Four weeks after notching his first European Tour victory, Spain's Adrian Otaegui took time out of his KLM Open preparations to write this week's Player Blog, discussing his win, his life away from the course, the time Jon Rahm caddied for him and how he might deserve credit for Rafael Nadal's US Open victory.
Safe to say, it's been a funny year so far. I didn’t have a great start to the season. I played ok in January and February, after the off-season in Dubai, but I just couldn’t get anything going over the weekends. To compete at this level, you have to play well in all four rounds and I just wasn’t doing that. A good round here and there but not consistent. In June I went back to Spain to work on things with my coach and we discovered that my swing path was off, I was swinging too much from the inside. A few days of work on that and it immediately felt better. I played ok in Germany and then everything just clicked in France a couple of weeks later. I led after two rounds and I just felt confident again. Confidence is an amazing thing in golf and having it just makes things so much easier and I’ve played well ever since then.
To win was amazing. I arrived in Germany for the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play and everything went my way. From my first practice round, I could tell I was striking the ball really well. I just had to keep doing what I was doing and I knew good things would come. I won my first few matches pretty easily and then played Marcel Siem in the final. He was the hometown favourite and played really well on the front nine, hitting it well and holing some great putts. I was three down with nine holes to play and knew I needed to be more aggressive if I wanted to win. I won the tenth and 11th to get back to one down and then birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to win. It was a really special day.
After my win, my phone didn’t stop vibrating. I kept getting messages from people saying congratulations: family, friends, players and even people I didn’t know! It’s really cool to get messages from fellow players who know what you’ve been through and what you’ve done to finally win. A couple of days after the win, José María Olazábal called me to congratulate me and that was pretty special. I met him when I was young and to get a call from him meant a lot.
I’ve had success on Tour and the Challenge Tour but my first big win was the British Boys Championship in 2010. I was a good amateur in Spain but travelling to Scotland as a 17 year old and winning that title was my first real taste of golf at the highest level. Holding that trophy and seeing names like Sergio Garcia and José María Olazábal on it gave me the confidence I needed to turn pro.
Jon Rahm actually caddied for me in the final that week. He and I grew up near each other in northern Spain and he got knocked out in the quarter final but stayed around the rest of the week and ended up caddying for me in the final. He is a good guy and a great golfer. It’s been amazing to see what he’s doing as pro over the last year or so and it’s nice to see him on the European Tour now as well when he plays over here.
It’s been a great year for Spanish golf. Starting with Sergio winning at Augusta after all the close-calls he’s had, then Alvaro winning again in Sicily, Jon winning in Ireland, Rafa in Scotland and then my win in Germany. I think when you see your friends play well and win it inspires you. We all play practice rounds together on Tour and when you see a guy win a tournament that you know, it gives you a little extra motivation to want to do well the next week.
Off the course, I like to have fun and not take life too seriously. I posted a video on Instagram a couple of weeks ago of me singing in the gym, it was just a little fun. During rounds I like to focus and take things seriously but when I’m done playing I just like to have a good time. I also like to sing so when I was in the gym I thought I would just combine two of my passions and show people a different side to me.
If I’m not playing golf, I’ll probably be around sports in some form. I love to kayak, hike, play tennis or just go to the gym. Growing up in Spain, the weather and surroundings are perfect for getting outdoors and staying active and I still like to do all those things now. During the summer months, I often head back to Spain but I also have a place in Dubai that lets me train and practice in the winter months.
Keeping fit is a big priority in my life, both for my game and just in general. Most of the work I do in the gym is to prevent injury but also to improve my strength and mobility. A golf swing is an explosive action and there is a lot of exercises you can do to make that process stronger and more efficient. Ultimately I want to play this game for a long time and hopefully win several more times, so a lot of what I do day-to-day is trying to enable me to play longer and lengthen my career.
I met Rafa Nadal last year at the Olazabal Nadal Invitational, an event that he and Ollie run to raise money for charity. We played a Pro-Am during the day and then Rafa was practicing in the evening and I went to watch him. It was amazing. Seeing how hard he hits the ball and how much control he has is really impressive. He is just so determined and so driven. Seeing him come back from all his injuries to win the US Open the other day was really inspiring. To be perfectly honest, he has played well ever since we played together that day so maybe I can take some credit for his latest comeback.
Looking forward for the rest of the year, I still have a lot of goals. I’m only 24 and I want to win more. I want to keep climbing the rankings and putting myself in positions where I can win over the weekend. I want to get into the top 30 in the Race to Dubai to play in the WGC HSBC Champions in China and also get in a good position for Dubai at the end of the year. Ultimately, I want to be inside the top 100 in the world at the end of the season and if I can keep playing the way I have been recently, I expect to be there.