LOCAL hero Lloyd Saltman is trying to strike the perfect balance in his preparations for next week’s Open at Muirfield.
On one hand, the Archerfield ace has been trying to make the most of getting to know the course and how it’s playing for the Claret Jug joust.
But, on the other, he doesn’t want to overcook things and feel stale when the gun goes off on the East Lothian coast next Thursday.
“The R&A have been good in letting me go down there a couple of times already this week,” said Saltman, who secured his third appearance in the event via the qualifier at Musselburgh.
“To be honest, the course was a little bit alien to me. I’d only been there in the winter in the past, so I’d never seen it set up like it is at the moment.
“It’s been good to get familiar with the holes and how the course is playing. It’s been great to be able to do that while I’ve been staying at home.
“But, while I want to be able to take advantage of being able to prepare on the golf course, you don’t want to spend too much time there as it can start to drag.
“I want to keep it fresh as well so that I am champing at the bit when I tee up on Thursday.”
Saltman won the Silver Medal as leading amateur at St Andrews in 2005 then qualified again for the world’s oldest major four years later at Turnberry.
But the 27-year-old is delighted that his latest appearance on one of the sport’s biggest stages will be in his own backyard.
“It’s great to know that I’m going to be playing in an Open just ten minutes from home,” said the Prestonpans resident.
“I normally drive through Drem when I’m going down to Archerfield but, on Monday I think it was, I decided to go through Gullane so that I could soak up the atmosphere.
“The first official practice is Sunday. I’ll probably go over to register on Monday and look forward to getting a player pin again.”
Defending champion Ernie Els is predicting a “fiery course” after seeing it turn from green to light brown due to the sunny conditions over the past fortnight.
“I spoke to a couple of guys who are greenkeepers and they say the way the course is playing just now will be the same for next week,” said Saltman.
“The greens aren’t going to get any quicker and, though the rough might be a bit thicker, overall it’s pretty much how it’s going to be next week and that’s great when you’re getting the chance to prepare as I am.
“There are areas where you almost have to walk on top of it to find it and are going to be fortunate to advance it very far.
“But I’d say it is playing fair. It’s an Open Championship after all and the rough is bound to be thick.”
Saltman shot two 68s at Musselburgh, having fired a 63 in Austria the week before in a Challenge Tour event.
“It’s nice that I’m on form,” said the former Walker Cup star. “At Turnberry (where he shot 75 and 77 to miss the cut), I wasn’t swinging it too well.
“I’ve been fortunate to play in a couple of Opens before and know you’ve got to be able to stand up to big crowds.
“That’s something I mentioned to Craigielaw amateur Grant Forrest when we played a practice round together at Muirfield, having gone out myself on the other occasions I’ve played so far.”
Caddying for Saltman next week will be younger brother Zack, who failed in his bid to qualify at Gullane but gave an excellent account of himself playing with Colin Montgomerie.
“Zack will be on the bag, which is good,” said Saltman, who has just added Links of Strathaven, a new shop opened by a friend, to Titleist and Team Scottish Hydro as one of his sponsors.
“He’s someone I’d always choose first to be on the bag and it was great that he offered his services.”
Saltman was a Craigielaw member when he won the Silver Medal and now Forrest is trying to follow in his spikemarks.
The Scottish Amateur champion has also been preparing in his native East Lothian this week after pulling out of Scotland’s side for the European Team Championship in Denmark.
“It’s not my place to say if that was right or wrong,” added Saltman of Forrest’s decision.
“Every golfer is individual. He did remarkably well to win at Dunbar to get into The Open and has made the decision.”