You discovered you could compete and that you could beat them. We grew up with these guys. I watched The 1976 Open at Birkdale. I watched Faldo win PGAs and Langer and Woosie win tournaments. When I turned pro, I felt as though I could be part of it. You knew you wouldn’t beat them every day, but at certain times you felt as though you could easily play with them and beat them.
There are two ways of looking at it: ‘I’m never going to beat him’ or ‘how am I going to beat them next time?’. Six times out of ten you may not win, but those other four times you might. I beat Seve at the Dunhill Cup in 1986 and other guys in other tournaments and it makes you feel good. Golf is a confidence game; when you’re on the upward spiral, you can see no wrong and it’s your opportunity to shine.
Rafferty with his 1989 Volvo Masters title
I had a great manager when I turned pro – Roddy Carr. Within an hour of me turning pro, he took me to one side and asked how good I wanted to be. He said lots of people were better than me and asked how I was going to go and beat them. He told me the first way to learn is to ask to play with them and find out what they do. I told him that I couldn’t just go up to someone like Seve and ask him to play a practice round, Roddy said I could and that I needed to. It was so I wasn’t afraid to play with them if we were ever drawn together. I knew who they were and never thought to myself ‘oh no, I’m playing with them’. It seems so simple looking back at it.
Players my age have had the opportunity to see the Tour grow over the years. My first event as a card holder in 1982 was the Tunisian Open. When you go over to these new countries even doing things as simple as getting on a train, checking into a hotel or getting in to a taxi were mystifying. But as you kept going back, you’d be introduced to these new cultures and you’d foster relationships which have grown and will continue to grow. In the off-season you could choose different Tours to play on. So, you’d play three tournaments in Asia and come back via the Emirates at the end of February. Once the Tours started merging, that was when you had people to talk to and share information with – you didn’t have the internet in the palm of your hand to find these things out. A lot of the guys were very homely; it wasn’t until others went out there and won that they decided to also give it a try.
My success in 1989 was all about my time in Australia. I went there for four and a half months over the winter before coming back to Europe. The guys over there were seriously fit, they all surfed and played tennis and did things out of golf. I got swept into the idea of being fit to play. I came back 21lbs (9.5kg) lighter. I won twice on the PGA Tour of Australia in 1987 and then won the Australian Match Play in 1988 and was ready to go into the season.
I wasn’t trying to find my game. I was going from tournament to tournament and played well early in the season. I shot 65 in the last round to win the Italian Open and the rest was history – you get your first win on the European Tour and you think that’s perfectly normal. It was a shoot-out between Faldo and I at the British Masters, which he won, but I finished inside the top ten in five of my next six events. I lost in a play-off at the Dutch Open to Olazábal and Chapman, but I went on to win the Scandinavian Open the next week. It’s an accumulation of the work you do during the year. You put in the time and reap the rewards.