Kurt Barnes has twice danced on a major championship stage – but he now admits the music was ringing too loudly in his ears.
In preparation for his first major on American soil, the Muswellbrook powerhouse is adamant this time will be different.
Barnes last month qualified for the US Open by surviving a five-man playoff in Asian sectional qualifying in Japan, where he has recently – and almost anonymously – retooled a career that has several times threatened to be something more akin to the huge talent he clearly possesses.
So why will this be different to the two missed cuts at the Open Championship in 2010 and 2011?
The answer is simple: he’s finally playing with fully personalised clubs.
“I’ve had a set of clubs specifically built for me by `Cool Clubs’ on the Gold Coast at Sanctuary Cove and the work I’ve done with Zane and Jack there is phenomenal,” Barnes beamed after a practice round with Geoff Ogilvy and Bill Haas.
“All the swing analysis, `puring’ of the irons, all my shafts are frequency matched – I’ve actually got a set of golf clubs built for Kurt Barnes and I feel my game has improved and I’ve got a lot of confidence.
“I’m in a much better position than I was even six months ago. It’s not purely because of the clubs – they’ve got a bit to do with it, of course – but I’ve also just taken a different approach.
“A little bit mentally, but a lot financially. When you have financial worries you worry about making cuts and missing cuts and I’ve tried not to worry about that this year, just go out and play the golf I know I can play.
“I’m just four years older in golfing terms and the game’s in a lot better shape.
“I’m really excited – this golf course suits my eye. It’s a Moonah Links on steroids, but that’s a good thing.
“There are areas to hit and areas not to hit it, but the areas to hit it are pretty generous – all positives.
“I’m really looking forward to it.”
Barnes, 34, is renowned for his frankness and self-deprecating manner.
And while that remains unchanged, the change in attitude is also just as evident. “I think I was a little overawed with the two British Opens … but not now,” he said.
“I like playing golf in America – I played a lot of amateur golf here – and coming to a new course where not many (in the field) have played just gives you that extra bit of confidence.
“And I’ve been playing well the past few weeks … so realistically I think I can (contend).
“The golf course suits me this week — the hitting areas are generous, I’m driving the ball well and it’s just going to be who holes the putts.
“The greens are a little bumpy, but it’s anyone’s tournament this week and hopefully I can be there somewhere about on Sunday.”