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As the sun fades over the Renaissance Club, the east coast is clear for a two-time winner who has missed seven consecutive PGA Tour cuts.
The last time Erik van Rooyen played the weekend of a golf tournament was in April, and for someone with beaming long-term confidence, there is no guarantee of a revival this week.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, but I can’t say when that will be, I don’t know,” the South African told bunkered.co.uk, during an evening practice round before the Genesis Scottish Open.
There is no attention on the 33-year-old, who heads around the opening few holes with his caddie Alex Gaugert, but there is plenty of interest.
“When you miss that many cuts in a row it’s not easy,” he said, stretching down the third hole after an inch-perfect drive, but even that was met by uncertainty.
“Is it good?”, Gaugert asked. “Oh, it’s good,” van Rooyen replies. The ball has cleared the towering trees, split the fairway, and he turns to open up on his recent struggles.
Van Rooyen last reached the third round of an event at the Mexico Open, and there were two missed cuts in the three starts before that.
“It sucks, that’s really all there is to it, and when you go through a dip like that it’s not easy,” he admits.
“Sometimes it takes a while to get back to who you are and play golf the way you know you can, but it’s easier said than done when the ball isn’t going where you want.
“Golf is such a massive part of my life that it becomes a part of you, so when you struggle it hits your confidence. When you play from a place of desperation, this game doesn’t give it to you.
“When you want it so bad, you see the bad lie and bad kick you get.”
There is no focus on that at the fourth hole, however. A striped drive off the tee leaves an undisturbed lie on the fairway of the relatively short par-4.
Understandably pleased, van Rooyen says: “It’s just about sticking to what I’m doing, seeing good things like this shot I just hit, every day, and just waiting. It’ll come.
“I’m getting in my own way, I’m too excited and want to shoot under par so badly, and when I have chances, I’m tripping up.”
His approach shot leaves around ten feet to card a first birdie of his final preparations, but the ball rolls gently past the cup, and a glance towards Gaugert reiterates what he has just said.
While van Rooyen admits those chances are proving costly, there is a far bigger goal, albeit one that can only be achieved by playing on Saturday and Sunday.
“I don’t think it’s about making a cut; I can’t control what the cut is going to be, I can’t control what the winning score is going to be,” he says.
“If I focus on making it then I’ll just hang around the cut line all the time.
“That’s not what I’m about, and I don’t think that’s what the greatest players in the world are about either and, I truly believe I can be one of those players.”
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