Karlsson's friends say that Sternian therapy has produced a marked change in him. "Robert had so much talent before, but he was a little shy and didn't take the space he really deserved," says Mednick. "After he saw Dr. Stern, he was more open, more talkative."
Karlsson's game improved too. In 1997 he won the BMW International Open and by year's end had jumped from 102nd to 10th on the European money list. Two years later he made a strong run for an automatic Ryder Cup berth, only to miss by a whisker (he finished 11th in the standings) and be passed over by team captain Mark James. "It was my biggest disappointment in golf," says Karlsson, who saw a captain's pick go to Scotland's Andrew Coltart, who had finished behind him in qualifying points. "I guess it wasn't my time." Last year, in an eerie echo of '99, Karlsson won once and finished second twice on the Euro tour but failed to impress captain Sam Torrance enough to join the team that will face the U.S. in two weeks in England.
Asked if Karlsson was snubbed because other players find his ways bizarre, his swing coach, Bj�rn Rigby, shrugs. "They don't really understand what he's doing," he says. "It makes some of them uncomfortable."
Karlsson and Palmcrantz, meanwhile, seem quite content. They live in Monte Carlo to avoid Sweden's punishing taxes. They also have a town house near Stockholm in a development called TM Village, TM standing for transcendental meditation. Karlsson's game is as unpredictable as ever—before his triumph in Crans-sur-Sierre he hadn't had a top 10 finish all year—but he no longer threatens to quit golf when his putts don't fall. "When I play bad now," he says, "it's not such a big drama as it was before."
That's not to say that Karlsson's life has turned prosaic. Last Friday, before he teed off in the second round of the European Masters, he learned that Stern, his beloved therapist, had died in Sk�rholmen, Sweden. In a zone similar to that in which Ben Crenshaw won the 1995 Masters after the death of his mentor, Harvey Penick, Karlsson responded with rounds of 65-66-68-71 and ran away with the tournament.
Palmcrantz, who was back in Sweden for a feng shui class, saw a clear connection between the two events. "When a master dies," she said, "his disciples take on his energy."
The meaning of life, if you believe the old joke, is known only to a bearded man in a dirty robe sitting cross-legged at the mouth of a cave near a mountain peak, not to a pro golfer sitting under a tree.
But before we leave, it can't hurt to ask Karlsson if his quest for understanding has led him to some great truth, an insight that won't quit.
Pondering the question, he smiles. "It sounds a bit cryptic," he says, "but all I found out is, there's nothing to look for."