Date: July 14, 2016
Author: Martin Blake, Royal Troon

Rookie Holman pinches himself at Troon

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Nathan Holman is the youngest Australian in the field for the Open Championship, but in his first outing in a major, he does not want to merely tee it up and play.

Holman, 25, has had a whirlwind 12 months in which he won his first big title, the Australian PGA Championship at Royal Pines in Queensland, in the process grabbing a European Tour card and several starts in the World Golf Championship events with the best players in the world.

That win on the Gold Coast also vaulted him to victory in the Australasian Tour order of merit, which carries a start in the Open Championship with it, so here he is.

After playing another practice round today, Holman said he was beginning to feel a degree of comfort playing with the best in the world. But he also knows there will be some nerves when he tees it up on the first at Royal Troon later today.

"I'm looking forward to the week. I've played a few of the World Golf Championships now and the nerves have probably been helped through that experience, playing in front of some great crowds,'' he told Golf Australia. "I'm just looking forward to the experience now, getting out there in some good conditions.''

At times this week, he has had to pinch himself. Growing up in Melbourne and playing his early amateur golf at Woodlands in the Sandbelt, he was fascinated by the Open.

"For kids growing up in Australia, this is the one you would like to play in the most,'' the Golf Australia rookie pro said. "To get a chance to do that is a dream. You say to yourself when you're 15 or 16, 'it'd be really cool to play in one of those'. To be able to do that will be a great experience.''

It is not his first trip to Troon; four years ago he was in the top eight of the strokeplay portion of the British Amateur championship here. It should not necessarily surprise that he feels some familiarity, for Troon has a few small greens — in particular the Postage Stamp at No. 8 — that are eerily similar to Woodlands, his home track, especially the unique No. 4 green there.

"It (No. 8) is a tough, little hole,'' he said. "If the wind's up you might hit seven iron in there. I've hit eight iron one day and nine iron. But it's a small green, a bit like No. 4 at Woodlands! There's no doubt if you're striking the ball well it's going to yield some birdie chances. Definitely if you're used to the small greens of the Sandbelt, to come here is not too different and the targets are quite small, which is nice.''

Holman, ranked 190th in the world, has had one other top-10 finish in Europe this year, at the Malaysian Open, to go with his win on the Gold Coast, and is 43rd on the tour's Race to Dubai rankings. Today he tees off at 11.04 local time (8.04pm Australian eastern) with Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and England's Dave Coupland.

''Definitely. It's a little notch in the belt, I guess,'' he said. "If I can play well and get into contention on Sunday it's just another learning experience that you take along the road and just build on that. That'll be a goal for me this week. I've shown if I play well, I can compete. It's just getting the most out of my game, and if I do that, I think I can be there on Sunday.''