About a year now, just over a year.

Q: And was the something you changed in your putting Friday something he suggested or something you just came up with?

AS: We really work on flow in my stroke and sometimes on the long ones, especially this week, it’s fast so just having a little bit more flow has helped me with speed control, because I do get a little jabby sometimes. Just having a lot of, a little bit more flow in the backstroke.

Q: What did you change in yourself between the first time you were on the PGA Tour and this second go-round you’ve had?

AS: I relied mostly on talent when I was younger. I didn’t put enough work in, I wasn’t that disciplined. Like I said, two years ago I decided to give it 100 percent and I’ve been super disciplined on, you know, I don’t drink anymore, I go to the golf course every day, I’m up at 6, I give it 100 percent now. That’s the reason.

2022 RSM Classic
2022 RSM Classic

Adam Svensson reacts to his putt on the first hole during the final round of the 2022 RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press)

Q: You mentioned in the Golf Channel interview that a couple years ago you were thinking about quitting golf. What was that point?

AS: Every Tour player wants to quit golf once in a while. You say that, but you obviously don’t. It’s just a feeling because you’re so down and you’re not playing well. I just made a choice to give it 100 percent and there was no, after I lost my Tour card, that’s when I decided to do that.

Q: What were the like conversations like? Like was there anyone you relied on in particular to like set a course or was it kind of self-planning of the change?

AS: It’s all self. You can say you can work hard, but in the end you’ve got
to actually do the work. I’m just proud of myself for doing that.

Q: You hadn’t made a cut yet at this tournament before this week. Was that a product of the course not setting up well for you or playing poorly this week? What do you attribute that to?

AS: This golf course, you know, Seaside, it’s tough, the greens are fast. So I think before, you know, just my putting wasn’t quite there, a couple loose shots here and there. I’m getting better and better and better and that’s, you know, probably the reason.

Q: You mentioned the birdie on 17. Were you aware of the scoreboard at that point, kind of where just, all right, so you hit that. What are you feeling, up two strokes after making that birdie and off to the tee box on 18?

AS: I was pumped, I was super excited. I knew if I could just hit the fairway on 18, I could just get it up there and make par or bogey.

Q: Any sort of nerves knowing, like you said, you just basically have to not mess it up to be able to pull out the first win for you?

AS: Yeah, I was just like swing 50 percent because that 50 percent is probably 80 percent. That was kind of my mindset coming in the last couple holes, just swing 50 percent, yeah.

Q: We’ve seen a few rounds of 62, 63s out of you over the last few years, obviously you went low the last three rounds here. What is it do you think about your game or mentality that allows you to go low fairly often?

AS: I think it’s ball-striking consistency, hitting fairways, hitting greens, giving yourself opportunities, not short siding yourself. I’m definitely getting better at playing away from flags now. Before, I was firing at all the flags. When the putter’s hot, you can shoot low numbers doing that.

Q: How do you think going back to the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020-21 benefitted you most as you kind of look back kind of at that part of the journey in your arc?

AS: Realizing I wasn’t as good as I actually was and realizing how hard everyone works on this tour and what it takes to get here. It was a blessing, to be honest. It kind of changed my path and everything.

Q: What’s one area where you worked harder in this second stint of your career since that kind of readjustment?

AS: I would say putting, especially probably the last six months I’ve put in a lot of work with putting. But I try and like even it out chipping, putting, hitting. Just the everyday, you know, putting that work in, you just slowly, slowly get better.

2022 RSM Classic
2022 RSM Classic

Adam Svensson shakes hands with Patrick Rodgers after winning the 2022 RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press)

Q: What was the toughest part of putting at first in your career before these improvements?

AS: For me, it was the short putts with confidence, kind of steering it here and there. When you have confidence when you’re putting, you feel like you can make everything and those two-, three-footers, you just bang them in.

Q: The fact you’ve led the field statistically in strokes gained putting this week, what does that mean to you?

AS: I didn’t even know that. Cool. It means the work I’m doing’s paying off with John, and it’s nice.

Q: When did you decide to quit drinking?

AS: Two years ago. I’ve probably had maybe five drinks, but I quit drinking, I mean like going out with the boys and having drinks and stuff.

Q: Is that for tonight, too?

AS: Well, I’m supposed to drive home tonight, so yeah. Maybe I’ll have one.

Q: The fact no one could ever take away you’re a PGA Tour winner, like that’s something you’ll have on your resume and your mind and memory forever. What does that knowledge mean to you that you’ve accomplished that goal?

AS: It’s been dreams of mine since I was 10 years old, eight years old. It’s just incredible. I don’t think the money does, I don’t think money really does anything. It’s the feeling of coming down the stretch and winning and all that stuff, you just can’t beat it.

Q: Can you paint the picture, tell me a little bit where you were when you had this kind of come-to-Jesus moment that I’m going to really commit and make golf my job and not just rely on the talent?

AS: I can’t remember. It was just one day I woke up and I was like, that’s it,
that’s it. Just kind of went from there.

Q: Was it after a certain tournament where you had a bad result or after a hangover?

AS: Probably a hangover, probably a hangover. I don’t know, I can’t
remember.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek