Austin Connelly begins his preparations for next week’s Open Championship by competing in this week’s Italian Challenge Open by Lyoness.
After coming through a gruelling four-man play-off in a regional qualifier at Royal Cinq Ports to seal his spot at Royal Birkdale, the 20 year old flew straight to Sardinia where he has been honing his game ahead of his sixth European Challenge Tour start.
Since making the decision to ply his trade in Europe earlier this year, the Canadian has enjoyed much success – making the top ten twice on the European Tour, first at February’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth and then at the Nordea Masters in June.
Now with his first Major Championship appearance just one week away, Connelly believes the best course of action is to keep competing right up until his Open Championship debut.
“I like to play before big weeks,” he said. “I feel like the more I play the better I play. I have played the last five weeks and feel like I’m in pretty good form – I’m just trying to take each week as it comes.
“I am going to try and do the best I can this week and try and build some momentum heading into next week.
“The qualifier was really tough. The golf course was very difficult and the back nine in particular was brutal. I enjoyed it – it was windy and I felt very comfortable in the conditions.
“I hadn’t played a lot of links golf, so it was nice to have a bit of success on a links style golf course that I hadn’t had in the past. I feel really good going into next week.”
The last time The Open was held at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington battled the elements to defend the title in 2008.
With scoring proving difficult nine years ago, Connelly knows the Southport course will provide a tough test – but believes he has the game to thrive in Merseyside.
“I think Royal Birkdale will suit me quite well,” he said. “It looks very tight and quite difficult. I saw the scoring back in 2008 which was really high, and it looks as though you have to drive it straight or there will be big penalties if you miss the fairway.
“That’s my game really – just keeping it in front of me and going from there. I like golf courses where you have to do that.”
Connelly, who narrowly missed out on a European Tour card during his first visit to Qualifying School Final Stage last season, feels that he has adapted well to life across the Atlantic.
“I feel like I’ve had a good year so far,” said Connelly, who grew up in Irving, Texas in the USA and counts Jordan Spieth as a friend. “I have bounced between the European and Challenge Tours – so I’m not as high up on the money list as I’d like to be.
“But I feel like I’ve been only a couple of shots away from having some really big successes this season.
“I know that I just have to be patient, take each week as it comes, as I know that good golf takes care of itself. Whether that is on the European Tour, the Challenge Tour or at The Open, I know that good results will help me towards my goal which is to earn a European Tour card.
“The course this week looks good. I came here early last week with my girlfriend and have been enjoying the sun in Sardinia – I think it will be a great event.”