It’s unfair, really, to expect rookie professionals to hit the ground running on unfamilar golf courses.
Unless you’re Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth, it takes time to learn layouts, many of which seasoned-campaigners know like the back of their hand.
In his first season in the paid ranks, Connor Syme is doing okay, sitting just outside the all-important top 110 in the Race to Dubai and with a chance to improve his position after securing a debut appearance in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
For Syme, Gullane is a course he’s familiar with, as was the case with the Diamond Country Club in Austria and Pretoria Country Club. The birthday boy – he turns 23 today – finished second in the Shot Clock Masters at the former earlier in the season after claiming a share of 11th in the Tshwane Open at the latter.
“My two best results this year have both been on courses I’ve known,” acknowledged Syme, having helped Scotland to a European Team Championship victory at Diamond Country Club and playing at Pretoria Country Club as an amateur during a winter training trip to South Africa with a Scottish Golf squad.
“I think if you ask anybody; it’s definitely nicer going back to somewhere you know. At both those courses I’ve been able to take it a little bit easier whereas I’ve definitely had to work harder than most guys to learn other courses. I know Gullane and hopefully that kind of plays into my hands.”
In the 2016 Scottish Stroke Play Championship, he finished with a flourish on the East Lothian course, closing with rounds of 65 and 69, to end up fifth behind Australian Cameron John. Now Syme is “mega excited” about being back on Scotland’s Golf Coast for his fourth Rolex Series event of the season.
“It was looking positive about getting into the field out of my category, but was then kind of touch and go,” said the Fifer. “There’s been a fair amount of chat about it over the last few weeks with friends and family and stuff and, thakfully, it’s panned out well.
“It’s a massive event. I’ve had a few more messages than normal, I guess. A lot of people are excited that I’m playing, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m staying with my girlfriend this week, which doesn’t happen very often. It’s nice.
“My dad (coach Stuart) is down. He walked a few holes with me yesterday and carried my bag. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s pretty relaxed, but I’m looking forward to getting kicked off on Thursday.”
The goal for the season is crystal clear. “I think getting my European Tour card would be a great achievement for me this year,” he said. “Obviously I had a few more opportunities now than I might have had at the start of the year. This is going to be my fourth Rolex Series event, which is great. I’ve enjoyed my first year on Tour. There’s been a few, quite a lot of positives, but a few missed cuts I’ve not been too pleased about. It’s been close.”
A 13-strong home contingent also includes Stephen Gallacher, who is hoping this event can provide a spark after a disappointing run of form. “Hopefully I can find a bit of form as I’ve been struggling the last three weeks and sometimes playing in a home event can be just what you need and I’m looking forward to it,” said the three-time European Tour winner, who finished fourth in both 2010 and 2014.
“I played terrible, shocking, in fact, at Ballyliffin in the Irish Open last week. When you are coming out of the rough all the time, you can’t play those courses.
“They’ve all been too tough recently for the way I’ve been driving it. You are under pressure all the time when you are playing out of the rough as much as I have. I’ve been working hard so hopefully I can find something this week and this event gives me some confidence. I’ve changed a few things, including my driver, so hopefully that will help.”