LLOYD SALTMAN may just have had his tonsils removed, but the Lothians golfer is confident he can still be a roaring success this year.
He’s headed to Spain this week to prepare for the Challenge Tour starting up in earnest next month and is excited about some changes on and off the course.
For starters, Saltman got married over the winter and has the full support of new wife Nicola as he bids to earn a place back at the top table in European golf.
“I’ve got a good wife, so I don’t think I’m going to feel any different when I’m out there trying to hole putts,” he insisted in playing down any possible extra pressure on his shoulders.
He’s also been working harder on his game than ever before and is feeling in the best physical shape of his career thanks to the founder of Edinburgh-based Swing Pro Physio.
“It is strange to be sitting here in March having only played one tournament (last month’s Kenya Open), but, at the same time, it has given me an opportunity to make some changes and not just with my coach Colin Brooks,” he added.
“I have started working with a physio, Neil Aitken, for the first time. That’s an aspect of the game I’ve not looked into before and I can’t believe I haven’t.
“I’ve done fitness stuff before, but this is far more specific and I’m excited about the work we’ve been doing.”
Last season, Saltman 27, got himself caught in the trap of trying to divide his time between the European Tour and Challenge Tour.
He ended up 181st in the Race to Dubai and 55th on the Challenge Tour money-list, but was encouraged by a strong finish to the season that included a third-place finish in the Lyon Open.
“Like so many others in the past, I ended up being one of those players caught in the middle of two Tours last season but this year I am going to focus on the Challenge Tour,” said the 27-year-old.
“Kenya was a nice chance to get out and play with a bit of heat on my back and, apart from taking a 9 on the second hole, I came away with a lot of positives from the week.
“I’m playing in some Jamega Tour events (in Spain and Portugal) over the next couple of weeks to get competitive again.
“I had my tonsils out last week so wasn’t able to play for a fortnight. It’s something that has bothered me for a bit and it’s not helped when you’re jumping on and off planes a lot.
“I’ve enjoyed being at home working hard on the range and in the gym, but now I’m looking forward to getting back out there again.”
Whether he can catch up with his former Walker Cup team-mate Rory McIlroy remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is that Saltman isn’t the type to dwell on past glories.
“You can’t have any excuses in this game and I won’t try and offer any,” he said, “but an injury I picked up two seasons was probably my own fault because if I’d been doing the right things physically that wouldn’t have happened. I was doing okay until then, but it set me back a bit and, at the end of the day, probably cost me my card.
“It’s a game of fractions and I do sometimes look at Rory and think . . . but I’m clear in my mind where I’m going. I’m probably working harder now than I ever have, which is great.
“I have a clear vision of what I am trying to achieve, having sat down with both Colin and my dad [Jack]. It’s easy to lose sight of things in this game and if you keep doing the same things you’ll get the same results.
“There’s lots of good stuff in my career so far but, at the same time, I don’t want to be defined by my amateur achievements.
“It’s about the golfer I am today. I’m a Challenge Tour golfer at the moment and I’m looking forward to doing well on that in order to get back on the main Tour. It is nice to know that people still believe I can get there. My parents still have that belief in me and it’s great to have a coach who is dedicated to my career as well.”
While he may be focused on second-tier circuit, it’s no surprise that Saltman has his sights set on an event being held just down the coast from his home in Prestonpans later in the year.
“I’m definitely going to try and qualify for The Open at Muirfield,” said the 2005 Silver Medal winner. “St Andrews is probably The Open everyone wants to play in, but for me Muirfield is a close second.
“It creates a real buzz in the area and it would be nice if we could get three Saltmans (Lloyd and big brother Elliot qualified at Turnberry in 2009) in the field this time.”