Uihlein refuses to be blown off course

6/28/2013 7:14:00 PM
Peter Uihlein  (Getty Images)
Peter Uihlein (Getty Images)
Peter Uihlein insisted a strong Kildare breeze was unlikely to cause problems after overcoming windy conditions at Carton House to share The Irish Open halfway lead with Robert Rock. 

The American, who won his first European Tour event at another blustery venue in the Madeira Islands Open last month, shot a 68 to reach nine under par then revealed he had played in stronger wins while at college.

“In college in Oklahoma it was quite windy all the time,” he said. “So I quite enjoy the wind and knew it was tough out there. It was gusting at times, and it was a good, solid day.

“The Irish fans live up to the reputation of being very knowledgeable and supportive, so it's been good. 

“I spent three and a half years in Oklahoma where we would play in a tornado. It was a good experience there, and I feel like in the wind, you don't have to be perfect, which is what I struggle with.

“I would try and be too perfect sometimes and in the wind, you just play golf, you hit shots and you just try and manoeuvre it a little bit. I feel like when it gets windy, you have almost a little more room, so I enjoy it.”

The 23 year old former US Amateur Champion is one of an increasing number of Americans crossing the Atlantic to ply their trade, and recently saw his housemate Brooks Koepka win three times this season on the Challenge Tour to gain "battlefield promotion" to The European Tour.

"I've had a very good support group with Chubby (Chandler, his manager) and my coach Butch Harmon and my dad (the chairman of top equipment company Acushnet)," Uihlein added.

"Those guys have been around the game a long, long time. If they say this is the right route, then I'm going to listen to them.

"And I look at a guy like Adam Scott, somebody I've always looked up to, and he came over to Europe and started off his career.

"Rory did the same thing, start in Europe before heading to the States. There have been a lot of guys who have done it and had great success. It's just different me being an American and doing it."

While Uihlein has now made ten consecutive cuts, Rock had missed six of his last nine and admits his form has not been where it should be.

The Englishman saw off Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last year, and returned to that sort of form with four birdies and eagle at the long fourth in his 66 – thanks to some recent putting lessons.

“I've been putting a little bit better lately so to start the day with even a five foot putt for a birdie was nice, and I drove it well for the rest of the round really,” said Rock, who claimed the winner’s cheque in this event four years ago after losing a play-off to then amateur Shane Lowry.

“I was frustrated in Munich; played really quite well for three days but putted awfully and I played on Saturday with Richard McEvoy and he had a little suggestion but also gave me Jonathan Yarwood's number, and he kindly sent me an e mail, a V1 e mail golf lesson and told me really a few things to change in the setup.

“I sent him a video back about quarter six Sunday morning and shot seven under. Unfortunately it didn't work at The Open qualifying quite so well on Monday, but it's been better. I'm feeling quite awkward doing it, so on some putts I'm hitting average putts because I'm confusing myself a little bit but on the whole it's been good. 

“I didn't have my arms and putter shaft set at the right angle or in line and I was holding a little too far up the putter to achieve that. So I tried to align all that, and if you see me over the weekend during the round, that's what I'm going to do, and if it's not in line, I might miss. 

“I think I had 26 [putts today] which is as good as I've done in a long while. I've had 26 putts over the past few weeks but generally all tap ins so didn't really count. I've been failing to set the ball on line for a long time, and that did it. 

“I played well in Dubai at the start of the year but before that it seems to go back a good while.

“A few off course things that distracted from practice and then that kind of spirals into your game later down the line and you realise, yeah, should have put the time in that you should have done and have to put more time in to correct that and that takes a while for it to work.”

Rock added that he would rather not be facing another local favourite down the closing straight on Sunday.

“I'll never forget that day, playing with Shane,” he continued. “That was really, really tough.

“I did feel like I had some people on my side in Abu Dhabi - I don't even think there was one [in Ireland].”

Overnight leader Oscar Floren was in a tie for third, the Swede signing for a 71 to sit alongside Lowry, former Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, Dutchman Joost Luiten and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos on seven under.

Olazábal completed a 69 and insists he has not given up hope of winning tournaments again.

"The captaincy took a lot out of me, I could not dedicate as much time to my game, but now it's over I can spend time on the range working on my game," he said.

"I have never lost hope, that's why I spend hours and hours on the range.

"Health-wise I have had problems but at the moment I cannot complain.

"It's going to be hard for me to remember the last time I won a tournament, but the main goal is to keep improving my game to get myself in positions like this."

While Lowry was proudly flying the Irish flag near the top of the leaderboard, all four of the Emerald Isle’s recent Major winners made an early exit.

World Number Two Rory McIlroy finished two over, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington missed out by a shot on one over and Darren Clarke ended the second round six over.

“It's that type of golf course,” said Lowry. “It's easy to go out there and shoot 75. 

“It's tricky, especially in conditions like this, and it's unfortunate to see Rory and Padraig and Graeme miss the cut, but hopefully I can give the Irish guys something to cheer about this weekend.”