Date: July 15, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes, St Andrews

Arnold takes punt on himself

There’s plenty at stake at The Open this week, but for Scott Arnold, it’s more pressing than most.

Arnold, 29, will tomorrow head to the European Tour office and pay a membership he can barely afford in the hope of a far greater payday down the track.

The effervescent Sydneysider is battling away on the Challenge Tour, but has happily foregone the secondary European campaign for two weeks to make his first major championship appearance.

But his meagre booty of 10,131 Euros in six Challenge events this year makes it tough to part with 1200 pounds in the hope any cheque this week will count towards his ranking on the big European tour.

“It’s 1200 quid and if you miss the cut, you don’t get your money back,” Arnold said today after playing a practice round with fellow Australian Jason Day.

“It’s only money when you think about it and while I really haven’t got the money to do it, you’ve got to take the punt and back yourself and think I can do well.

“It’s the chance you take.

“If you were doing well on the last day and coming up the last you thought, `Oh, great I didn’t pay my membership’, you’d be shattered.”

Arnold related the story of his Challenge Tour colleague, South African Jacques Blaauw, who didn’t pay his membership before finishing runner-up in the Tshwane Open this year in a co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event.

“He won enough money to get full playing rights in Europe but didn’t pay his membership, so he’s back to square one and has to go back to Q-School.

“You’d kick yourself, I think.”

Arnold, the world No.1 amateur in 2009, savoured his first pro win at the 2012 Victorian Open, but has yet to show his former world-beating ways in foreign pro events.

But working in his favour this week is an already lengthy resume around St Andrews, having played the Old Course more than 20 times in various events.

And Arnold, who won into this week’s field through a recent qualifying event in England, has the air of someone who feels right at home, despite his lofty new company.

“I’m obviously excited to be here, but I’m not feeling like I’m out of my way. I don’t really feel overawed and think, `Oh s—t, I’m playing in the Open’,” he said.

“If it were at Troon or somewhere else where I hadn’t played it might be a bit different, but considering I’ve been here a lot and it’s a course I like, I feel OK and don’t feel out of place.

“It’s a good feeling to have.

“It’s just getting used to it being this soft because I’ve never seen it like this. The greens are a bit slower and not bouncing as much. But I feel quite comfortable.”

Unlike several rookie players just discovering to the Old Course, Arnold has lines picked out on every blind tee shot.

“I’ve played it that many times, you just get on the tee and know you’ve got to hit it there. And it makes it easier with the grandstands up because you’ve got things to aim at.

“It’s challenging, but I’ve played here long enough to know my way around.”

Arnold said he felt as if he was finding his feet in pro ranks, even if it his progress hadn’t come as quickly as he’d have liked.

“I thought I could have been here a lot earlier, but I never had any sponsorship or backing to be able to do it, so I’ve always been on the back foot,” he said.

“It was hard in a way, but it also made me appreciate it a bit more and made me stronger, I think.

“I’ve gone from the top to the bottom and now I’m coming back up again.

“When you turn pro, (being a top amateur) doesn’t mean anything, really. You go from being a big fish in a small pond back to being a little fish in a big pond again. “But when you turn pro it’s a different world, it doesn’t really matter then.”