Ahead of his major championship debut at The Open Championship this week, PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit winner Jake McLeod spoke to PGA Contributor Tony Webeck about the journey to Royal Portrush.
I was probably in Grade 8 or 9 in high school in Townsville when I first started thinking about playing in a major championship; to be here in Ireland this week at Royal Portrush is a pretty special place to play my first.
Growing up, The Open and The Masters were always the two big ones for me. I’ve got a lot of friends and family here with me this week so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great time.
As a kid, I didn’t watch golf, I just watched footy, but my favourite ever major involved two of my favourite players, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon a few years ago.
There’s a video series called Chronicles of the Open and there’s one about those two which I’ve watched a few times. That’s my favourite Open memory, those two battling it out.
I never really played any links golf as an amateur so my first experience was at the Dunhill Links last year and then the past two weeks at the Irish Open and Scottish Open.
The week in Ireland was definitely good practice for this week because it played like a proper links course.
The ball reacts differently and there are some blind tee shots so you need to have a few good practice rounds to know what lines to take off the tee, which will be the case again this week.
At most links courses there are a lot of little pot bunkers everywhere so off the tee you need to be good at judging how much the ball’s going to roll out.
That’s where it can be dangerous.
There can be a pot bunker 340 metres down the fairway which is nowhere within reach on any other golf course but because the ball keeps bounding down the fairway it can potentially get there.
You’ve just got to be a bit smarter in what you’re hitting off the tee and potentially how far it’s going to run out depending on how high you’re going to hit it as well.
It's the same sort of thing with the shots into the green; you can’t be firing away at flags all day. There are a lot of little slopes you can use before greens and chasing it up there. There are a lot of different ways to get it close rather than just hitting high straight ones at the flag all day.
The last two weeks the wind has been down so I haven’t had to hit the ball too low but I definitely do flatten out my flight a little bit on a links course. If you get the ball along the ground early in links golf it’s always going to be in play.
I’ve got a 1-iron now so I’ve been hitting a lot of 1-irons off tees. It lands about 200-220 off the tee and rolls out to 300 sometimes. If I can get it along the ground pretty quickly then it just works well instead of always hitting driver and hitting it high. You can use the ground a lot better on links courses.
Titleist brought out their new driving irons for us a few weeks ago and they built me a couple try. I’d never used a 1-iron before and it’s a different shape to the irons that I usually use. The first shot I hit was flush and I loved it. Straight in the bag.
It’s not like an old-school 1-iron, it’s one of the new driving irons. It’s got a graphite shaft and quite a thicker sole. I can hit it high and also pretty low so it’s fairly versatile. It’s perfect for links.
The reason that I am here at all is because of finishing top three at the Australian Open last year and then winning the Australasian Order of Merit.
I didn’t get a letter or anything, just an email asking whether I’d like to play. Obviously I said yes.
I’ve got my whole team here with me along with girlfriend Madi, friends and family.
In one house will be myself, Madi, my two mates Spencer and Ryan and my psychologist Jonah Oliver and in the other house will be Mum, Dad, my sister and her boyfriend, my coach Lee Eagleton and Tony Meyers from Golf Queensland.
Madi is just about finished her nutrition degree so she’s on the tools this week. She cooked last week as well in Scotland and she goes good in the kitchen. Spencer and Ryan will have the job of keeping me nice and relaxed.
I hope there’s no team uniform or anything that they’ve worked out between them to wear as they follow me around. My mate Spencer wears some terrible kits though.
He was in the double denim at the Scottish Open and he’s got this cord bucket hat. That’s just how he likes to dress but I don’t tell him to change. He can do whatever he wants.
If anyone from my crew was going to streak across the 18th green, it would be Spencer.
I’ll be nervous for sure when Thursday comes but playing these two big events prior is definitely a good lead-in.
But I can guarantee on the first tee the heart will be pumping. I’ll get the 1-iron out, sting it out there and hope for the best.
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