Photo: Paul Howard playing his Monday practice round at Royal Troon
Our Chat With Southport’s Paul Howard Ahead Of The Open
This week our own Paul Howard faces the biggest test of his young golfing career as he takes on the world’s best golfers in the Open Championship at Royal Troon. We caught up with him for a quick Q&A to see how his preparation is going.
Firstly, how are you feeling now you know you have qualified for the Open?
I don’t think it has really sunken in yet to be honest. With going straight to a tournament after qualifying I didn’t have chance to think about it too much, which is a good thing I think.
What shape was your game in heading into Open qualifying?
Well I missed the cut in Scotland the week before after shooting a good first round so I didn’t have too many expectations. But a week or so before I broke my run of missed cuts with a 2nd place in Switzerland so I knew my game was starting to shape up.
Did it help you playing at Hillside, I presume it is a course you know well?
Yes playing Hillside was a big advantage for me. I’ve won the Pines Trophy 3 times, so it’s a course that suits me. Last year I was 2nd after the first round although a poor round in the afternoon didn’t allow me to qualify but I knew I could get closer this time around.
So heading into the back 9 on the second round of qualifying, did you know you had a chance?
I knew I was on a good score but I still thought I needed more birdies.
When you dropped 2 shots on the last couple of holes, did you think it was still enough?
No. I thought I would miss the playoff and I didn’t think it was enough. The pressure I guess helped me because no-one really broke through.
When you learned you were in a playoff, how did you feel and did you have a plan on how you would approach it?
I just didn’t want to be the first one out! After I got through the first hole I felt more comfortable. I didn’t really have a plan as the only playoff I have ever been in before, the guy I was playing shanked it out of bounds so I won easily! I was hoping the same might happen.
Standing over the putt to send you to your first Open, did you fancy making it? How did it feel when it dropped in?
I felt like I was going to hole it. It was the only one I felt had a really good chance. I felt very calm and relaxed over it and when it went I was more relieved than anything else.
Did you get good vibes from the sizeable crowd following you around?
The crowd was a big help – having so much support certainly helped.
Your game is in good shape with a T8th on the Challenge tour, but what is your goal for the Open week?
Obviously making the cut is a goal but I would love to go and have a top ten. I think with being a member at S&A it will help and give me an advantage over a lot of the guys who aren’t used to links golf.
How have you prepared? Will you do anything different from normal?
I think I will spend a bit more time with my coach just going over certain short game shots and tee shots we think I will need. I will also play S&A a lot to make sure I’m hitting it straight.
Have you had a chance to play Troon at all?
I played the British Amateur there a few years ago, so I do know what to expect. Incidentally I shot -1 and qualified for the Matchplay stages.
What is the most exciting thing about playing in the Open?
The first tee shot and the potential to go and win and pick up the claret jug. If Wales can make the semi-finals at the Euros you never know!
Who is your caddy for the week?
Mark Rabone. I don’t think I’ll be hitting as many drivers as he would do though.
Finally, at 750/1, will you be telling people to have a bet on you?
Probably not, but maybe worth a quid.
– On behalf of all at S&A, we wish Paul all the best for the week ahead and are sure he will represent the Club brilliantly.
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