Matt Ford returns to his native England for this week’s Bridgestone Challenge buoyed by a runner-up finish in the Cordon Golf Open, his best result of the season and one that has moved him into the top 15 on the Road to Oman.
The 39 year old spent the last two seasons on the European Tour but lost his playing privileges at the end of last year and has been consistent on the European Challenge Tour in 2017.
With just eight tournaments to go before the 15 graduates are decided, every week takes on heightened significance, and Ford is hopeful that he has found form at the perfect moment ahead of teeing it up at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa this week.
“It was a good week in France,” he said. “I’ve been playing quite nicely for the last month or so really but I putted better last week which I think really made the big difference so I’m feeling happy with my game.
“I’ve been making quite a few birdies but also making quite a few mistakes. My driving’s been a little inconsistent and my putting’s been a little inconsistent, and obviously those two clubs are pretty key, so that’s been stopping me from competing at the top really.
“I’ve been playing decent but not really scoring well but in Cordon I started scoring better so I’m hopefully heading in the right direction.
“Luton’s about an hour and a half so not really home, but an event in my home country will be nice and I’m sure I’ll have a good few supporters along this week – one of my sponsors has got a business near there so there will be people following me.
“I don’t know the course or know much about it, but I’m in good form and in my home country which is always a boost, and we’ve got the big events of the year coming up so it’s good to be coming into some form at the right time.
“The goal for everybody is the top 15. There’s a lot of money in the last part of the season and my goal was to make sure I was guaranteed into the last four events because that can make all the difference.
“I don’t think I’m quite there yet but hopefully a few more good finishes can secure that and then it’s a case of really kicking on – last year it was about 100,000 points for the top 15 and I’m a long way off that, so there’s still a lot of golf to play and I need to keep going.”
Ford is also a family man, and his attention this week will be split between preparing for the Bridgestone Challenge and helping with final preparations as Teagan and Oscar go back to school after the summer holidays.
Juggling life as a professional golfer on the Challenge Tour, with weeks away from home and pressure to deliver results, with being a father poses inevitable difficulties, though Ford acknowledges the huge boost his children give him as well.
“It’s very difficult, especially on the Challenge Tour,” he said. “It’s a touch easier on the European Tour, it’s a bit more geared up to family life, but this is more geared up to a young, single man.
“The travelling is probably harder on the Challenge Tour and it’s difficult when you’ve got young kids at school, trying to take holidays when the school holidays are on – that’s why they came out to France last week, which was nice.
“I’m really just trying to get back on the European Tour, like everyone else is. The Challenge Tour is not really a place to be playing for too long, especially with a young family you’re spending time away from.
“If you haven’t got kids you wouldn’t really experience or expect the boost they can give you. Little things like how they help me mark my golf balls and write their own stuff all over it, and they always ask me, ‘what ball did you use today, Daddy?’
“I had four birdies on the bounce in the final round in Cordon that got me into second place and I had ‘Teagan’ written on my ball, so she was really excited that I used her ball and it brought me a bit of luck.
“It also makes you realise that it’s not that important, it’s only golf, they give you that perspective that can often be quite hard to see, but when you’re trying to make a living and support your family through golf it is a tough balance to get right.”