Connor Syme: 2022 was my best season but there's more to come
But, after getting his new campaign off to a pleasing start in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the 27-year-old spoke confidently about how he feels there is still more to come from him.
“You learn all the time and I definitely feel I learned a lot again last year,” said Syme, who finished second in back-to-back events, including the ISPA Handa World Invitational won by compatriot Ewen Ferguson, and was third on another occasion.
“It was my best season, but I definitely feel there’s more to come from me. The last couple of months have been about assessing what can get better by that small percentage. It’s been a good winter and nice to see the work that I’ve put in come out in tournament play. I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Watched by dad and trusty coach Stuart, Syme signed for a four-under-par 68, which was later matched by Calum Hill, in a testing breeze at Yas Links.
“It was a good last six holes,” he said of covering that stretch in four-under-par. “I didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong, but I short-sided myself on three par-5s and that stalled a solid start and it was nice to adjust a bit and find some birdies to finish.
“It’s probably such a second-shot golf course that your irons have to be right on it. You can hit good shots but end up low on a swale and find yourself struggling to make up and downs. I was just trying to keep working smart with Ryan [McGuigan, his caddie] to try and be on the right side as much as possible.”
The pleasing performance came in Syme’s first round since signing off that 2022 campaign with a 67 on the demanding Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates as he finished tied for 12th behind Jon Rahm in the DP World Tour Championship.
“It’s funny thinking that was my last competitive round as it feels ages ago, but I am still running off some good momentum from that and hopefully I can keep that going this season,” he said. “It was obviously a big goal to get into The Open, which I managed to do, and hopefully with that secured it will set me up to play well this season.”
Helped by the fact he’d got some competitive action under his belt in last week’s Hero Cup at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Ferguson opened with a three-under 69.
“It felt like my game was really good out there,” said the two-time 2022 winner. “My iron play was good, much better than last week, so I was happy about that. I’ve been working quite hard on my short game and that was quite nice, too, when I needed it.”
Bob MacIntyre, another member of the Great Britain and Ireland team in the inaugural Hero Cup, signed for a 70, as did Richie Ramsay, winner of the Etihad Airlines Invitational on this course in 2012.
“I played absolutely brilliantly,” said MacIntyre. “It could have been a lot better, I’m just delighted to see the way I was playing as it was almost perfect.
“I drove it as good as I’ve driven it and my iron play was pin high all the time, didn’t hole my share, but I know that when that putter turns up it’s mustard, so I don’t worry about that and just go and work on the basics.”
Ramsay, another of the Scots to taste victory last season, signed for four birdies. “I played very solid,” he reported afterwards. “I hit one bad shot but made a good bogey from it on the par-13th then a three-putt on eight was a little bit tricky.
“The most pleasing thing was that last week in Dubai I was a little bit rusty and I didn’t focus the way I should do and I’m normally quite good in that respect and I managed to get the focus today and be clear about what I wanted to do today. That sounds really quite simple, but it’s harder than you think.”
Grant Forrest finished with a birdie as he signed for a 71, one less than David Law, who was in the same group as LIV Golf player Patrick Reed.
Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren were among 18 players still out on the course when play was suspended for the day due to darkness. Jamieson sits on four-under with three to play while Warren is heading up his last hole on level-par.
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