Englishman Matt Wallace has made a great start to his golfing career with four wins on the European Tour since turning professional in 2016.
The 29-year-old has also had the privilege of scoring a hole-in-one at the PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black Course, where he finished T-3, as well as ranking T-12 at the US Open held at Pebble Beach.
But the Hillingdon-born man feels it may take a Major win to rank higher than the experience of playing alongside Tiger Woods at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush last year, as he explains to RSNG…
RSNG How amazing was it to play just your second Open Championship in a group with Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed? MATT WALLACE, A MAJOR PLAYER OF THE FUTURE ‘Well, just to get to play in the Open again made me feel like I belonged, for a start. But then when you’re given the chance to play with possibly the greatest player of all-time – certainly the greatest of his generation – it’s a dream come true.’
‘I knew that the draw was coming up and I was quite relaxed as to who I was going to be playing with for the first two rounds. I guess the bigger and more established players don’t even think about who they are paired with and so I was trying to be more like that… mainly because if you’re thinking about it, it could overawe you.’
‘So, for that reason alone, I thought it best to just take whatever came my way, because you certainly can’t change it. But when you find out it’s Tiger and Patrick Reed – the last two winners of the Masters – yeah, that’s nice.’
‘It was even nicer that I was able to get through to the weekend, but disappointing that Tiger didn’t. However, it was brilliant to be able to see him up close, but a shame he wasn’t playing at his best.’
RSNG You’ve encountered criticism throughout your career, notably from Pete Cowley who questioned your attitude. How does that sort of conjecture affect you? MW ‘To be honest with you, it was a little bit of mischievous writing because it wasn’t a big deal at all. But when it was published the day before I was due to play in that Open alongside Tiger Woods.’
‘It all stemmed from what happened between myself and my caddie in Germany, which was cleaned up by the golfing chiefs. Also, the thing was that it was just between me and my caddie, Dave McNeilly. I wasn’t really interested in anyone else’s thoughts or anything like that. I just wanted to know that Dave was okay with everything and we sorted it all out, and that was the end of that.’
‘So, for what happened after that with the story being blown out of all proportion, for Pete to have those quotes attributed to him and for it all to come out in the public eye on the eve of what was to be a big week in my career, was a little disappointing. But what I’ve learned since is that you cannot control what happens, like that.’
RSNG That’s something you can take forward? MW ‘I think strength in any sport, any profession, is essential. You can’t let it get to you and I guess that was a very early but very useful lesson in that.’
‘I know as my career goes on I’ll have to block out many more distractions than that, and it’s just part of the sport, whether it’s someone writing someone about you or spectators putting pressure on a shot. It’s all the same thing.’
I would be disappointed if I was to draw a blank this year – I’d still like to win at least one event
RSNG With 2020 being your fourth calendar year, do you feel that you’re now becoming more comfortable on the European Tour? MW ‘I really do, because if you told me that after three years playing on the tour – even if I don’t win an event this season – then would still be averaging one tournament victory a year, and I am happy with that.’
‘It would be nice to get one or two more wins under my belt, to try to kick on more this season; but with the quality you’re up against each week, that won’t be easy. However, I would be disappointed if I was to draw a blank this year, and even if I get a handful of top five or top 10s, I’d still like to win at least one event.’
‘I do like to look at the bigger picture and you also see other players who go years without – really great and experienced players – and they are relieved to get back to winning ways again, and that can happen to anyone. I may not win another for a couple of seasons, and I may have to live with that. But, sure, I’m happy with how things have gone so far.’
We love golf and none of us think we can do without it! But the fact is all of us need to do without it from time to time
RSNG How important is it to not just to be playing well, but also to have the right people around you, helping you in fulfilling your potential? MW ‘Yeah, it’s very important. My girlfriend is such a great person to have around, because the game of golf makes you think so much and when you’re on tour and travelling from event to event almost every week - it can sometimes be the only thing on your mind if you’re on your own.’
‘But having someone who cares about you and you care about them, it gives you the chance to take your attention off golf and appreciate life and what you have besides that. I love having Chelsie with me and it’s such a blessing for us to be able to spend more time together now I am on the European Tour.’
RSNG Golfers of all levels sometimes find it difficult to separate the game from the rest of their life… do you see that? MW ‘I do but I wouldn’t name names! I don’t think it’s a problem that just affects professionals though, something you’re alluding to. The very nature of sport means if you’re hooked playing it, you’re hooked. It doesn’t really matter what level you’re playing at.’
‘Essentially that’s why we all get involved in the sport in the first place – we love it and none of us think we can do without it! But the fact is all of us need to do without it from time to time – we need to put the clubs down and look at the other things in life, because they are just as important.’
WHAT NEXT? Read our exclusive interview with Webb Simpson as he lines up a golf world top ten spot, again…
Then watch as Matt Wallace scores a hole in one and throws the ball into the crowd.