Sports

Volatile Wallace geared up to play with ‘hero’ Woods

V Krishnaswamy Portrush (Northern Ireland) July 17 | Updated on July 17, 2019 Published on July 17, 2019

Matt Wallace of England, the winner of Par-3 contest, and Devon Bling, a master of great shots   -  AFP

At the Open, there is a lot of focus on the big guns, ranging from the seemingly unstoppable Brooks Koepka, all-time favourite Tiger Woods, to defending champion Francesco Molinari and local superhero Rory McIlroy.

There are other possible contenders geared to play, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and so on. With such headliners, Matt Wallace would expectedly be a little low on the “watch-out-for” list.

Yet on the eve of the 148th Open, he seems to be making the news, after being paired with his ‘hero’ Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed.

He has also come under spotlight after he was condemned by celebrated coach Pete Cowen, whose wards include Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland.

Playing with the greats

Wallace confessed he thought someone was pulling his leg by texting him the draw, showing Woods’ and Reed’s names paired with his.

Wallace’s career graph took sharply after his triumph in the 2018 Hero Indian Open.

He was 152nd before that week, but has now risen into Top-25 of the world and sits a career-best 23rd right now.

Under scrutiny

However, Wallace was also in news on Wednesday following severe criticism by coach Pete Cowen for his apparent misbehaviour with his caddie, Dave McNeilly, in recent weeks.

Cowen said: “He is a complete idiot and the European Tour has to do something about it.”

“He needs a ban. It’s a form of cheating because you’re putting your opponent off,” Cowen told The Times.

Wallace has since apologised for his misbehaviour and for berating his caddie.

On Wednesday, Wallace’s agent, Chubby Chandler, a former European Tour player, hit back at Cowen.

Chandler told the Daily Telegraph: “It’s a shame on the eve of Matt playing with Tiger at such a special event that something has come up for which Matt has already apologised. Matt is determined to control his emotions.”

“Matt and Dave have a terrific relationship and are very close. Matt is only in his third full season as a Tour professional and his rise from the mini-tours has been remarkable.” he said.

Chandler then added: “It’s funny, I remember a young player who I was on Tour with in the 70s who was renowned for his tantrums and snapping clubs. His name was Pete Cowen.”

‘Dream come true’

Meanwhile, Wallace, who is seen as one of England’s big hopes at The Open this week, stayed away from the controversy.

On his pairing, he said: “I got a text about the draw a bit before it came out and I was just searching through and saw my name and thought it was a bit of a spoof,” said the 29-year-old.

“It’s a proud moment to play with him in an Open. Hopefully I can stick to my game plan and produce in front of him. Massively this is a dream come true. He is my hero and I am playing with him in an Open...”

“This is my second Open and I was lucky to play with Padraig (Harrington) and Bubba Watson in my first... and now this,” he added.

Wallace’s best at a Major at the start of this year was T-19 at the 2018 US PGA Championship.

But this year, he was T-3 at PGA behind Koepka and Dustin Johnson and T-12 at US Open, where he played with Koepka. Overall he has had two seconds and two thirds.

He added: “What I do know is that I’m playing some seriously good golf at the moment and Chubby, who has seen multiple Major winners, is telling me my game is set up to win Majors. I feel that I’m ready to win a Major Championship. Will it be this year? Who knows?”

Published on July 17, 2019
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