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

Bowdo living the dream

Bar an “ankle tapping”, Steve Bowditch is on the verge of fulfilling his lifelong ambition.

Bowditch, 32, dreamt of being a PGA Tour player by age 30 – he did so the first time at age 22 – and play The Open Championship at St Andrews.

He confessed today, just two days before his ambition is reached, that he doesn’t think about hoisting the Claret Jug.

But in the next breath, the Queenslander said he didn’t think about winning on the PGA Tour, but now has two titles to his credit following his Texas Open win in March.

“(Those visualisations are) not something I’ve ever done. This week, bar an ankle tapping, so I don’t get to peg it up on Thursday, my two biggest dreams will be made real. Which is pretty neat,” he said with his unique mix of raw comedy and reflection.

Bowditch first played a major at the 2003 Open Championship when he missed the cut at Royal St George’s by three shots. His only other majors were both last year – a sure sign of his sustained improvement, even if he still admits there’s much work to do.

“I always wanted to be out here and compete at the highest level all the time. I’m still not there.

“This is my fourth major now, so I’m not even close to the top level. Hopefully I can keep gaining experience and maybe I can keep sliding up those world rankings and compete with the big boys all the time.”

Bowditch has struck the ball well in practice, but has a wish that might sound odd to fair-weather golfers.

“The game’s in pretty good shape. And I enjoy this style of course, even though I don’t get to play it much,” he said.

“You’ve got to be able to think out there and unfortunately the last couple of days we’ve played it the weather conditions have been perfect.

“So hopefully tomorrow we might get some wind and rain to mix it up a little bit, because I dare say by the weekend it’ll kick on.”

The weather forecast in eastern Scotland is bleak, particularly for Friday’s second round with winds expected to top 60km/h late in the afternoon.

“It’s all part of the experience,” Bowditch said.

“You play a benign practice round and do all the prep work, but if you’re not out there when it’s trying conditions, you’re basically starting again on Thursday.”

But, as his qualification through FedEx Cup points rankings suggests, it’s the consistent side of the once mercurial Bowditch that has made his progress continual.

“It’s pleasing. It’s stuff we’ve been working on, just tightening up a few shots and take some big numbers out of my game,” he said.

“I (can now) play a little conservative … but also a little aggressively too, when it’s needed.

“I’ve been able to make a few more birdies from aggressive play with different shots, not just off the tee.

“Getting aggressive when we’ve got right numbers (yardages) and trusting my short game and, when we don’t, we’re playing away from it (the pin) a little more.

“It’s hard to explain, but we’re being more aggressive and passive at the same time.

“Back (in 2003) I thought my game was better, but I didn’t have the mental approach you need to play golf at the highest level. I don’t think I’m there yet.

“My game through (those middle years) deteriorated until I found a coach in Scott Hamilton who I trusted and believed what we’re doing.

“Then from 2009 through to now it’s gradually getting better.

“Once your game gets to a certain level, then you can really concentrate on the mental side of things and your preparation and you’re not sitting on the range all day beating balls and trying to find a golf swing.

“It’s not there every week, but it’s minor tweaks that will get you out there to compete every week (now).”

Bowditch said discipline would determine his finish this week, saying one hot stretch could be enough.

“Neil (Wallace), my caddie, and I, if we can attack when we need to attack but really just be patient. It really is a patience game out here and like most majors, if you can have a 6-9 hole stretch … when you can make five or six birdies, then the rest you just tack along and minimise mistakes, by the end of Sunday you’re going to be around the (mark).”

And that really would be a dream come true. Even for mild mannered Bowditch.