Adrian Otaegui may not be a household name but if the rest of the field don’t watch out, ‘the pirate’ could well run off with the Claret Jug.
The Spaniard is playing in his first Open and on Thursday he will tee off at 3.43pm alongside Japanese star Yuta Ikeda and Mexican Isidro Benitez.
His round won’t finish until near 8pm but, if his nickname is anything to go by, the Royal Portrush crowds would be well advised to stay and watch the popular Spaniard tackle the famous links.
Famed for his ability to steal birdies from the most unlikely of positions, ‘the pirate’ is thrilling to watch and his form is strong following a T-20 at the Scottish Open last week.
“It is a nickname that was started with friends and I really like it. People now recognise me and it is fun,” he said.
“It started in different ways but I try to steal birdies from everywhere. I can’t always do it but I try.”
Otaegui has been preparing for this moment his whole life.
Since recording the 1998 play-off between Mark O’Meara and Brian Watts as a five-year-old, he has dreamt of lifting the Claret Jug.
I think that is my first memory because I remember the VHS and I watched it again and again and again,” the 26-year-old added.
“I am happy with the way I am playing, I am striking the ball very well and giving myself a chance.
“I am not making many mistakes so that will be good when it comes to Portrush. It will be my first Open and I am very excited.
“It is a tournament I have always wanted to play in. I have never played at Royal Portrush but I have heard awesome things about it. I am going to really enjoy it”
Otaegui’s place has been long since assured. He qualified by finishing in the top 30 in the Race to Dubai last year, thanks in part to his win at the Belgian Knockout in May 2018 – his second European Tour victory following a maiden success in the Paul Lawrie Match Play the previous August – and has been planning his summer around it ever since.
That’s been far easier to do than last year, when he was first reserve for The 147th Open at Carnoustie. He played the famous Angus links during the practice days but the call never came.
“I knew I had qualified last year when I finished the Race to Dubai. I was very happy, I could plan my season knowing July was going to be so key for me,” he said.
“I was first reserve for The Open last year so I could not organise anything. I knew the week before but then nothing happened.
“I could not do anything but I travelled there and played in the practice rounds, just to be ready. I was sad the call did not come but I am here now.”
It seems almost cliché to mention Seve Ballesteros whenever a new Spaniard hits the scene but the three-time Champion Golfer of the Year remains the standard-bearer for any young Iberian who picks up a club.
And Otaegui is no different. He may be ‘the pirate’ but he still respects the gods.
“The Open is the best tournament in the world, I always wanted to play in that and I always wanted to win it. I am very inspired by Seve [Ballesteros] and his victories there,” he added.
“I am very close to Jose Maria Olazabal. He finished third behind Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2005.
“I am very inspired by Seve, who played with all the passion, but also Olazabal who didn’t win but was close.”
Follow in their footsteps and this pirate could well finish with a sizeable treasure trove of his own.