Going purely by the form guide, red-hot Englishman Jamie Elson could well be the man to beat at this week’s Barclays Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour.
The 29 year old from Surrey currently sits in 52nd place in The Race to Dubai, thanks largely to his top five finishes at the Joburg Open and more recently at the Sicilian Open, a result which gained him entry to last week’s Open de Andalucía Golf by Turkish Airlines, where he finished in a tie for 23rd.
Elson, who married wife Hannah last summer, trailed the leaders by just one stroke at the half-way stage, and so was ultimately disappointed to have slipped down the leaderboard at the weekend after rounds of 71 and 72.
But the 2001 Walker Cup winner still took heart from a performance which continued his recent renaissance, having fallen into relative obscurity after first losing his European Tour card in 2004, and then struggling to rebuild his career on the Challenge Tour over the next two seasons.
He said: “I feel like I’m now starting to fulfil my potential a little bit. Maybe it was a case of too much too soon when I first won my card. I’ve always had a good feel for the game, but until recently I never had the technical foundations to fall back on when my game started to go awry. But after my work with my coach, Scott Hamilton, I feel I’m now much better in that regard.
“I went to see Scott in the States over Christmas and the new year, and we both worked hard on my swing and it’s made a huge difference. He wasn’t my coach at college, but my best mate over there recommended him as he’s the head pro at his home club. I’ve known Scott for a few years now but only started working with him for the last 18 months, and we’re now starting to see the results.
“So it’s mainly down to him, but also down to my perseverance. I played well in spells last year, but didn’t always capitalise on my good play. But results this year have been much better, although I’ve still been a little bit disappointed with my form at the weekend, so hopefully I can put that right here this week.”
Elson is thus now better placed to make a bold bid to return to The European Tour, though he is yet to decide whether to play a full campaign on the Challenge Tour or instead try to make the most of the limited appearances on the top tier afforded to him by his lowly category.
Elson faced the same dilemma last year and, with hindsight, feels he may have been better served by concentrating on the Challenge Tour and trying to build on his tied second finish at the dual ranking SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC last June.
“With about six events of the season left last year I was around 35th in the Challenge Tour Rankings and 140th in The Race to Dubai, so I decided to concentrate on the main Tour and ended up missing out,” he said.
“It felt like the right decision at the time, and who knows if it would have ended up differently if I’d played on the Challenge Tour instead? But that’s in the past now anyway – I’m concentrating on the future.
“I haven’t played on the Challenge Tour for a little while, so it’s been good to catch up with a few of the guys here this week. I haven’t played at Muthaiga before but I did play at Karen Golf Club in 2005 and 2006, so I know what to expect.
“The climate’s perfect for playing golf, and the greens here look good, so with a bit of luck I can have another good week and keep my recent run going.”