In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Jack Senior talks about bouncing between tours, playing with the number one player in the world and making another start at The Open Championship
It’s great to be back at The Open this week, and it’s nice coming in with a little bit of form. I’ve been fortunate to play three of the last four, and I’m really happy that I managed to get through last week and be back playing against the world’s best. There’s no other Championship like it, and it’s the one Major that every British player would love to win. I also really enjoy links golf as it’s what I grew up playing and feel is a strength of mine, so I’m happy that I’ve got another shot. I haven’t played as well as I would have liked in the past, and although there’s no guarantees I’ll continue the form I had last week, hopefully I can stick to my processes that worked in another great field last week and have worked for a while now, and see where we end up.
It’s been a long road to get to where I want to be, but I’m a big believer that the more and more you put yourself in new positions, the more you’ll feel comfortable. It’s the same with The Open; I’ve been here a few times before now, so it’s something I feel more comfortable playing in and handling the emotions of.
I’ve battled on the Challenge Tour for eight years, I’ve been in between both Tours for a number of years, but I do think that once you’ve done something once you remember the feelings you felt, and you can learn from those feelings and use them to help guide you on what you need to be doing – whether its controlling emotions, breathing, or committing to every shot. And I think that’s why the top of the leaderboard doesn’t scare me, because I’ve been there at every level I’ve played at. It’s something I continually take confidence from, because there’s not many people that can say that.
I think when I got my European Tour card it helped that confidence, because I really felt comfortable playing at the top of the leaderboard on the Challenge Tour. When I won the two play-offs I won, I actually felt relaxed, because if I was there it meant my game was in a good place. This year I’ve felt a little bit more comfortable, a lot of cuts and weekends, and although I’ve had two top tens and it just hasn’t gone how I’d like it, I keep learning. And now I’ve played in the final group in Qatar and in the final group on Saturday in Scotland with Jon Rahm. How can I ever fear somebody now when I’ve played with the Number One player in the world? I can go back and draw off that experience, and know that I’ve obviously done something right if I’ve played with him.
I was trying to use that mentality last week coming down the stretch, because I was aware of The Open spot. I said to my caddie on the 18th ‘what do you think I need to do?’. He told me birdie would secure it but par might be enough, so I had to give myself a chance at birdie, but I also knew the worst thing I could possibly do was hit it left and down the slope and risk bogey. It was a really big week for me, because a top ten in a Rolex Series event is going to catapult me up the Race to Dubai Rankings, and there was also the chance of playing in The Open, so that experience of being able to deal with those emotions really helped me there. It means a lot too, because I was gutted to have to make the decision to miss Final Qualifying a couple of weeks ago at a course I’ve grown up on to focus on Ireland, so to get that spot was gratifying.
When you have a positive experience like last week, it’s a confidence builder. I’ve had the highest of highs in this game. If you want to go far back, things like the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur, and then my two wins on the Challenge Tour. You’ve got to take the highs when you get them, because you don’t know how many you’re going to have. When you have a result like I did in Scotland in a field like that, it’s only going to increase confidence and hopefully I can build on that.
On the other side of things, I’ve also had the lowest of lows in this game, but I always think you learn so much more from a negative experience because it’s something you need to get yourself out of. I’ll openly admit that I walked off at Galgorm Castle when I was on the Challenge Tour when I was really struggling with my game, and I just thought I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take this anymore. I took five or six weeks off and with my team we just had to find a way out of the slump I was in. It can be so difficult when it’s not going your way but at the end of the day, you’ve got to try and draw on those negative experiences. I think sometimes you’ve got be honest with yourself that it’s not working and if you continue to do the same things it’s not going to work, so you have to change something to get some positive vibes back in your game.
But I also think when you know you’ve been in the lowest possible place you can be while playing golf, it stands you in good stead for any adversity that happens on the golf course. What happened on 11 last week was unfortunate and unlucky, but I just made sure I was ready to play the 12th. I was muttering to myself and said to my caddie: “we’ve got to start again here”. That’s one hole, we’ve still got plenty of chances, and plenty of holes to go and I finished really strong on Saturday, which led me to be confident going into Sunday. At the end of the day, you’re always going to have one bad hole or one bit of bad luck in 72 holes, and it’s just waiting for that week where you hit a poor shot but you get the better bounce back into play or something. You have to have a bit of that happen, because the quality of players in the fields mean you’ve got to have a little bit of luck too.
When you experience those real peaks and troughs of the game, you realise that you really can’t do this game on your own – even though sometimes you think you can. There’s so much that goes on in the golf bubble, you need as much support as you can, and I’m lucky to have people like my coach Ryan Dône, who has been there by side since day one. He’s the pro at the club I grew up at Heysham, and he probably started teaching me when I took up the game when I was five years old. I think he thinks of me quite like a son more than anything, and it’s great because he knows my golf game inside out, and is always willing me to do well.
When I was struggling about four of five years ago, we decided to get a blueprint of my swing that I could go back to. I’m 32 years old, I’m not going to reinvent my swing, so we believe we’ve got to go with what’s going to get me the best results in the next ten years of my career. And that change was taking a video when I feel like I’m swinging it really well, and now then we’re always trying to get back to that blueprint – it’s obviously hard to keep that technique in different conditions, so when I feel things aren’t quite there we go back to that blueprint and do the same drills.
I think that switch is what really helped me go full circle at Galgorm a couple of years after I had that low point. It was never a course I felt suited to or thought I’d win at, but I ended up winning my second Challenge Tour event there a couple of years later. And that was down to the work I did with my coach, enabling me to get round a course I didn’t feel comfortable around.
I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that last week I played well either, because it was the first time I’d really spent a couple of days with him in a while because of Covid and him teaching. It helped because he could get feedback of how I was feeling and a little bit of strategy as well, and it’s like having a second set of eyes there. We went back to basics really and did a lot of drills working on my backswing, because I always feel like if I have that in the right position my follow through will be too, and we also worked on the fluidity of my putting stroke.
But I also couldn’t have done any of it without my fiancé. She’s been there every step of the way, including the times where I’ve come home in despair, and it was great to have her up there last week. It’s obviously great to have friends out here, but having someone that close to you does make a difference – especially in the times we’re in because it’s not easy to constantly travel, and it can be lonely. She caddies for around four to six weeks of the year too and we’ve won together, so while I’ll have my regular caddie for The Open, she’ll be doing it in the coming weeks and it will be great to have her by my side again. She’s a good player herself – a plus four handicap and she teaches golf at a private school - and I don’t know what it says but last week was the first event she’s been able to travel to this year. We’ve been together a long time, and it’s just an amazing thing when she’s able to be out here, because having the right support system in this game can make all the difference.