Conor O'Neil admits he needs to toughen up mentally

JUST as Lee Westwood was told by his caddie, Billy Foster, en route to being crowned as European No 1 last season, Conor O'Neil has been advised that he needs to do some "bullying" out on the golf course if wants to win the Scottish Boys' Championship at West Kilbride this week.

On the way home from the picturesque Ayrshire course on Wednesday night, the 18-year-old triplet from Pollok was on the receiving end of some strong words from George Boswell, his current coach, after looking a lot different to the player who'd been preparing for this event.

"George had watched me and said he couldn't believe what he'd been seeing after the way I had been practising and playing," revealed O'Neil, who, off plus 1.8, is the backmarker in the field this week. "His main criticism was that I needed to be better mentally. Instead of worrying about what my opponents were doing, he said I should go out and bully them a bit."

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With a beer inside him, Foster said exactly the same thing to Westwood on the eve of the Dubai World Championship, which he went into with two young pretenders, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, breathing down his neck and duly showed them, for the time being at least, who was the boss, so to speak.

Having taken Boswell's advice on board, O'Neil stormed to a brace of victories yesterday – he was out in 33, three-under, in the second of those matches against Anthony Blaney of Liberton – and is aiming to take a leaf out of former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy's book when he faces Jack McDonald, the tournament favourite, in the first of this morning's quarter-finals.

"Jack and I are both fast players but I will do what I can to slow him down a bit without getting out of my own routine," he added. "I also won't be watching any of the shots he hits. I noticed Geoff Ogilvy doing that in the World Match Play. In fact, he looks the opposite way when his opponents are putting and it works for him."

In his fifth-round match, McDonald produced a significant burst around the turn against 14-year-old Ewan Scott, the Barassie boy, who, at 17, admits he's been feeling his age this week, registering an eagle and three birdies in the space of five holes to set up a 5 and 4 success. "I knew I had to turn it on against Ewan and that's the best I've played this week," said the winner.

Unlike a lot of the players in the field, McDonald opts to carry his own clubs instead of using a trolley. "I feel comfortable carrying a bag and I also feel it's a shorter walk as well because you can take it over the greens and not walk round all of them."

Twelve months ago, Alasdair McDougall, a 15-year-old pupil at Castlehead High School in Paisley, was playing off eight at Elderslie. Helped by the fact he's made West Kilbride his second course, the smallest of the competitors to make it to the fourth day is now down to three and is also through to the last eight, where he'll meet Craigielaw's Grant Forrest.

"I know the course like the back of my hand and I've learned to play a whole variety of different shots playing down here," said McDougall, coached by both Boswell and former Italian Open champion Dean Robertson, after recovering from being two down after ten to beat Angus Carrick, the son of former Walker Cup player David, thanks to a last-hole birdie.

In the bottom half of the draw, Lawrence Allan, who won the Alva men's championship at the age of 12 and just pips fellow 15-year-old McDougall as the youngest player left in the event, pulled off a shock in beating the highly-rated Scott Gibson from Southerness. He now faces Falkirk Tryst's Jamie Lynch, with Ian Redford taking on Callum Stewart in the remaining quarter-final.

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