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Darius van Driel conquers his doubts as he sets sights on major goals after first DP World Tour triumph

Darius van Driel conquers his doubts as he sets sights on major goals after first DP World Tour triumph

By Mathieu Wood

For a period last year, Darius van Driel doubted if he was good enough to realise his childhood dream of winning on the DP World Tour. There was no lack of effort on his part, but the competition is fierce.

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As the end of last season approached, and with the possibility of losing his full status on golf’s Global Tour becoming a likelihood, the Dutchman was at pains to know what more he could do."I had no clue, to be honest," he reflects.

"I felt like I was doing the right stuff, but not really getting rewarded for any of it.

"I was thinking, 'what do I have to do to make the cut, finish top 20, let alone win anything.'"

In that moment, he needed reassurance.

“Do you think I'm good enough to win on Tour?" he asked his caddie, Graeme Rowan.

The response was positive, suggesting it was just a question of time.

But for Van Driel, time was perhaps one of the reasons self-doubt had surfaced. He turns 35 in June, and with a crop of global talent coming through alongside the experienced campaigners, there was no guarantee his path to a victory would get any easier.

After missing the cut - his 17th of the campaign - at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters last October, his chances diminished even further as he faced up to the prospect of dropping down to the European Challenge Tour.

One opportunity remained: The Final Stage of Qualifying School, where 156 players compete over six rounds in a bid to fulfil their DP World Tour dreams.

For some, it's the chance to earn back status after finishing outside of the top 116 on the Race to Dubai. For others, it's about trying to earn a rookie season on the DP World Tour.

Experience told for Van Driel at INFINITUM as he regained his playing rights with a third-place finish to make it through what is viewed in some quarters as ‘golf’s toughest test’.

From there, belief has grown.

He picked up two top 10s in his first three starts of the season in South Africa, finishing 12th in the Opening Swing standings.

On his return to action in Bahrain in February, he finished in the top 30 before suffering a setback as he missed the cut in Qatar. But optimism in his camp wasn't in short supply.

"My coach actually said to another member of my team, 'I think he's going to win this season, and well it happened pretty soon after that.'"

That it did. In his 112th appearance on the DP World Tour, Van Driel entered the winner's circle for the first time with a wire-to-wire success at the Magical Kenya Open.

"At one minute you think you've got no clue what to do or how to get better and you're missing cuts and then all of a sudden you haven't changed a lot and you win," he says.

"That's the beauty of the game, I think."

With the triumph at Muthaiga Golf Club, he is now exempt on the DP World Tour through to the end of the 2026 campaign.

That security is brilliant for a player who is now into his fifth consecutive season on the DP World Tour.

With that freedom in mind, Van Driel is now intent on maximising what he can achieve during the remainder of the season.

Qualification for The Open Championship at Royal Troon is firmly in his sights.

With the top five DP World Tour members, not otherwise exempt, in the top 20 of the Race to Dubai Rankings on completion of the 2024 BMW International Open, securing an exemption, Van Driel is well placed to take advantage as he lies seventh on the season-long standings.

"I have not played in a Major before and that is my primary goal for this season," he says.

"Of course, at the start of the year, my goal was to get into the final event of the season in Dubai. Obviously, when you start with a Q School card, you know the opportunities are slim, missing out on the Rolex Series events and others."

Those concerns are no longer an issue, though.

Van Driel - twice a runner-up on the DP World Tour before his victory in Kenya - is only looking up. In fact, the incredible acceleration Matthieu Pavon, who like him played on the Alps Tour during his rookie season as a professional in 2015, is providing inspiration.

Pavon, himself, only won his maiden DP World Tour title last season in Spain so there is every reason for the Van Driel to use him as a reference point for what can be achieved.

To continue the comparison, Pavon's maiden DP World Tour title was in wire-to-wire fashion, just like Van Driel.

"I graduated top of Alps Tour order of merit in 2015 and I think he missed out by like four euros and 38 cents so that was pretty harsh," he said.

"It's obviously amazing where he is now, winning on the PGA TOUR. It shows you how crazy this game is. I definitely look at how guys I have played with are doing to see what my potential is."

Now into his ninth year as a professional, Van Driel is seeing the opportunities that lie ahead for him, including joining Pavon in becoming a dual member on the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR.

But, to reflect on Van Driel's path to this point in his career, you need to consider when he was a teenager and suffered an injury to his ring finger in a banana boat accident.

Following complications with the surgery he stopped playing golf, having enjoyed amateur success, and instead started studying economics and sports marketing at the Johan Cruyff Institute before taking a job at Nike's European headquarters in Hilversum, just 40 minutes from Amsterdam.

"When I was working at Nike and sitting behind the desk, I knew I could have well carried on doing it for the rest of my career, but my dream was always to be a professional."

How Van Driel builds on his breakthrough win on the DP World Tour is anyone's guess, but in the space of a few months, self doubt has been replaced with an optimism which he hopes will help him realise more milestone achievements in his career.

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