Phillip Price will head into this week’s SWALEC Wales Challenge hoping the performance of Tom Watson in last week’s Open Championship at Turnberry can act as a spur to his own personal glory.
The 42 year old Welshman has been a fan of the 59 year old American legend ever since the two played together a few years ago in the Bay Hill Invitational on the US PGA Tour and, like the rest of the world, watched enthralled last Sunday as Watson attempted to rewrite golfing history.
In the end it was not to be but, just as Watson gave the younger men of golf a run for their money in Scotland, Price is hoping to do the same to the youthful element of the Challenge Tour in action at The Vale Hotel Golf and Spa Resort on the outskirts of Cardiff.
“Tom’s performance was simply incredible and I really thought he was going to do it,” said Price, a three time champion on The European Tour. “It would have been the biggest feat in any sport had he achieved it but he was very unlucky with his shot into the last, in some ways he maybe hit it just too well.
“But the way he took the defeat showed the mark of the man. When I played with him at Bay Hill he was the perfect gentleman, he always made time for you and was a true pleasure to play with.”
Price is no stranger to the heady heights of golfing success himself for, aside from his three Tour wins, he was also part of the European Ryder Cup success at The Belfry in 2002 where his final day 3 and 2 singles victory over Phil Mickelson still ranks as one of the most impressive performances in the contest’s history.
This year, however, he has still to find similar form on The European Tour but is hopeful a week on the Challenge Tour on a course only 20 minutes from his Newport home, can reignite his competitive juices. In addition to home comforts, the Welshman admitted he will use the week to reinforce his decision to return to a short putter.
“I have been back and forward between the long putter and the short putter for about a year but I think the time is right now for me to go with the short putter and stick with it,” he said.
“Putting used to be one of the strengths of my game but with all the fiddling about I’ve done between the long and short sticks I have lost my way a bit with it – I’m hopeful this week will be the start of an improvement which can lead into the end of the year being better than the start of it has been.”
Price, and his fellow countryman and European Tour regular Stephen Dodd are the star attractions of the 156 strong field for the 13th event of the 2009 European Challenge Tour season.
However, other notable names in action include defending champion Michael McGeady of Ireland, 2006 winner Sion Bebb of Wales, his compatriot Mark Pilkington, who topped the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2006, and Reinier Saxton, the young Dutchman who won the 2008 Amateur Championship, which was held at Turnberry.
The field also includes five players who have won on the Challenge Tour already this season: the English quartet of Peter Baker, Andrew Butterfield, Robert Coles and Lee S James, alongside Italian Edoardo Molinari.