Bradley Neil's Blog - Preparing for Hoylake
It’s incredible to be here this week, to be playing in a Major Championship. These are the type of weeks you dream about as a boy.
You certainly know you are at The Open when the world’s No. 1 player walks onto the tee and asks if he can join you for a game! I had arranged a practice round with Irish amateur player Paul Dunne, who came through final qualifying, and Shane Lowry for Monday afternoon. There we were on the first tee and Adam Scott walked over and asked if he could join us! You can imagine what we said! It was simply a delight to be in his company and watch Adam play, a Monday never to forget.
“It’s incredible to be here this week, to be playing in a Major Championship. These are the type of weeks you dream about as a boy.”
I got my first look at Hoylake a few weeks ago for a practice game and I feel my preparation has been good. For the Amateur Championship, I went across earlier in the year to Royal Portrush and Portstewart and I’ve done the same with Hoylake. It’s been all about learning, finding new things, and hopefully my preparation will stand me in good stead. Ewen Ferguson, my Scottish Golf Union team-mate, won the Boys Amateur at Royal Liverpool last year, so I’ve also spoken to him to try and help my chances.
I’ve also stayed competitive as last week I was in Finland with the six-man Scotland team for the European Amateur Team Championship. Last year, we finished runners-up to England and wanted to go one better in 2014, but it wasn’t to be. We had a good week to finish fourth overall after coming up against opponents who just held the edge over us. After the closing ceremony on Saturday night, it was a case of roll on The Open!
I’ve had great messages from people wishing me well this week, like from Scottish professionals showing their support to the amateur side. Justin Rose, who is now the new Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open champion after his win at Royal Aberdeen on Sunday, also sent me a nice message after my Amateur win. It wasn’t that long ago he was competing in The Open as an amateur.
I’ve also had messages from young Scottish pros like Michael Stewart and James Byrne, who were both beaten finalists in The Amateur Championship. I’ve spent time with them, so to have congratulatory messages and support from them, as well as other Scottish players like David Law and Ross Kellett, has been fantastic.
It was very good of Major Champion Justin Rose to ask me for a practice game on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I played with Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and Paul Lawrie, two great players I’ve always looked up to. Paul, of course, won The Open in 1999. The amount that I’m learning here is brilliant. The main difference to the amateur game is the way we play the course compared to the pros. To be able to see them playing the course in preparation has been a great help.
I’m pleased I have the experience of playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, where I played with other top players like Ernie Els and Peter Uihlein. I’m going to try and use my experiences, and feed off the good memories that I have.
The Open draw on Monday paired me with Matteo Manassero and Mikko Ilonen for the first two rounds at Hoylake, which I think is a good draw. They are both former Amateur champions so I’m sure can help me. Matteo sent me a tweet after winning The Amateur, so it’s nice that I’m now playing with him. I look forward hugely to the thrill and challenges ahead.