Twelve months on from his first taste of the US Open Championship, Nicolas Colsaerts feels like he is making his debut all over again.
Colsaerts has made giant strides since missing the cut at Congressional Country Club last year, with victory over a high class field at the recent Volvo World Match Play Championship catapulting him into the top ten of The Race to Dubai and the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, thereby confirming the big-hitting Belgian’s place amongst the golfing elite.
However, Colsaerts believes his astonishing progress will be severely tested at the Olympic Club, where the emphasis is more on accuracy from the tee rather than brute strength, so negating the advantage he holds over some of his rivals on longer, wider courses.
But the self-belief and assurance he drew from his victory over 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell in the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship gives Colsaerts confidence that he can now tackle any test.
He said: “As much as I enjoyed the experience last year, in some ways this year feels like my first US Open. This is a real test of your skills – it’s what you expect when you come to the US Open.
“The course probably doesn’t suit me as well as last year’s did, but I feel like I’m a better player now. I don’t feel intimidated or overawed out here now, because I feel that when I’m on top of my game, I’m as good as most of the guys out here. I feel more comfortable out here, whereas last year maybe I wasn’t ready to compete at tournaments like this.”
One of the main areas of improvement in Colsaerts’ game has been his touch around the greens, and the 29 year old from Brussels is under no illusions that his mettle will be severely tested at the Lake Course.
He said: “You don’t need to hit the ball a long way on the course, because the fairways are firm so you can get a lot of run. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the older, more experienced guys got into contention, because it’s the sort of course where you need to plot your way round and shape the ball both ways. But your work round the greens is where the tournament is likely to be won or lost.
“So I’ve been working hard on my short game this week. There’s some pretty long grass just off the greens, so your ball-striking has to be spot on. If you do miss you have to miss in the right places, otherwise you’re dead. On most holes leaving it short is better than going over the back, but either way there’s hardly any room for error.”
In days of yore, Colsaerts might have found the vagaries and intricacies of the Lake Course a frustrating experience; but a growing maturity and assurance – both on and off the course – should stand him in good stead this week.
He said: “I haven’t set myself any goals this week, but I’d obviously be disappointed if I wasn’t here for the weekend. Mentally I feel I’m much stronger now, and at Majors – especially on courses like this – you have to be mentally strong to handle the bad breaks you’re going to get. Most of the guys are going to get angry with the course at some point during the tournament.”