In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sam Horsfield discusses renewed motivation and playing the best golf of his career following his maiden victory at the Hero Open.
I still don’t think it’s really managed to sink in yet that I’m a European Tour winner. I’ve been on this Tour for three years and before the Hero Open I could never say I was a winner on the European Tour and now I can, and no one will ever take that away from me.
It’s pretty crazy, and my phone has blown up – I haven’t even managed to look at every message yet – but we did manage to have a couple of drinks to celebrate.
I learnt a lot about myself, a lot about how I felt in those circumstances, and I was really proud of the way I handled myself. I think my mentality was key, especially the way I reacted after shooting 40 on the back nine on Saturday because I didn’t let it bother me. I brought a lot of people back in to the tournament and then to go out there with a one-shot lead and be able to win, I was just proud that I kept what I had been doing the whole week, minus that nine holes.
I spoke to my manager Terry Mundy the night before, and he said: “you’re playing the best of anyone in the field, you had a six-shot lead at one point. Don’t worry about anyone else, just as long as you keep playing the golf you’ve been playing.” It was the mentality that as long as you go out there and do your thing, it doesn’t matter if you win, or if someone comes from behind – like Thomas Detry almost did. I was proud that I was able to do that, make a birdie at the first and show I’m not going to go out without fighting..
The five wood I hit on 17 was one of the best shots I’ve hit in my life. My long iron swing hadn’t been feeling great and I made two bogeys after hitting them, so I knew that if I hit driver or munched a 3-wood I was going to have another long iron into 17. My caddie Mick and I were on the tee and he asked me what I wanted to hit in, and I told him 5-wood, which is my favourite club because I love to hit a big cut with it. I didn’t really have a good distance in, but I hit a spinny 3-wood that went shorter than it normally would, and it left me 233 yards to go. It worked perfectly.
I obviously won it with that 5-wood but there were some putts that were pretty big for my momentum too. I was playing well, then I made a pretty bad bogey on five so to be able to get it right back with a 15-footer on six was huge. I really trusted my putter, which really helped as the tournament came down to me two-putting a 60-footer at the last.
To get my first European Tour win here in England is really special. I was born here, and I basically live here right now, so to be able to do it an hour from where I’m based was pretty cool. I just really wish my family could have been here, because they are such a huge support.
One of the first things they asked me actually was what it was like without having fans or support, but honestly I was so into my round and focused on each shot that it never even crossed my mind until they asked.
My family still have the first card from my first ever round of golf when I was five years old. It was my first time ever touching a golf club, and they gave me a junior rental set and I played from the men’s tee. I took 167 whacks at it and I actually remember I would purposefully hit it into the bunkers because I used to love playing in the sand. I’m not sure why but my parents always kept it but I have a pretty cool collection of stuff; I have the ball I shot 59 with the first time when I was 13, and things like the ball from my win at the Florida State Amateur.
I’ve always said that my Freshman year in college is when I was playing my best golf, but I actually texted my college coach on Friday night and told him ‘Freshman year Sam’s back, but better’. What I meant by that is that I feel like I’m playing good golf, but now I’m a little bit more mature and I know when to take on certain things and when to rely on the putter. For me it’s a feeling, a little of bit of confidence, and being able to see certain shots and miss it in the right places.
I gained a lot of that confidence back during the break. I was fortunate enough to be able to play and I think that the time I spent playing a lot at home, playing in matches and money games every day helped me get those feelings back. Shooting a 59 at Streamsong Black and a 58 at Champions Gate Country Club obviously helped too, and it was just about taking that game over here.
I struggled to get the feeling of tournament golf back on the first two rounds of the Betfred British Masters, but then I spoke to a friend in Orlando and it sort of clicked for me. He told me that I’d been playing so good at home and I should just do the same thing, that it’s the same game whether you’re playing at home or in a tournament. That’s what I feel like I’ve done the last six rounds of golf and I think it has something to say that I got myself in to contention two weeks ago with a 61 on Saturday, and then was able to win last week.
It’s been a big thing to regain that feeling because I lost it for a few years. When I turned professional out of college and then won at Q-School, I think there were a lot of expectations. I never felt that the pressure came from the connection to Ian Poulter, but more that I had higher expectations of myself than anyone else. I knew what I was capable of doing as a golfer and I felt like I was underachieving.
I’ve learned a lot about myself since being out on Tour. I’ve always talked about being an aggressive player, and I think I’ve learned the hard way over the last two years that there is a fine line between being cautiously aggressive and too aggressive.
The biggest thing for me has been the mental side of the game. It’s knowing when to press on and knowing what a good score is to aim for if I don’t quite have it that day, and that I don’t always have to go flat out at everything.
It’s a great feeling to get the monkey off my back. I hadn’t really gone that long a time since taking up golf without winning, and it’s obviously hard not to think about that. So to be able to win, and win the way that I was able to do it, was really satisfying. Hitting a great shot in to 17 and being able to two-putt from 60 feet on 18, I’m glad it played out the way it did. I didn’t get handed it. I had to go out there and play good golf and earn it.
The win changes a lot for me, and I’ve got a huge amount of renewed motivation. To have done it, and to have proved to myself that I can do it, is really big. I’m now at top of the UK Swing Order of Merit which means I’m going to qualify for the U.S. Open, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to. I actually don’t know anything about Winged Foot yet and we’ll just go and treat it like any other week, but it’s always special to be able to qualify for a Major. I just now want to press forward from here, try to play the best I can, and keep putting myself in good positions going into the weekend.