In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sean Crocker talks about reassessing his mindset after winning his maiden DP World Tour title, how a poor run of form helped him appreciate the game of golf, the friendships he has built with fellow professionals and the importance of his family.
The biggest challenge for me since winning my first DP World Tour title was knowing how to reassess. The Hero Open was such a high and a confidence booster that I didn't know how to take stock of my achievement at Fairmont St Andrews. I got off to a quick start in my next event at Celtic Manor with back-to-back birdies, but the mentality required after winning an event was something so new that I hadn't figured it out. Looking ahead to this week, I've put a stop within my inner circle to thinking ‘let’s get another win’. I'm not going to start thinking I'm going to win out on Tour every week now. I just want to get back to where I was at Fairmont, which was just going out and playing golf and enjoying just having a walk with my caddie. It’s important to enjoy the moments we have on the golf course rather than thinking about any added pressure. It's great that I got the win, and it was a special moment, but now I want to move forward.
I'm grateful that Eddie Pepperell put the pressure on me pretty much the entire final round. It made the win a little bit more special because it went down to the wire. I had to make a putt on the final green which has always been my weakness. To be able to stand on the 18th green and knock in that five-footer has increased my confidence in my putting. It was more beneficial for me that Eddie played well and made me fight all the way for that win than for me to have walked down the stretch with a five-shot lead tipping my hat. Now at least I know next time if it comes down to the crunch, I've been there and done that. Sure, the next time, I would love to have a five-shot lead because I might enjoy the 18th hole with a little less pressure! But I can only emphasise that I'm grateful that Eddie played well that day and made my job tougher to close the win out.
The most special thing about winning a golf tournament is not the trophy or the money. It’s the congratulations you get from fellow pros who you play against week in week out. It’s not all about the fame and stardom. The first few days at Celtic Manor were special for me to feel the warmth towards me for getting my first win. I’ve had a week off and I continue to have guys come up to me to say they are chuffed for me. That is what is meaningful.
There are two elements which have helped me improve as a golfer, from a technical perspective and psychologically. Firstly, I am far more comfortable on the greens and with the putting side of my game. Secondly, I’m just appreciating the game of golf a lot more, especially when I look back to the start of the season when I missed eight cuts and had a retirement in my first nine events. To be honest, I was badly out of form. Whether I played good or bad golf I was going to embrace the challenge rather than get overly frustrated.
My change in mindset probably started at the Soudal Open in Belgium after I finally broke the run of missed cuts. I learned how to appreciate what I do a lot more. During those nine weeks I went through every emotion I think golfers go through when they experience a period like that. I went from being angry to sad, to breaking clubs to not caring. It woke me up to see how fortunate I have been to play consistently good golf up to then. The experience made me understand how lucky I am to be able to do what I do. I think that attitude led to the calmness that I had all week at Fairmont. I was interviewed on the Sunday and was asked, ‘It must be tough to sleep on a lead?’ I'll be honest, I was a little nervous, but I didn't think about it. I didn't mind what was going on, whether I played a poor shot or played a great one. Fortunately, that weekend ended up with me winning the trophy, but if it hadn't, I still would have been fine with it. I would have come back the next few weeks trying to win again.
I finished runner-up last year on my debut at the D+D Real Czech Masters. However, it's a completely different year, I'm a different person to who I was then. I played very well and come back with good memories. But it’s a new week, with a clean slate. Albatross Golf Resort is a golf course I like. I want to say it is an American style golf course. You need to bomb it off the tee. The course is forgiving with wide fairways. If you can strike it well off the tee and put yourself in position to score you can take advantage if your putter gets hot for the week.
I first started playing on the DP World Tour on invitations before I moved to the Challenge Tour for around 11 weeks. It was an eye opener because the places I travelled to certainly made me a tougher person. I came over to Europe and travelled to all these places I've never seen or even heard of. The game of golf over the last five years has made me mature. It's sped up the process for me tenfold of becoming an adult, understanding things that I need to do to ensure I give myself the best chance of playing well every week.
Getting my Tour card happened so quickly. I must have been 20, 21 years old and I didn't even really think about the outcome. I was at Ras Al Khaimah for the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2018 and I finished in the top 15. It was a surreal few months in which I played good golf. When I look back at that now it does feel like a dream. Now, three and a half years on, I've got my first Tour win. It was an amazing experience to be a part of the Challenge Tour and to be among that graduating class of 2018. I think eight out of those 15 have since won on the DP World Tour. And, I'll be honest, Ewen Ferguson should have been a part of that graduating class. He has since come out this year and won twice in his rookie season. I mean, the studs that were part of the Challenge Tour in 2018 were unbelievable.
For most of my career, I've kept myself inside the top 100 to 150 on the Official World Golf Ranking. I slipped out of it for the first time this year for a while at the start of the season. Now that I’m back inside the top 150, I want to keep climbing up the world rankings and the DP World Tour Rankings. I'm not a big goal setter because I find it tough when that goal becomes out of reach to keep pushing for it. I don't want to forget the enjoyment that I had as a kid playing this game because it's very easy to do so when you're playing for your livelihood.
We are fortunate to be able to travel the world playing this sport. Crans-Montana is certainly one of my favourite venues on the schedule so I’m looking forward to heading to Switzerland next week. I also love Wentworth, it's probably one of my favourite courses we play out here. Country-wise, I want to say Australia is probably one of my favourite places to go but I haven't been for a while. Being born in Zimbabwe, I also always enjoy going back to South Africa and playing close to home and family.
My family is everything to me. My mum is a special lady in my heart. The whole sporting world is not really her place. She is more of a peacekeeper of the family. My dad is the key to pretty much my sporting career. He has always pushed me. In a good way, he has made my life a living hell when it comes to me competing in sports because he is a tough person. He doesn't give me much room to gloat. He has always been the rock to what I've done out here. He played professional cricket for Zimbabwe. I've always wanted to make him proud in what I've done as an athlete because he was a hell of a sportsman. It's a special thing to be able to keep our last name prominent.
Even though I hang that American flag up, I very much consider myself as somebody that's come through the ranks in Europe. The whole Tour out here is a great community, the camaraderie is so special, and it's one big family. I think people need to step back and look back at what this Tour has given us in terms of the friendships and the ability to travel the world.