By Kent Gray
Rayhan Thomas has worked on a lower ball flight and higher expectations from his putter as he looks to forget fresh frustration and a lingering links what if at the 123rd Amateur Championship beginning today.
The 18-year-old Indian opens his assault on the British Am at 1.24pm Monday at Royal Aberdeen (4.24pm UAE time) before an 8.50am (11.50am UAE time) second round tee time at nearby Murcar Links on Tuesday.
The Dubai-domiciled teen is one of 288 golfers from 38 countries looking to advance from the 36-holes of strokeplay qualifying to the matchplay phase of the Europe’s leading amateur event. Only 64 players will advance to the knockout stages at Royal Abderdeen which culminates in a 36-hole final on Saturday.
Thomas is looking to avenge the agony of his near miss at Royal Portrush last year when he missed the matchplay phase by a stroke and is in a buoyant mood despite wasting a golden opportunity at the recent St Andrews Links Trophy when he went from contending through 27 holes to inextricably missing the 36-hole cut.
“After the Links Trophy I was a bit disappointed, played really well and was in contention after 27 holes but unfortunately had a bad finish but I’ve been working on some things including keeping the ball flight down a bit further,” Thomas told GolfDigest ME.com
“I’ve also been working on my lag putting as well, I think I’ve figured something out. So I’m looking forward to this week. I struck the ball really well in the practice rounds, I’ve got a good feel for the greens as well so I think we’re going to have a good week.”
Thomas has played Royal Aberdeen twice and Murcar once in practice and has conquered a game plan for the links land tests in Scotland’s North East.
“Murcar Links is playing sort, a lot of irons off the tee, a very tricky, strategic golf course while Royal Aberdeen is a little longer, a little wider off the tee but with a lot more shots into the wind…some of the holes you are hitting 2 irons into par-4s and stuff.
“There is a score to be made but it’s just not trying to force anything, that will be key, trying not to be too aggressive and taking my medicine when I have too. This week’s goal is as always, just have fun, play as good as I can, give it 100 percent…that’s all I can do.”
Thomas, like every player, certainly has every incentive to play well with the winner of The Amateur gaining a place in the field for the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie next month as well as invites to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open.
Several Open champions have played in The Amateur Championship previously including Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nick Faldo, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. The 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia won The Amateur at Muirfield in 1998.
England’s Harry Ellis won the title last year, battling back from four down with five to play in the 36-hole final at Royal St George’s.