Lewis aims to follow McIlroy's Dunhill example
The last time Tom Lewis was here at the Old Course his girlfriend, Lara Cornell, was his caddie and a few hundred watched him win the St Andrews Links Trophy. That was three months ago.
How this 20-year-old's life has changed. Yesterday he was back with the double major-winning caddie Colin Byrne on his bag, with five of the world's top six professionals as rivals and with a few hundred watching on the driving range. But then, may they have been watching Michael Douglas, two bays across, trying to suppress his basic instinct to slice, or perhaps Johan Cruyff, desperately updating the "Cruyff turn"?
Lewis was not fazed, which will be no surprise to anyone who saw him shoot a 65, an amateur record, at the Open two months ago, or, indeed, finish in the top 10 at last week's Austrian Open, his maiden event as a pro. Lewis actually told The Independent yesterday he was "slightly disappointed" with the £15,000 in his first pay packet. "I would have taken it at the start of the week, though," he added. "It was a nice way to ease me on to Tour."
For the rookie the acclimatisation is over. He has six more events to amass the other £190,000 he requires to win his card; and with £3m up for grabs this week, this Dunhill Links could represent so much more to him than the opportunity to share fairways with the likes of Douglas, Cruyff and Sir Bobby Charlton and the rest of the celebrities in this A-listed pro-am.
"This is a big week for me," said Lewis, pointing to the example of Rory McIlroy, who four years ago all but secured his playing privileges when finishing third and winning more than £170,000. "I feel the same way," he said. "My goal is to finish in the top five here if I'm playing really well – and, if not, top 10 would be great. If the conditions stay as they are, if the wind's up and it's warm, it will suit me down to the ground. As amateurs we played a lot of links golf."
Certainly his confidence needs no boosting. "Tom only thinks about winning," said his coach Pete Cowen, who also oversees the likes of Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke and whose clients won seven times in a row from the Open. "Once he gets his card, second place won't interest Tom."
Miss Cornell will be in attendance this week. "It'll be great to have her here," said Lewis. "We have a lot of good memories of this place and it'll be great to bring them back." Those memories are all of 115 days old. And his final-round 67 to win by four in cold and windy conditions may not be a bad form guide for a player rated a tempting 100-1 shot. With or without Lara's assistance.
"Yeah, she did a good job that week," said Lewis. Douglas or Cruyff could do far worse than chuck her the bib.
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