In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Séamus Power reflects on the psychological breakthrough that he made that has helped his rise up the rankings, making his Major Championship debuts, growing up playing against Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry and his determination to make the European Ryder Cup team in 2023.
There are a few things that I look back on as proving pivotal in my rise up the rankings over the last 18 months or so. Timing is everything in sport, and I underwent elbow surgery at the end of 2020. I was hoping to have it earlier that year, but all elective surgery was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I had a lot of time to think that off-season, I went to see a sports psychologist called Bob Rotella. I realised that at my age, I shouldn’t always be trying to evolve and change my swing. I accepted that this was the golfer I was and to challenge myself to be as good a golfer as I could be, rather than copy other swings. That was the biggest breakthrough for me.
I realised what I did well on the golf course, what I didn’t do well, and I just started to focus and put into practice the strengths of my game. It’s a simple concept but it’s harder to implement when you’re concerned about your technique. In golf, you are invariably often looking at what you can improve but I was previously always in a constant state of change and that is never conducive to playing at your best and with freedom. The reset in my mindset has helped bring about this improvement and long may it continue.
I never quite got to the stage where I thought I might have to give up on my career in golf. There were times when it was bleak though, especially when I was struggling with my elbow injury. I was in a category where I wasn’t getting into a lot of tournaments on the PGA TOUR and you don’t have to drop too many more steps before you are back on the Korn Ferry Tour so you have to look at your plan going forward. But I never gave up hope and maintained my belief that my game was good enough.
My first PGA TOUR title at the Barbasol Championship last July evoked a mixture of relief and overwhelming joy. You always believe you can get that elusive victory but when it did happen it was a special moment for me personally. There was an element of fortune in making the play-off, but the victory released a lot of pressure. You want to get that breakthrough win, but all the while you know as a golfer that you can be not far away from losing your card. The victory then gave me momentum and my confidence improved in the realisation that I could perform in the big moments when a tournament was on the line. New doors opened for me as a result, and it took several weeks for the win to sink in.
I think that making my debut in the Major Championships at 35 instead of in my early 20s has given me an advantage, just in terms of the perspective I have built during my career. I have felt comfortable, even with the bigger crowds and more media requirements involved. Just being slightly older, I think it’s been easier to handle some of the demands that Major golf brings due to being in professional golf over the last 10-12 years. That experience has proved helpful when you’re faced with new situations.
All three Majors that I have played in this year have all been very positive experiences. I wasn’t sure how I would fare or what to expect, the course setups are different than regular season events in terms of difficulty. I feel like I have adapted well. I was in contention at the PGA Championship and then on the fringes going into the final round at the U.S. Open. It was an interesting week for me at Brookline. I didn't hit the ball great over the first few rounds but putted very well. My putter went cold on the Sunday, which was frustrating but, overall, for my first U.S. Open, to put some good scores together on a tough course was very encouraging.
I am delighted to be at a career-high ranking of 36*th* at the minute but you’re always looking at each day as an opportunity to improve. I have got into some extra events this year that I have never played in before, along with the Majors I played at the WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play and reached the quarter-finals to book my spot at The Masters. It’s been great to test my game against the world’s best and have some good results in the process. My performances have been very encouraging and a sign of the continued development in my game. I’m now looking forward to an exciting few weeks in Europe and hopefully I’ll continue my good stretch of golf.
The Horizon Irish Open is a tournament I put a circle around with my pen on my schedule months and months ago so it’s going to be great fun to play again at my home national Open. I grew up in Waterford not far from Mount Juliet. I haven’t been able to play in the event since 2019 with the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years so that has only heightened my excitement. I’ve got a lot of friends and family who will be there, and I will hopefully get some support from the home crowds. I think it will be a completely different experience than my other Irish Opens. I really like the course at Mount Juliet and hopefully I can put on a good show for all the people out there supporting me.
My last experience of the Irish Open in 2019 at Lahinch was fantastic. When you play in Ireland you are always hopeful that you get lucky with the weather, which we did that week. You don’t often get the opportunity to play at home and to receive home support from the crowds was fantastic. It might sound cliché, but you genuinely feel that there are so many extra people behind you. I didn’t play my best, but I did make the cut and the atmosphere over the weekend was amazing. Now, after the better golf that I have put together over the last year and a half, hopefully I’ll be able to put together a good performance and be in contention.
Due to the extra exposure I have had over the last year, playing in some of the bigger events and improving my world ranking, I do feel there are more people that are aware of me and paying closer attention to my results. Ireland is a country that loves golf, and the crowds always get behind their athletes. So, to be one of the home players getting that support feels incredible and I can’t wait to experience that in person. I’m sure it is going to be a week to remember.
To make my Open Championship debut at St Andrews… it doesn’t come much better than that. For us growing up back home, The Open is the one. It is the history of the tournament that makes it extra special to watch. To play at The Home of Golf in an Open is something I couldn’t have made up if I tried several years ago. I want to play well but I also want to be able to take it all in as an experience.
My practice round with Rory, Shane and Padraig before The Masters is a moment I will remember forever. To share part of my first Masters with those guys was special. Playing with Rory gives you an immediate sense of what level of competition you are up against that week. Watching him hit a golf ball is so impressive. You try to keep your eyes open and realise that is the standard you’re trying to reach. I certainly ask them questions where I can but you’re conscious of not overdoing it because these guys are themselves preparing for a big tournament. It’s great fun whenever you are around them, we’ve had a couple of competitive games just to keep it interesting! They’re all just great guys and fantastic ambassadors for golf in Ireland.
I first met Rory when I was about 13 and he was a year or so younger. I played under 15 tournaments against Rory and then in older-age groups. I didn’t meet Shane until I was 16 or 17 when he came on the national scene. His rate of improvement was incredible. I have played a lot against both of them over the years. It seems easy to say now but even when Rory was just 11 or 12, we all thought if this boy doesn’t go on to have a great career, then we would be in trouble. It’s been fun to watch his career over the years and likewise with Shane. Those guys have had great careers and it’s fantastic to still be playing with them.
Paddy and Rory sneaked a halve 😂— Shane Lowry (@ShaneLowryGolf) May 18, 2022
I've never been a part of the Ryder Cup, but it is something that I've always dreamed of. It’s higher than any of my individual tournament goals. Some of the moments that I remember more than any in golf happened in the Ryder Cup. Paul McGinley making that putt at The Belfry in 2002 and the celebrations that followed just summed up the passion that players feel towards the event. Like the Olympics, you are representing so much more than yourself. It would be a career goal of mine realised if I could make Henrik’s team in Rome next year.
Even to this day, representing Ireland at the 2016 Rio Olympics is the highlight of my career. I was fortunate to get on the team because players opted not to play due to fears over the Zika virus. I was on the Korn Ferry Tour at the time, and I wouldn’t have qualified outright but a couple of guys didn’t go so I was able to get a spot. I’ve always loved watching the Olympics so to be a part of it when golf made its return was special. The whole country gets behind the athletes at the Olympics. Walking in behind the flag at the Opening Ceremony was something I will never forget. I’ll probably never be able to replicate that feeling again so that is why it will always remain a special experience. Being announced on the first tee and seeing all the Irish flags really hit home that I was I was part of something bigger than the game of golf.
I first got into golf aged 11 or 12 through my parents’ friends, John and Celia Walsh. They were babysitting me and my brothers, and they brought us out to play golf. I really enjoyed it from the get-go. Golf wasn’t big in my family or where I was from. I just really enjoyed the mental challenge. Every hole is different, and every course provides a different test. It is a complete sport in that it tests you from a mental and physical perspective. It really intrigued me, and I quickly got the bug for it. I was the youngest of three boys, so I was always trying to keep up with them at the start.
I had won some tournaments at youth level but nothing to the scale of some other players that went on to turn professional. It wasn’t until much later before I really started to believe I could pursue a career golf. Because I didn’t grow up around golf, I wasn’t even sure how the process worked. It was while I was at college at East Tennessee State University where I thought I could make something of myself in golf. I was fortunate in that on my college team I played with Rhys Davies, who went on to play on the Tour. He was one of the best players in college golf and one of the best amateurs. When he turned professional, and I saw his progress it gave me belief that I could have a professional career.
I stumbled into a scholarship so for there to be other Great Britain and Ireland players there was beneficial. It was a great experience, there were top Americans, but you also had so many top Europeans and Asian golfers playing college golf. I realised that if I could compete with these guys then these were the players I was likely going to be playing against if I turned professional. I was always determined to finish my accounting degree because in sport there are so many unknowns and injuries that can halt your progress. I graduated after four years in 2010. Hopefully I never have to use it, but it is there if needed.