Tom Lewis has pinpointed victory in his lengthy battle against the chipping yips as the main reason behind his long-awaited return to the European Tour winner’s circle.
The 27-year-old, who burst onto the scene in 2011, started the year with just a Challenge Tour card to his name but ended it at the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
His route to Dubai was aided by victory at the Portugal Masters – where he was only in the field through his status as a past champion due to his victory in the event seven years earlier – and followed a win on the Challenge Tour at the Bridgestone Challenge two weeks earlier.
But those victories paled into insignificance in comparison with his battle to overcome the chipping yips, a long-running issue that had threatened to destroy his career.
“I couldn’t get it on the green from five yards,” he told bunkered sister title UK Club Golfer. “It was a complete mental block. I woke up every day worrying, panicking that I couldn’t miss a green.
“When I pulled an iron out on a fairway, I was like, I need to hit this in the bunker or on the green otherwise I’m in trouble and the amount of times I made sixes on a par-5s by being next to the green in two was crazy. Now, I’m really confident in my greenside chipping and those sixes are turning into fours.”
That renewed confidence, Lewis says, came after a winter spent in Miami, where he spent two to three months predominantly practising his short game ahead of the Challenge Tour season getting underway.
“I was really able to sort it out, being able to go out into the sun in shorts and work on it solidly,” he added. “It was a real turning point because I came to my first tournament sharp and it was the first time in a while that I’d looked forward to playing.
“My mindset is just so much more chilled out and in all those years that I was struggling, I was engraining bad habits. I’ve overcome it now, but it was the toughest battle I’ve ever had to go through.”
Prior to 2018, Lewis was best-known to golf fans as the fresh-faced 20-year-old amateur who led the 2011 Open at Royal St George’s after the first round. He turned professional that September and, a month later, he was a winner on the European Tour in just his third professional start in Portugal.
However, Lewis believes that the performances in those early months, which ended up earning him the Rookie of the Year award, were nothing more than a false dawn.
“When I won early, I knew it was a fluke,” admitted Lewis, who recorded just seven top tens in 142 events from 2012 to 2017. “It was just meant to be at that time and I was fighting and grinding in the following years.
“Previously, what I always lived on was 2011: the Open, the win. Now, I’ve added to that. This is a new chapter, a new Tom Lewis. What happened in 2011 is in the past and I’ve got other successes I can build on.”
What the Englishman won’t be doing now after regaining his European Tour card for another couple of seasons, though, is take his foot off the gas.
“I need to keep the motivation going because it’s so easy to ease off. That’s what I did in the past and I don’t want to do that.
“Whatever I go on to achieve in the game, it'll be because of the struggles I've gone through over the last few years and everything I've learned from it. My motivation and drive is high and I’m excited about what the future has in store.”
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