Andrew Johnston believes his performance at last year’s Scottish Open revived his confidence, and possibly his career, as he aimed to take pressure off himself in a bid to improve results.
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But the big revelation at the Renaissance Club came after his sensational final-round 62, when he revealed in an emotionally-charged interview with Sky Sports how he had to work hard to overcome struggles with his mental health.
There were signs in the middle of the 2018 season that all was not well with Beef when he withdrew from the French Open due to “personal reasons”, while his form was also suffering as he began an alarming slide down the world rankings.
When Johnston missed the cut at the Irish Open last year, his ranking had plummeted to 337th, but just a week later in Scotland, his stunning final-day charge earned him a tie for fourth, his first top-10 finish of 2019, as well as booking a place in the field at The 148th Open the following week.
On his arrival at Royal Portrush, much of the focus was on his open and honest discussion with Tim Barter which he is certain he needed to get off his chest in order to rediscover the Beef that the fans know and adore.
Reflecting on his past year during an interview to announce his new partnership with PUMA Golf, Johnston said: “I’ve always had such an amazing relationship with the fans and crowds, which I can’t ever be thankful enough for as it’s been incredible.
“The last couple of years I don’t think I’ve really been myself and I almost wanted to avoid the interaction, whereas more recently it has been great. Back at Wentworth I was walking around and cracking a few jokes here and there. I got home that week and just thought ‘do you know what, that was pretty good’.”
Johnston’s battle to contain his emotions was evident as he reflected not just on his mental health struggles, but also a resurgence in form that he feared would never happen. And the relief was far-reaching.
“It was an important day because I hadn’t played well for a while and to come out and shoot nine under on a Sunday and move up the leaderboard in a Rolex Series event was great,” he added. “It was a nice relief for me in knowing that I could still shoot a low one and that my game hadn’t completely disappeared.
“It’s funny, I looked back at a picture from when I started with (his coach) Hugh Marr just before the British Masters in 2018 and compared it to a picture he took of me in Italy in October. He sent me the two and it showed where my swing has changed and how much better it has got over the past year. I was like ‘wow’.
“Looking at things like that and having a good week in Scotland, it makes you think ‘right, can I do it again?’. And then I had a really good weekend in Sweden and I was saying ‘let’s do it again’ and I was building that confidence back up without putting pressure on myself to do it again… if that makes sense!
“That’s where my game previously started to shift, where it started to go downhill, because I was like ‘well I can win a tournament, so I’ve got to win again’. You’re not ever guaranteed to win again though and it’s not easy, because there are so many good players and so many variables that can happen.
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“Sometimes you can come off the course thinking you’ve not played well that week but you’ve finished in the top-five, then other weeks you can feel like you’ve played so well and you finish 30th. That’s just golf, so taking that pressure off results just allows you to go out and play and have fun.”
Beef attributes much of his turnaround to following the popular trend of employing a sports psychologist, a move which paid handsome dividends as it slashed his stress levels resulting in a run of vastly-improved results.
“I started to learn what I needed to best focus on golf. Over the last few years I’d say I was putting too much pressure on myself and trying too hard, instead of focusing on just going out and playing and not worrying about results as much.
“I would be stressing about making a cut or not finishing high enough in a tournament and what people would think and things like that. By understanding that and learning about myself, that’s really helped and I could really see that in the second half of last year.
“In the past I even found it fairly difficult to play at Wentworth because of the crowds and I always put pressure on myself there, whereas last year was one of the first times I walked around and I had so much fun at that event with the crowds.
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