By Tony Jimenez
TROON, Scotland (Reuters) – Little-known Ryan Evans was unfazed after being handed a dream pairing with Colin Montgomerie in the British Open third round on Saturday, so much so that the rookie ended up outplaying the eight-times European number one.
Evans, who shook off some early nerves with an opening birdie, went round in 74 while his 53-year-old Scottish partner Montgomerie slid to a 79 in blustery winds of up to 20mph on the west coast of Scotland.
“I just tried not to let the occasion get to me on the first tee,” the Englishman told Reuters. “Colin was first on the tee and hit one down the middle so I thought ‘let’s rip the driver and get going’.
“It’s the biggest club in the bag and thankfully I hit a great shot straight down the middle. It was nice then to hole my putt on the green.”
Evans, who secured his 2016 tour card at Qualifying School,
said he enjoyed playing alongside Montgomerie who is a member of Royal Troon and whose father was once club secretary.
“He’s had a great career, he’s a local hero, this is his golf course, so it was nice to play with a lot of people watching and a lot of support for him,” said the 29-year-old.
“We had a good chat. He was asking how things have started for me in my career…it was good to speak to him especially after he made a birdie.
“When he made a bogey though I thought it was best to stay out of his way,” giggled Evans.
“I didn’t really feel in awe of him, he’s just another golfer, just like me (but) if I can get anywhere near his achievements in my career I’ll be more than happy.”
Evans missed the cut eight times in 13 tour events ahead of the third major championship of the year, achieving his best result when finishing tied 12th at the Mauritius Open.
His prize was a cheque for $17,000 but the first-year professional said he had to push the financial implications of the constant traveling on tour to the back of his mind.
“I’ve got some backing at home,” said Evans. “A friend of my club is supporting me and also a couple more friends…I’ve got to try and forget about what each week is costing me.
“I’ve just got to go and play golf and that will take care of it. If you start thinking how much money it’s costing every week there’s only one way you can go and that’s down.”
Evans has found it tough during his early days as a professional.
“My first goal this season was to finish in the top 110 to guarantee full playing rights next year,” he added. “It’s always difficult coming straight out of tour school because you’re never going to get in every event.
“That’s still my target and then next year I can set new goals. You’ve just got to trust yourself. You are here for a reason, your game is good enough.”
(Editing by Martyn Herman)