In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, David Law looks ahead to his ‘dream’ Major Championship debut in The 150th Open at St Andrews, producing his best performance this season at the Horizon Irish Open with no expectations after a worrying hip injury, and learning from mentor Paul Lawrie.
Making my Major Championship debut is not a case of getting a monkey off my back because that is not the end goal. But it’s certainly nice to be involved in one, and for my first to be in the landmark 150th Open in Scotland at St Andrews is extra special. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. I am going to embrace the challenge. I am not going to over prepare or do anything differently than I would normally do but I’m certainly going to go there with one eye on enjoying the week more so than I would at any other tournament.
The Open Championship is the first tournament I dreamed of playing in, let alone trying to win. Having friends and family there to watch me also gives it that extra buzz which might not have been the case had I made my debut in one of the US Majors. It’s definitely the Major I would have picked had someone given me the choice where I could make my debut.
My experiences at St Andrews when I was an amateur were not positive at all! I think in my first round at the Old Course I shot 85 at the St Andrews Links Trophy around 2009. Because the fairways are wide, I just don’t think I paid much attention the course layout. The key to the course is your attention to detail and ensuring you give yourself the best chance of getting close to the pins with approach shots. So, I learned that lesson quickly. You remember these things very well. I shot one under the next time I played it a year later, again in the St Andrews Links Trophy, which was a massive improvement. You still get goosebumps playing the closing stretch from 15 to 18 and it brings back memories of the iconic shots that have been hit over the years. We’re certainly lucky to have it as venue on home soil.
The Genesis Scottish Open was a fantastic tournament to be a part of. I was lucky enough to receive an invite on the Sunday night after finishing tied fourth at the Horizon Irish Open. I was really grateful to get that opportunity to play in such a high-calibre field in what was a historic event for both the DP World Tour and PGA TOUR. To have 14 of the top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking in East Lothian was something the crowds really enjoyed it and reflected the stature and history of the tournament. For our tournament to have the backing of global players was fantastic and we had four great days of weather too.
All in all, it was a positive week for me personally at The Renaissance Club. I was in the tougher half of the draw so to play all four days was pretty good in itself. My game was good on Thursday, poor on Friday, Saturday and then I managed to shoot a one-under-par 69 in the final round on Sunday. There were some good lessons to be learned ahead of this week in respect of my attitude when playing in the wind.
Being in contention at the Horizon Irish Open took a lot out of me mentally so that was a worry going into the Genesis Scottish Open because you don’t want to burn out especially with The Open this week. I was mindful of conserving energy emotionally and physically last week. Obviously, it’s Scotland’s national Open so even if you are a little tired it is not a difficult tournament to get motivated for, especially as a Scot!
I was in control of emotions playing the last few holes of the Horizon Irish Open in the knowledge that I had a chance at sealing one of the three spots on offer for The Open. At the par-five 17th in the final round I made a disappointing bogey after seeing my third shot just run off the green and then taking three shots from there. The 18th is a difficult closing hole and if you get a par four then you are delighted. I found a greenside bunker but despite what was at stake I was very calm, rather than being agitated at making a bogey at the previous hole. Luckily, after hitting my bunker shot onto the green, when I was marking my ball directly in my eye line was a leaderboard. I was sitting fourth at that time and the three players ahead of me all had the Claret Jug symbol beside their names so that was when I really stood up and took notice that this was a putt to get into The Open. That slowed me down and I waited for my caddie to have a look at the putt and just kept my emotions under control. Both me and my caddie had the exact same read, slight right to left and I didn’t have to worry about the weight of the putt.
I arrived at Mount Juliet Estate with zero expectations. Two weeks earlier at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed I woke up through the night before the second round and I couldn’t move. I had begun to put more pressure on my left side on the downswing as part of change I’d been working on with my coach, Alan McCloskey. It had meant I was using muscles in my hip that were not as used to having such force go through them as previously. It was really sore and quite worrying so I had to withdraw from the tournament. I’ve never had many injury issues so far in my career, aside a couple of back and neck niggles that usually took a couple of days before they got better. With this one, though, it wasn’t getting better. I tried to hit some balls in a practice session, maybe six days after and then the next day it was back to square one. So, I rested it for a few days and then hit some shots but again it was back to square one. I went to Edinburgh for a scan, by which time it was getting a little better.
The doctor gave me the green light to try and play in Ireland, but I still didn’t hit any golf ball until I got to Mount Juliet on the Monday. My only hope for the week was just to play. It wasn’t to make the cut or finish in the top ten. I think there is a lesson to be learned there. I really managed my preparation that week because my body wasn’t fully recovered. I played nine holes on the Tuesday and nine holes in the Pro-Am on the Wednesday. But that was as much golf I needed because I didn’t want to put any undue force through the hip. Sometimes with me, maybe less is more. It turned out to lead to my best result of the 2022 season.
Great to get out there and play all 18 today @TheOpen @DavidLawGolf course is amazing and pretty firm which is great. Delighted to be asked to hit the opening shot on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/8NoqRJtc5Z— Paul Lawrie (@PaulLawriegolf) July 12, 2022
It was great to learn my golf from Paul Lawrie. We played a lot of golf together when I was young after I joined his foundation as a 14-year-old. It’s the little things that you pick up when you play with a player like Paul. What set Paul apart was his short-game ability and it is something that he has really helped me with my game. I was lucky enough to see from a young age what incremental improvements you needed to make to be a top player. Playing with Paul undoubtedly gave me the belief that I could have a career in the game.
I’ve never been a huge goal setter but one of my targets for this season is to play the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai for the first time at the end of the season. First and foremost, though, I really want to win a second Tour title sooner rather than later and it to the one I won at the ISPS HANDA Vic Open in Australia during my rookie season in 2019. I feel like my game is steadily improving and I have a good team around me with my coach and caddie Max Bill. It’s just a case of getting the best out of myself on a consistent basis. Where I have improved this season compared to previous ones is that when things start to go the wrong way, I am able to get back on track quicker. Max is very good at watching out for any bad traits that I may fall back into so that has been very helpful.
I feel like I have really matured in the last 15 months. I make less mistakes than I did then and have tightened up my long game compared to what it was when I first came out on Tour in 2019. Winning so early into my career on the Tour bought me time to become comfortable and I do feel comfortable playing in the big events now. That’s been the biggest shift psychologically for me as a player since my rookie season three years ago.