Mike Smith's Open Diary 2018
Sheffield’s Mark Roe was the first to toast Open champion Francesco Molinari after his gritty win at Carnoustie.
The Sky Sports pundit, who started playing the game at Hallowes before playing over 600 events and winning three times on the European Tour, was Molinari’s short game coach between 2010 and 2014 and only stopped working with the Italian due to problems in his personal life.
“Frankie and I are still the best of friends and his game has really improved this year. Through working with Denis Pugh, he is now 15 yards longer but his work with performance coach Dave Alred has made a massive difference and that’s all based about making practice feel like a tournament, where you have the same pressures and stress, making his preparation for an event more about quality than quantity.
“He’s working with Phil Kenyon now on his putting to improve his quality of strike and pace, because he used to leave a lot of putts short. I watched his pitch shot on 16 and saw a lot of what we had worked on together so that was very rewarding.
“He sent me a lovely text just after midnight on the Sunday telling me how I had been an important part of the journey. He’s a class guy and I couldn’t be happier for him."
Also raising a glass was Danny Denison, who was forced to retire from professional golf with a wrist injury after recovering from a serious car crash he suffered in a courtesy car at a Challenge Tour event in Austria.
The Howley Hall honorary life member now works for Nike and his job is to make sure their sponsored players have everything they need by way of clothing, footwear, hats and gloves and he attends most European Tour events in his role. Champion golfer Molinari was one of 25 Nike sponsored players at Carnoustie as the swoosh enjoyed huge exposure over the four rounds .
And fellow Howley honorary member Marcus Armitage has revealed that he will need to undergo surgery this winter to repair damage to his right shoulder which he dislocated less than two weeks before playing his first Open Championship.
His preparation for the biggest week of life was somewhat foolhardy when he agreed to go indoor skydiving as part of a birthday present from his fiancée Lucy. He said: “ I have a weak shoulder and when it popped out during the dive I knew I shouldn’t have done it. It was not the smartest decision, but it is a lesson learned."
It was two hours before the shoulder could be put back in place and meant he could not move the ball much more than 100 yards in the days before Carnoustie. Despite some improvement he was only able to operate at half power during his first two rounds of 80 and 69, but to his credit did not use this as an excuse as only close family and friends knew about his injury.
Yorkshire Golfer caught up with Armitage just before he boarded a plane to Sweden for a Challenge Tour event and his first outing since the Open.
He added : “ I have been doing a lot of rehab and played nine holes yesterday and hit a few balls this morning and my coach Anthony Sheehy was pretty happy with the way I was moving. I have been doing a series of exercises that will strengthen the muscles around the damaged area, but I will need keyhole surgery at the end of the season .
“The medical people have suggested it might take 3-6 months to get fully fit again but I’m hoping it won’t take that long. They also said that I wouldn’t be able to play in the Open, but I did.
“I’m playing three in a row on the Challenge Tour starting with Sweden and I also hope to get in the Rolex Trophy in Geneva. The Czech Open counts for both Tours so we will see how we get on there, but my goal is to get my card from the Challenge Tour and if not then it will be back to Tour School.
“So, I can’t really set a date for when I will have the operation, we will just have to see how the rest of the year goes."
Harrogate’s Thomas Curtis, who like Armitage came through the final qualifying rounds, also saw a dramatic improvement to his first-round score of 82 when he was bringing the flags in with him after teeing off at 4.15 pm.
The former Grey Goose World Par Three champion is a now a familiar face at his home club of Pannal after moving back to Harrogate in April, and his 68 on day two was only bettered by four players.
Another to suffer disappointment at Carnoustie was the founder of Leeds based Druh Belts and Buckles Simon Hurd. The former European and Asian Tour player handles the European business affairs of his close pal John Daly and was due to caddie for the 1995 champion before he withdrew due to injury.
Oh no another missed fairway. Hurd can’t watch as his boss unleashes another drive at the Old course.
But they were re-united a week later at St Andrews for the Senior Open Championship after Daly had undergone treatment on his troublesome left knee which included taking bone marrow from his hip to transfer to it.
Hurd said: “It sounded pretty painful and John said the needle they put in was 20 inches long. So, he did well to play and he is still a really impressive striker of the ball, he just needs to manage himself better on the course.”
Daly missed the final round cut after rounds of 69, 74 and 72, and Hurdy will be back on the bag when Daly plays in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland next month.
Also at St Andrew’s was Shipley’s Steven Bottomley who was making a nostalgic trip down memory lane. He shouldered the bag of Jonathan Lomas and was able to relive his greatest moment in golf when he finished third behind Daly and Molinari’s boyhood hero Constantino Rocco in the Open over the Old Course in 1995.