• "It's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do"
• Targeting an Open spot at Gullane this week
Two-time European Tour winner Chris Wood has spoken of the heartbreak of splitting with his coach of 15 years – but insisted he needed a fresh set of eyes looking at his game.
Paul Mitchell had taken the 6’6” Englishman from a 12-year-old ten-handicapper to his maiden European Tour win at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in January 2013, but a T49 finish at the Spanish Open in May prompted Wood to make the toughest of decisions which was bound to test the pair’s close friendship.
Speaking to bunkered.co.uk, Chris Wood, who is competing at this week's Scottish Open at Gullane, said: “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do really. He’s been such a good friend to me and I’ve always said I’d never have got to where I am now if it wasn’t for him.
"It was something I never thought I’d ever do" - Chris Wood
“He offered so much more than just a swing coach, so it was extremely difficult and something that I never thought I’d ever do. But, at the time, I just needed a new pair of eyes. Not having another person looking at your swing for 15 years is quite unusual and from Paul’s point of view, he’d never had a mentor or anyone helping him, which is all the more credit to him.
“I gave him a call in Barcelona airport after the Spanish Open because he was due to come up to Wentworth the following week. We met up when I came home and had a drink, spoke about it and everything was fine. For him to come and meet me was great and even on the phone at the time he was so understanding and it was just gutting for the two of us.
“However, sometimes difficult decisions need to be made in all walks of life and that was obviously one of them.”
Since the split, Chris Wood has started working with Mike Walker – who also coaches Lee Westwood and Danny Willett – and he finished fourth at the BMW PGA Championship before grabbing his second European Tour win at the Lyoness Open last month.
But the Englishman was quick to acknowledge Mitchell’s contribution to that victory, saying new coach Walker had minimal input.
“I spent some time with Mike prior to my win but, to be honest, he didn’t say a lot. He said a couple of things which have been very simple so I would say a lot of the work that Paul and myself did has really shone through, as well as what Mike said to me.”
And heading into the 144th Open Championship at St Andrews next week, Chris Wood, who is currently sixth on the reserve list for a place, is targeting one of the three qualifying spots on offer at Gullane this week.
“It’s horrible to be sat at home when the Open’s on,” admitted Chris Wood, who has three top 15 finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the past three years. “A few years ago when Darren Clarke won I was sat here thinking ‘this is just made for me’ and I’m sat at home watching it.
“I’ve really found my way around St Andrews in recent years too. We play it as amateurs in the Links Trophy but it takes a while to get to know because there are so many hidden bunkers. It’s painful not to be there at the moment and obviously playing at the Home of Golf is special for any golfer.”
Chris Wood is an ambassador for global logistics provider GAC. For more information visit www.gac.com.
Chris Wood :: New coach
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