The likes of defending champion Jordan Spieth and world No.2 Justin Thomas may be tackling Carnoustie, one of golf’s toughest tests, for the first time this week – but not Grant Forrest.
The Lothians star knows the course as well as anyone in the 156-strong field after reaching the final of the Amateur Championship at the Angus venue in 2015.
“This is one of my favourite courses, so it’s good to be back,” said Forrest as he prepared to tee up in golf’s major for a second time after playing as an amateur at Muirfield five years ago.
“In the Amateur Championship here three years ago, I must have played it 10 or 11 times that week. It was fairly firm then, but nothing like this.
“You still have to hit good golf shots. The greens are receptive enough and you can keep the ball on the fairways, so it’s a fair enough test.”
Forrest’s brave title bid in the amateur game’s blue ribbon event – he lost to Frenchman Romain Langasque – helped him secure a place on a winning Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team at Royal Lytham later that year.
“I played really nicely the week of the Amateur, so it’s good to have those memories to draw on,” he added. “The more you play somewhere the better.
“Carnoustie is all in front of you, but it definitely helps to have played the course a few times.”
The 25-year-old, who secured his spot by finishing second in a final qualifier at The Renaissance Club just over a fortnight ago, is heading into the event with a spring in his step.
Helped by two second-placed finishes – he was in play-offs on both occasions – he’s sitting ninth in the Challenge Tour’s Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings so is on course for a step up to the European Tour next year.
“This is one of the four majors and playing in an Open is what you dream of growing up,” he said of this week’s assignment. “Having played one before as an amateur has prepared me a bit – knowing what to expect and what shots to hit.
“It’s great to be here. It felt a bit different signing in as a pro rather than as an amateur. I’ve got a couple of years of Tour golf behind me. It’s not new to me this time.”
Forrest, who received a pre-event boost by clinching a deal to become an ambassador for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, is among the later starters in the opening round.
Flying the Saltire along with Sandy Lyle, Russell Knox, Scott Jamieson and 19-year-old amateur Sam Locke, he’s out with 1996 winner Tom Lehman and rising South African star Dylan Frittelli.
“I’ll just be trying to hit good golf shots and take the rest of the stuff out,” said Forrest, who played with Matt Wallace, a two-time European Tour winner, in a practice round on Tuesday, about his expectations for the week. “I already know what the first tee nerves are like from playing at Muirfield (where he opened with a 73 before missing the cut following a second-round 86). That’s different to anything I’ve ever experienced.
“The second day was probably worst because I’d made a good score on the first day and I was hoping to make the cut. Nerves are a good thing.”
Cheering the loudest when he steps on to the tee at just before 2.30pm today will be his mum Audrey and little sister Ailsa. “There are quite a few people from Craigielaw coming up, as well as family and friends. It will be good to have home support,” he said. “I don’t feel more pressure being one of only five Scots. For me, it’s just a great opportunity to prove myself.”
An added incentive for Forrest over the next four days – not that any is needed, of course – is that he can use this event to pick up Challenge Tour ranking points.
“It’s only 10 per cent of the points but if you have a good week it counts for something,” he said. “I’m trying not to think of that too much, though.”