Dutchman Floris de Vries hopes the combination of his improving form and some special memories will inspire success in this week’s Mugello Tuscany Open.
De Vries won at UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf Club in 2010 en route to finishing fourth in the Challenge Tour Rankings, but his career has stuttered since an injury-hit rookie season on The European Tour in 2011.
He beat Thorbjørn Olesen in a play-off to take the title in Tuscany three years ago, but the Dane’s fortunes since then are in stark contrast to De Vries, who has made two cuts from 11 appearances this season.
Those two cuts have come in the last two weeks, with improved showings in Germany and Switzerland, and the 23 year old is happy to see his game returning in time for the Mugello Tuscany Open, which was cancelled in 2012 after the severe Italian drought rendered the course unplayable.
“I’m really looking forward to going back, because I need some positive vibes,” said De Vries. “I have great memories of that place. I can’t believe it’s three years ago since I won there. Obviously I was playing on The European Tour in 2011 so didn’t defend, and last year I was supposed to play there but it was cancelled.
“I remember in 2010 I was leading by a few shots with a few holes to play, but I had a nervous finish and had to face Thorbjørn in a play-off. Our careers have been pretty different since then. I started 2011 quite well, but then I had two injuries. After the first one I was okay, but then I got a second one and after that my game was gone, not good enough anymore.
“I made some wrong decisions to try to improve my game, but I’m still young and have plenty of time.
“I feel like I’m a much better player than in 2010. If I look back now I can’t believe I came fourth in the Rankings. I feel so much better now, but the results aren’t there yet. When I start playing better again I think I will do even better than before, but I just have to get there.
“The last couple of weeks have been good. I’ve been playing really well. I’ve tried to let go of all the thoughts about technique and just enjoy it a bit more. It seems the more I try, the worse I play. I’m practising harder than I did before, but just trying to go with the feeling rather than thinking too much about technique.”
In 177th place, De Vries may be languishing at the wrong end of the Rankings, but he is confident there is plenty of time to turn his campaign around.
“A lot can happen between now and the rest of the season,” he said. “Kazakhstan can change everything. I’ll be trying to get as good a ranking as possible, and then there’s always the Qualifying School at the end of the season.
“Golf is a frustrating game and it can be a slow progress getting back to your best, but I know how I can play and I know if I work hard enough I will get back there.”
Andrea Pavan, who two weeks ago won his third Challenge Tour title, will spearhead a strong home challenge in the €160,000 event, which also features Marco Crespi and Andrea Perrino, who was tied seventh in last week’s Swiss Challenge.
American Brinson Paolini, who finished tied second last week in his first tournament as a professional, is also in the field.
The American will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his compatriots Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein, both now competing – and, in Uihlein’s case, winning – on The European Tour after using the Challenge Tour as a springboard to the top tier.