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Matt Wallace - Player Blog

In a Player Blog ahead of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, Matt Wallace discusses playing at the Hero Cup, suffering a calf injury while on the treadmill, the challenges of being a global golfer and adopting a new approach in his latest Ryder Cup quest.

Matt Wallace Player Blog

Getting the call up for the inaugural Hero Cup was maybe a little unexpected but obviously very beneficial for me. I was extremely grateful because my results over the last year or so were nowhere near where I have wanted them to be. Getting to play in a team event for the first time was huge and it got my juices flowing. Playing alongside great players like Shane, Tyrrell, Tommy and others in that sort of environment was really cool. It started the year off strongly and gave me the visuals of what playing in a Ryder Cup could be like, albeit on a smaller scale no doubt. 

I don’t think I have been as focused from Friday until Sunday without being in contention in a big tournament as I was at the Hero Cup. My focus was purely about getting the point for Great Britain & Ireland. It is more of a sprint than a long week, which helps you give it everything for those 18 holes. I love that mentality of ‘There is your goal, get your point and do your job’. It was a really nice freedom for me to focus and be in that team environment rather than playing for yourself. We didn’t get the win as a team, but we gave it everything.

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was a little bit of a struggle at the start of the week. I hurt my calf which meant I couldn’t practise on Tuesday or Wednesday, so it wasn’t the best build up. But I had two weeks of practice and playing at the Hero Cup under my built which meant I could go into the event confident with how I was hitting the ball. I made a bunch of unforced errors at Yas Links last week. My aim is to limit those and get into the hunt early on this year.

My calf injury was a result of me running on the treadmill. It must have been how I was running. Each step I took it got a little worse. At first it felt like cramp. My trainer Matt Roberts and DP World Tour doctor Andrew Murray advised me to get a scan on the Tuesday and it looked like a tear. I had to manage it well. I took a whole day off on Tuesday, icing it and getting plenty of fuel in my body. We assessed it on the Wednesday and it wasn’t great so I didn’t play in the Pro-am.

I didn’t see the golf course at all but come Thursday my leg was good enough for me to walk on. I fatigued a lot on Thursday afternoon due to my injury which was not a great feeling. But on Friday, after a really good sleep, it felt great and it got better from there each day. Of course, I will have to manage it this week and recover well after each round, but the DP World Tour do a great job in helping us as players to rehab.

I love the DP World Tour; this is where I started and where I always want to play. I always want to have my card here and I try to play here when I can. I played 31 times worldwide last year and that is too many. I added two or three events at the end of the PGA TOUR season when I was spent and trying to keep my card.

The DP World Tour gave me my start. Keith Pelley gave me an invite to play at the Open de Portugal in 2017 which I won and then two weeks later I was playing at Wentworth. This is where I want to stay but for me to keep my PGA TOUR card, I have got to play more there. We have to finish in the top 70 to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs this year. If I hadn’t been selected to play at the Hero Cup I might have started the year in the US but I love these Rolex Series events in the Middle East so to have played in the Hero Cup and then these two weeks is exactly how I wanted to begin the year. It’s been perfect, I am happy with how I have got on so far.

Getting in positions to win tournaments has never been a massive problem of mine. I like being in that position and my intensity and focus goes up, so I play better golf as a result. It is just about getting there.

The more you are out on the Tour, the more you hear things and maybe try to change things about who you are. The people who are the best stay true to who they are. I am an intense, focused and driven competitor that wants to win. I have been petulant on the golf course but I just have to make sure I don’t let anger overtake me. I have dealt with frustration better and that is why I believe I am a better golfer than when I won three DP World Tour titles in 2018.

Statistically I am also hitting the ball better now. I didn’t putt as well last year but the last two weeks have been an improvement. I have changed my putting style, going away from a prayer grip to a more conventional grip, still with Two Thumb. It’s improving, I can see myself being in contention more this year whereas I couldn’t before.

When I won in India and Denmark in play-offs during the 2018 DP World Tour season, my focus levels were off the charts. For some reason I wasn’t in that same mindset in Crans last year. I remember walking off after making bogey in the play-off and losing to Thriston Lawrence and thinking, ‘Man, I didn’t have the same feelings as when I went into the other two play-offs’. It felt like I had made a bogey in the regulation round of 18 holes and it should never be like that when it’s a shootout. It’s a learning experience. Even to this day I could tell you how many practice swings I had in the Denmark play-off and what I was thinking over my putt to win. It just wasn’t the same in Crans. I felt like I was going through the motions. It was a loss but a second place for how I was playing last year was a sign that I have still got something.

Matt Wallace-1418810366 (2)
Matt Wallace narrowly missed out on winning his fifth DP World Tour title in Switzerland

This will be my third quest to try to make the Ryder Cup team. I came close to making the team at Le Golf National and then I was nowhere near the next time out for Whistling Straits. Right now, I would say I am in a good spot because I know some of the guys from the PGA TOUR. I know the guys from the European team really well along with the Captain and Vice Captains. To make the team I have to do my job, put good scores on the card and win trophies. I haven’t lifted one for a while so I know what I need to do and my full attention is on that and that’s why my focus can’t really be on the Ryder Cup at this stage. I used to think about it a lot because I used it as motivation but if your golf isn’t good enough then there is no point being motivated by something that is out of your reach.

I will be 33 if I make the Ryder Cup team this year and it is my favourite number. I also love Rome so it would be special. I was close to making the team in Paris and the challenge gave me that fire that I wanted. I wish I had kept going on that path but that’s golf. I am a better golfer because of all the things that have happened since, and it is part of your journey. If I wasn’t to make a Ryder Cup team in my career I would be very disappointed, but it wouldn’t be for the lack of trying.

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