Grant Forrest no longer feeling 'a bit lost' for Hero Open title defence
The 29-year-old shot rounds of 62-66 over the weekend on the Torrance Course at the Fife venue just under 12 months ago to land his maiden DP World Tour triumph with a one-shot success.
Admittedly hampered at times by a hip problem, it’s been a frustrating time since then for Forrest, but, after finishing joint-third behind Richie Ramsay in the Cazoo Classic at Hillside on Sunday, he’s returned to St Andrews with a spring back in his step.
“There’s always a bit more pressure and build up heading into an event you’ve won and, before last week, the season wasn’t going too well and I wasn’t feeling that good about things,” said the Pencaitland-based player. “But I feel like we’ve kind of found something and can take a lot of confidence from last week and hopefully keep it going.
“I got a bit lost, to be honest this year. I think it’s easy to rely on coaches too much. They can tell you loads of things and it’s all good information, but, at the end of the day, you’ve got to figure out what it feels like yourself.
“I think a couple of weeks ago I just picked up some good feelings and went to Alan (McCloskey) with them, explained that’s what felt good to me and last week was probably the best I’ve felt about my game for a long time and I putted really well, too.
“I’ve been working with Alan since April. I had been struggling with my game. I’d been chopping and changing a bit and it’s been going back to basics a bit since I went to see Alan.
“I think it’s part of the journey and learning about yourself and what it actually takes to perform out here. The kind of golf bit, I’ve always been good at scoring and competing.
“I feel I got too wrapped up in the technical stuff and got away from that. But, at the same time, there were some technical issues that weren’t allowing me to play the typo of golf that is going to compete out here.
“It’s a fine balance of both. For me especially, when I pick something up that works and I feel it click, it’s like a switch and I can start playing well and the confidence comes back pretty quickly.
“That’s just golf. It’s ups and downs and you don’t know how long the ups are going to last for. And, when it’s not going well, you wonder if you are not going to play well again. When you are playing well, you wonder how you can ever play badly. It’s just managing that and trying to not get too up or too down in yourself.”
Like compatriot Bob MacIntyre, Forrest can be hard on himself at times, the mention of which brought a smile to his face. “We all know what we are capable of and your expectations are in line with that,” he added.
“If you are not performing how you know you are capable of, it is really frustrating and I’m not very patient so I have a tough time dealing with that but that’s something I’m working on and need to take forward so I’m not too down when it’s not working well.”
Forrest was tied for the lead with Calum Hill heading into the final round last year, when a closing effort that contained eight birdies, including two to finish, saw him come out on top with a 24-under-par total.
“You knew the scoring was going to be low,” recalled Forrest. “You knew it wasn’t a round where you could par it to death and that was going to get the job done. If you shot level par, you probably weren’ going to even finish in the top 10. That makes it easier know that you have to attack and make birdies.”
“Calum didn’t miss a shot for eight holes. I made a good birdie on eight but the turning point was 9 and 10. He three-putted from about 15 feet on nine. Ten’s a tight hole, I hit a great drive, playing a sort of chippy driver down there. Got me within a wedge of the green.
“I think Calum hit a 3-wood or 5-wood and got in some trouble up the left, I made three and he made six. Then I hit a good shot on 11, the par three, and that was a five-shot shot swing in five holes. That was the real turning point. I was leading at that point.
“Then the next thing I remember was going down 16, seeing the leaderboard and realising I was one ahead. James Morrison had 18 to play and you kind of expect him to birdie that, and he did. I hit a poor wedge into 16 and three-putted. It was nip and tuck but at least going on to the 17th tee I knew what I needed to do. Hit a great 9-iron to six feet and rolled it in.
“Made 18 a lot easier. Made a good decision, hit 3-wood off the tee, great 2-iron to back edge, then two putted. Although it was the longest three footer of my life.
“Probably haven’t played better than over a weekend. The Saturday was really windy, wasn’t a flat calm day. One of those days when I played really well, one of those that don’t come along too often. But a good time to do it.”
Full of praise for Ramsay returning to winning ways - “that’s three decades he’s won,” he noted - Forrest is excited about the prospect of ten PGA Tour cards being up for grabs through the DP World Tour next season.
“It’s a huge step for our tour,” said the former University of San Diego man. “In the past the tours have been very separate and the only way you could play your way on was results in majors or WGCs. You always had to get into the top 50 to give yourself a chance.
“It’s difficult, and it doesn't make any sense to go and do Korn Ferry Tour and drop down to a second tier tour, which is extremely competitive as well. It’s a great move and gives 10 guys a proper chance.
“My game would be well suited over there. Ultimately where most of us want to play, the biggest stage with the highest standards, so that would be the goal.”