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Former European No 1 Karlsson proud to reach 500 up

By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER England (Reuters) - Former European number one Robert Karlsson failed to mark his 500th Tour appearance with a standout display this week but the Swede could still look back with pride at a career packed with success.

The North Carolina-based professional readily admits he is toiling with his game at the moment and takes encouragement from the form being shown by contemporaries like Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, 50, and Dane Thomas Bjorn, 43.

"I've seen a lot of things traveling around the world in my career, seen a lot of ups and downs," Karlsson told Reuters in an interview after a poor closing 78 left him way down the field on six-over 294 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

"But if someone had told me after my first five events that I'd play in 500 of these things and win 11 times, play in the Ryder Cup a couple of times and also win the World Cup alongside Henrik Stenson I'd have been very happy.

"I haven't done well enough to play in the Ryder Cup the last couple of times and the most important thing for me is to start playing well again," said the 44-year-old Karlsson.

"Look at Bjorn and Jimenez. They are still doing well."

Former world number six Karlsson finished top of the European money-list in 2008 and decided to uproot his family three years later to live in the United States.

His wife and two young children have settled well on the other side of the Atlantic but his golf has unraveled to such an extent that he has lost his U.S. PGA Tour playing privileges.

"It's tricky flying back and forth between both tours," said Karlsson. "Last year I played mainly in the States but most of the good golf I've played in my career has been over here.

"This feels like home too and this year I'm mainly playing over here again - I don't have a playing status in America so I have no choice.

"It was something of a landmark decision by us to move to Charlotte," added the world number 229. "We'll see what happens going forward but the family are very happy where they are."

Karlsson has been fighting a hook off the tee in recent times and said this week's cold and rain had not helped his Wentworth campaign.

"I've been struggling with my game for the last few weeks," explained the 6-foot-5 (1.96-metre) Swede. "I've been hitting it left off the tee all the time and around this golf course you can't do that.

GOOD SCHEDULE

"The other problem for me right now is that it's hard to get a good schedule. You need to get into tournaments when you're not playing great.

"From the Trophee Hassan in Morocco in early March to the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte at the start of this month I didn't play at all."

Karlsson, who featured in the Ryder Cup team in 2006 and 2008 and won the World Cup with Stenson in 2008, said he had no regrets about moving to the States but acknowledged it was far tougher to succeed on the U.S. PGA Tour.

"In America the fields are a bit deeper and you see more high-ranking players missing the cut from week to week," he added.

"It's definitely easier to miss the cut over there. We saw world number one Adam Scott almost missing the cut at this week's Texas tournament but now he's two strokes off the lead with one round to go.

"It's more bunched up and you need to play better over there. I'm trying to get a few more events in America but it's not easy to get invites," said Karlsson.

"It would be great to get more chances especially as I played well there early this season. I've got a lot of points and money already so I've got a reasonable chance of getting my card back if I can just play a bit more."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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