Bradley Neil ready to move up the gears in rookie season

Connor Syme and Bradley Neil on bikes, which players are using this week to get around the resort staging the European Tour event.
Connor Syme and Bradley Neil on bikes, which players are using this week to get around the resort staging the European Tour event.
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Bradley Neil believes he will soon have to get on his bike if he wants to make a success of his rookie season on the European Tour.

The 22-year-old is lying 214th in the Race to Dubai after 11 events, having earned his step up to the main circuit by winning the last of 15 spots up for grabs off the Challenge Tour last year.

The top 100 on the money-list at the end of the season hold on to cards, meaning Neil has works on his hands approaching the halfway stage in the campaign.

“I wouldn’t say it has got to the make-or-break stage yet, but the comfort factor has passed,” admitted the Blairgowrie man ahead of this week’s Rocco Forte Sicilian Open, where players are using bicycles to get around the Verdura Golf Club resort.

“You have got some Rolex Series events coming up and, if I’m in the same situation I am now after them, then it will be a case of needing to go through the gears a bit quicker.

“Generally, I have played my best golf in the summer. That’s been proven since I was 13. I have always done well when it has mattered most in big events and hopefully it will be the same case this year.”

The first of those Rolex Series events is the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth later this month, with the Italian Open straight after that.

“I’ve heard good news about Wentworth in terms of my category getting me in and, if I get in there, I should be playing in Italy as well,” added the 2014 Amateur champion.

“At the start of the year, I was hellbent on playing at Wentworth. I’ve been there but never played the course and it would be fantastic to play there this year.”

Neil’s best finish so far this season has been joint-51st in the BMW SA Open, having been bitterly disappointed that he missed out on a golden opportunity to improve on that effort in last month’s Open de Espana in Madrid.

He was joint-10th heading into final round only to close with a 77 to end up in a share of 58th behind home hero Jon Rahm.

“The last round in Spain is really frustrating to look back on due to the golf I had played before that,” he admitted. “Apart from the last hole, tee to green was fantastic; I just didn’t hole enough putts, missing a string of birdie chances from around seven feet.

“I have spoken to (British Masters champion) Paul Dunne, asking him how he dealt with being in contention going into the final day and he said it took him a while to be comfortable in that position.

“I am confident I will put myself in that position again and I will keep learning. I’m trying harder than I ever have, working day and night to get prepared for events. Whether that puts more pressure on myself I don’t know. But me and my caddie go into every event feeling confident we are going to do well.

“Everyone has bad days at the office. No one is immune from that. I’ve looked at stats from that event and no doubt I will learn from that.

“There’s not been one event yet where everything has clicked. To play against these you have got to be on form and I still firmly believe that if I do play my best golf I can compete against them.

“It’s just getting that week where everything falls into place. There was the nine-hole spell in Oman where I played the last eight holes in seven-under to make the cut in Oman that was the golf I am capable of producing.

“These guys who win events play their best golf for three-and-a-half rounds and that other half is a case of coping with things that aren’t going your way but trying to play them in level-par.”

Neil, who is joined in this week’s field by Chris Doak, David Drysdale and Duncan Stewart as well as Syme, is learning all the time in his new workplace and said he’d enjoyed playing with Andrew “Beef” Johnston in the final round in Spain.

“That was a huge insight,” he said. “I’ve played with a Masters champion in Sandy Lyle and also played practice rounds with Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.

“But I’d say in terms of competitive golf that ‘Beef’ was probably the most prolific I’ve played with and also probably the most popular. He could go to Vietnam and he’d have fans. It is ridiculous how popular he is in the golf world.

“He’s like that 24 hours a day seven days a week. How he is on the golf course is how he is in a hotel. I was chatting to him and he said, ‘I just can’t ignore people. If I see someone coming up to me, I can’t ignore them’.

“I won’t name names but you see other guys who walk past people. He’s such a genuine guy. Him and Eddie Pepperell not trying to be someone they aren’t. There are so many guys trying to be someone they are not. I think that is wrong, to be honest.”