Open special: Connor Syme won’t let loss of lucky holes affect him
While delighted on the one hand to be playing in the Open Championship for the second time in three years, Connor Syme is disappointed on the other to have seen his two lucky holes at Royal Portrush taken away.
The old 17th and 18th on the Dunluce Links are the site for the spectator village this week, having been done away with as two new holes, which have become the seventh and eighth, were created for the return of the Claret Jug event here after a 68-year absence.
“The two new holes are excellent. They look like they’ve been there the whole time,” observed Syme, one of five Scots in the field for the season’s final major, before admitting he had good cause to lament the loss of that old finish at the County Antrim venue.
“Although the new holes are a good addition, I’m disappointed because the 17th and 18th were so good to me during the Amateur Championship,” he added, referring to his run to the semi-finals he lost to compatriot and eventual winner Bradley Neil - in that event here in 2014.
“I felt like I played 17 and 18 just about every day that week. It was a long, long week. But good, obviously. Every single tie, I felt like I was one down coming up the last two - and just managed to get through.”
Syme secured his return this week by coming through one of the final qualifiers at Fairmont St Andrews, having used the same route when making his debut in the game’s oldest major at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
The 24-year-old from Drumoig missed the cut by four shots on that occasion but aims to use the experience to good effect as he steps back on to one of the sport’s biggest stages as a professional.
“It feels amazing to be back at Portrush,” said Syme, who played with Miguel Angel Jimenez in one of his practice rounds. “The course is looking absolutely class and I can’t wait to get going. It’s going to be awesome. If you compare it to the Amateur Championship, the stands are the one big difference, for starters!
“The course, it all kind of comes back to you. We played here in the men’s Home Internationals the year after the Amateur, as well. I have played it a good few times. So you remember different shots you might have played, where the run-offs are, that comes back quite quickly.
“I think the knowledge can be an advantage, with me having played here before. But obviously there are a lot of guys in the field with heaps and heaps of experience, which probably outweighs whatever edge I might have.
“Having played it, there are still quite a few different tees. It’s definitely longer than it was, there are tees I might hit irons off, there are new bunkers, that sort of thing. But the knowledge of run-offs will help, 100 per cent.”
On that appearance in the event two years ago, Syme was announced as “Sim” by starter David Lancaster on the first tee in both his rounds. Third-time lucky hopefully?
“Oh, he apologised to me last time,” said the former Australian Amateur champion with a smile.
“Hopefully he doesn’t have to apologise to me again because he’ll get it right. Fingers crossed.”
Jimenez, incidentally, is making his 700th European Tour appearance in this week’s event.