An adjustment to his equipment set-up has instilled the confidence that Sam Brazel needs to move past a disappointing 2018 and continue his strong record at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Twelve months ago Brazel was tied for 22nd at the Emirates Club in his second appearance in Dubai but finished inside the top 25 just once more on the European Tour, ending the year 159th on the Race to Dubai standings.
In the final year of his exemption following his win at the 2016 Hong Kong Open, Brazel is plotting a less hectic schedule in 2019 and knows that posting results early in the season is a sure-fire way to keep the pressure of keeping his card at bay.
Finding fairways off the tee is a crucial factor in having success at the Emirates Club and Brazel believes he is well equipped to build on last week’s tie for 42nd at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The Lismore-based professional has put the new Titleist TS3 driver and TS2 fairway woods in the bag for 2019 and says the confidence they have given him will feed into the rest of his game.
“I’ve made a couple of changes with my equipment and it’s been a massive step in the right direction,” said Brazel, who is paired with Edoardo Molinari and Joost Luiten for the opening two rounds.
“I’ve gone to the new Titleist TS3 driver and the TS2 fairway wood and I’ve seen some massive improvements in accuracy so I feel a lot more confident in that area which is nice.
“I’ve always found that the confidence in my game comes a lot from the driver off the tee so that’s a big bonus.
“It’s not any distance gains as such but more the shape of the shot. I can control my flight a little better. If I want to hit a little fade I can hit a little fade, if I want to hit a little draw I can hit a little draw.
“That’s the way I like to play golf. I like to hit the shot that I see visually in my head. I like to play the shape of the hole rather than just blasting one out there.”
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Dubai Desert Classic in 2019, the Majils Course has featured just one Australian champion with Richard Green defeating Ian Woosnam and fellow Aussie Greg Norman in a playoff to win in 1997.
Joining Brazel in the field are Wade Ormsby, Lucas Herbert, Jason Scrivener, Scott Hend and Kiwi Ryan Fox and Brazel believes accuracy off the tee is crucial if you hope to contend.
“You’ve got to drive it good here and keep it out of the rough,” he explained.
“There are some holes here that are quite lengthy but very tight off the tee as well. You can easily make five or six here on a par-4. Really easily.
“If you’re off the fairway you’re in three or four inches of rye grass rough which when it is watered this heavily in this kind of heat it grows pretty quickly.
“It’s thick and lush and it’s hard to get good contact out of that kind of rough.
“Fairways are paramount around here and I think that’s what has held me in good stead.”
Trips to Dubai in the past two years have afforded Brazel the opportunity to dine high within the famed Burj Khalifa and lounge on 105-foot yachts.
He says striking the right balance between playing and rest will be much more of a focus in search of better results this year.
“There were glimpses of good play last year but not consistently throughout the year,” he admitted.
“It’s more about trying to stay fresh. I got burnt out a little bit last year. I got burnt out early and struggled to recuperate properly.
“It’s not an easy slog out here when it’s going the wrong way so it’s a matter of getting the scheduling right and picking the right events.
“Staying fresh is something I’ll concentrate more on this year and feed off being fresh and ready to play rather than just having the shoulder to the grindstone.
“I don’t think you can underestimate how much extra energy you burn through when you’re not playing so great. When you’re playing well it all flows and almost feels easy, like it’s in cruise control.
“When it’s not quite your week or your period you’re grinding over every single shot which makes it harder and harder and harder.
“If you’re holing out six or eight-footers every single hole rather than having a few tap-ins, the extra grinding that you do to shoot even par is quite substantial and it knocks you around fairly quickly.
“Last year wasn’t my greatest year as a professional but we’ll put that ne in the delete pile and start fresh again.”
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