Never mind the fact that it’s his first major, nor the fact that he’s still an amateur - Bradley Neil firmly believes that he has as good a chance of winning this week’s Open Championship as anyone else in the field.
The Blairgowrie teenager earned his place in the field for this week’s 143rd edition of golf’s oldest professional tournament by becoming the first Scot in a decade to win the Amateur Championship. The confidence he gleaned from that win in one of the game’s most prestigious amateur events has given Neil the belief that he can hold his own in any company, starting this week.
“I’m not going there to try and make the cut or be the top amateur,” he told bunkered.co.uk. “I’m going there to try and win the event, just like Tiger’s going to do, or Rory’s going to do. Just because I’m 18 and I’ve qualified as an amateur, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to be trying to give it everything I’ve got to win. If I can bring my ‘A’ game for all four rounds, it’ll be interesting to see where that leaves me at the end of the championship.”
Neil’s victory at Royal Portrush saw him become the first Scottish golfer since Stuart Wilson in 2004 to win the Amateur Championship. Wilson went on to win the Silver Medal as low amateur at Royal Troon later that summer, a feat emulated by Lloyd Saltman the following year at St Andrews. In the time since, no Scot has won that particular prize and Neil admits he would love to be the man to break that duck.
“It’s nearly ten years since a Scot last claimed the Silver Medal so it would be great to win it,” he said. “The way I see it, I’ve got as good a chance as any of the other amateurs who are playing in the event. “
“I’m hoping I won’t be too overawed by the whole occasion because that will just get in the way of my golf." - Bradley Neil
As Amateur champion, Bradley Neil (who was invited for a practice round on Tuesday by new Scottish Open champion Justin Rose) can also expect to be drawn alongside a couple of high-profile players in the opening two rounds. No prizes for guessing who he’d like.
“Obviously, Tiger would be fantastic,” he admitted. “But, in all honesty, any past major champion would be great. It’s doesn’t matter who they are; if they’ve won a major, I can learn so much from them and, as much as anything else, it will be great just to see how my own game compares to theirs.”
Neil also revealed that, whilst he naturally excited about teeing it up in the championship, he is determined not to let the occasion of playing in his first major get to him.
“I can’t really find the words to sum it up how I’m feeling about playing in it,” he said. “I’m hoping I won’t be too overawed by the whole occasion because that will just get in the way of my golf. Even though it will be the biggest event I’ve ever played in up to that point, I’m still going to prepare the same way. I’m not going to spend any more time on the range, do things differently, or change the way I play just because it’s the Open.
“At the end of the day, it’s links golf. It’s what I’ve played and done so well in all year, so what would be the point in changing things too much?”
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