David Lynn: The Masters gets ready for a touch of Lynnsanity
In 18 years as a professional he has only ever won once. Now he is competing on the biggest stage in the world
Guess who? He's English, turns 40 this year and has yet to win a major. Wrong. We are not talking Lee Westwood. David Lynn is at the opposite end of the American golfing experience to the towering figure from Worksop.
Westwood is domiciled at Old Palm in Florida, renting one grand palazzo while his own is built. Lynn is an itinerant tradesman living out of a suitcase, and it is not a Louis Vuitton. He has been driving himself between events where possible and is grateful for the service provided by the PGA Tour, which washes his smalls every week.
Lynn makes his debut at the Masters in what is only his third appearance at a major championship. In his first, the Open at Royal St George's a decade ago, he tied 53rd. In his second, the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last year, he was the bloke who finished eight shots behind Rory McIlroy in second.
That result opened the door to America and an opportunity he thought was only for others. In his 18 years as a professional Lynn has won only once on the European Tour, nine years ago at the KLM Open. He is as far removed from golfing royalty as it is possible to be, yet last week in Houston he shared the final round with McIlroy, and at the Honda Classic, scene of McIlroy's infamous exit, Lynn finally got to play with Tiger Woods.
The meeting was an initiation not only for him, but for an audience that had never heard of David Lynn. "The crowds were amazing," he said. "They love to engage with you. I had five guys following us round shouting, 'Lynnsanity, we love him'. You can't but laugh. Obviously we had a big gallery that day. It was awesome.
"It was my first time playing with him. More importantly it was his first time with me [laughs]. He was approachable, chatting about football, stuff like that.
"I was asking him if he liked his Premiership football. He said not really, they're always diving all over the place. I said, I suppose you are into your rounders are you? Define rounders, he said. That wooden bat and that ball, I said. I used to play that when I was 10 at school. Thought I'd have a bit of craic with him. Like anybody, if you get him on the right day, he is fine." Lynn was finer still, bidding farewell to a labouring Woods on Saturday night and racing all the way to fourth spot on Sunday. Lynn is profiting from a late flowering of his game. After years of bump and grind, he has acquired the ability to score under pressure. Were you to walk down the range at any tournament you would struggle to identify the winner on the basis of technique, because they can all send a ball raking through the ether as if fired from a gun. Lynn's brother is a professional at Trentham Park in Stoke, where they both played as kids. Neither one was technically better, but only one is playing on Tour. "Belief is a big part of it. My brother openly admitted he used to struggle with his nerves. I'd go out with him many times. He had an awesome game. There is not a lot in it. Maybe one shot a round between the top players and the good ones. But when you are grinding shots out every round on tough courses the question is, where does that stroke come from?"
The question is put rhetorically. Lynn does not have a definitive answer. He is learning as he goes along in this environment, banking the good days to use as insurance against the bad. He has never had a coach and is not part of the gym generation. "I learned [at the US PGA] that under the utmost pressure I can compete. I was surprised at how well I handled myself really. I remember standing on the 10th tee thinking: This will be interesting, last nine holes of a major and I'm in the top 10. Let's see what my mind does. I was thriving in the end, really enjoying it. Shame Rory played as well as he did. If it had been closer, perhaps, who knows what might have happened. You ask every golfer, they all think they have a performance like that in them or they wouldn't be doing it."
So what of Augusta? What does he know of it? What does he expect? "Augusta is one of the courses I have at least seen a lot on TV. I have spoken to a good friend of mine who caddied for Henrik Stenson. He talked me through it, so I have an idea. There are obviously shots out there that if you go for the flag and miss you are bringing double [bogey] into play. The shot might be 40 foot left of the pin. It leaves a tough birdie, you might have to work to get par, but you are eliminating the double.
"That's how you have to think around Augusta. I'll play it more than once when I get there in the lead-up to get my eye in. It's all good fun."
And afterwards, what next for the great Lynnsanity? "I turn 40 in October. I'm not naïve. You can see that lots of golfers fade away in their forties, but there are others who do well.
"Look at [Miguel Angel] Jimenez, he has had his best years in his forties. I've always been a guy that has done it my way. I'm not a big gym fanatic, never really had a coach. I just do my own thing.
"Would I have done better with one? Who knows? I might have done worse. And all these guys in gyms. People say they need to do that, but do they? You are walking four, five miles a day, hitting a lot of balls. And doing the gym as well, you could be inviting injury. You need to find your own way, I guess. I've always done that."
Ones to watch
Tianlang Guan The Chinese 14-year-old is the youngest to contest the Masters. The Asia-Pacific amateur champion was born 18 months after Tiger Woods won his first green jacket but can't play in short trousers
Angel Cabrera Five top-10 finishes since his Masters debut in 1999, including victory in 2009. "El Pato" loves this track and waddled nicely into form with an opening 66 in Houston last week
Ryo Ishikawa By a street the coolest golfer on the planet. One day soon the Japanese pin-up will put a score together at a major tournament commensurate with the sharpness of his tailoring
Keegan Bradley Goes for everything. If he can curb his attacking instincts a tad and acquire a little more patience on the greens he has the game to light up Augusta and claim a second major title
Alan Dunbar The latest off the Ulster production line. Dunbar booked his ticket by winning the Amateur Championship at Troon. Turns 23 on the last day of April and pro after the US Open in June
Tiger Woods This is where it all started for the reconstituted world No 1. What better place than Augusta to claim his 15th major and end the hiatus that stretches back to the 2008 US Open?
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