Here is a great article written by Anthony Wolford about Rhys Davies. Rhys and I are playing together at my home club (Olympic) on Saturday. For those of you that do not know Rhys, he is currently ranked #45 in the World Golf Rankings.
Jun 11 2010 by Anthony Woolford, Western Mail
RHYS DAVIES jetted off to San Francisco last night California dreaming about teeing it up with the legends of golf at next week’s US Open.
And the 25-year-old Bridgend tyro heads down Highway 580 from the Golden Gate city to the iconic Pebble Beach course on Monterey Bay reflecting on his route 62 to £200,000 and runner-up spot at the Celtic Manor Wales Open last Sunday.
His Twenty Ten course record takes the European Tour rookie through the 1m barrier on the Ryder Cup money list and his earnings in the Race to Dubai stand at a staggering £852,645 with only English duo Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, plus South African pair Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els having earned more in 2010.
And the meteoric rise from 145th in the world at the start of the year to a career-best 45th following his Celtic Manor exploits last weekend has opened the lid on the potentially lucrative treasure trove that is the World Golf Championship events – a closed shop to only the best players on the globe.
But before Davies can even begin thinking about the £5.82m Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, there’s the small matter of the US, French and Scottish Opens followed by the 150th staging of the Open Championship at St Andrews to occupy the thoughts of the young Welsh star.
The workload means Davies will skip the lucrative BMW International Open, in Munich, in two weeks despite the offer of a private jet to take the European contingent from California to Germany in time for the event.
“This week I’ve allowed myself just to think briefly what’s ahead of me in the next few weeks,” said Davies.
“The focus I will need to get me through this is right up my street and the tension of these events is what I took up the game for.
“This is a massive time for me with world-class events coming thick and fast and, like most players, I love competing in the big events.
“I love rubbing shoulders with big names in big groups out on the course.”
Having mixed with Els, European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and Wales Open winner Graeme McDowell is recent weeks, Davies’ new-found status among the elite of the world game should ensure decent company for the opening two rounds of his second US Open, having played the 2007 event at Oakmont while still an amateur.
When Davies touches down in San Francisco today it will be the first time he’s set foot on Californian soil.
Though the former Walker Cup player spent four years cutting his teeth on the American college circuit, his time was spent mostly in the southern states and east coast of America meaning he will be sailing unchartered waters when hitting the Pebble Beach resort to play in the big event next week. And to acclimatise himself to what’s in store on the course, near Clint Eastwood’s hometown of Carmel, Davies’ preparations will take in some of the toughest courses California has to offer including the Olympic Club, in San Francisco, which hosted the 1998 US Open and will again stage the event in 2012.
“Pebble Beach is now a huge step up to what I’ve been playing this year and this is something you work so hard on the European Tour events for – to be playing the best courses in the world and among world-class fields,” added Davies.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I’m relishing the challenge Pebble Beach poses.
“I want to go there and perform and I know what to expect from the US Open, having played 2007 at Oakmont.
“I appreciate Pebble Beach is going to be completely different, but I know how a US Open golf course is going to be set up.
“It’s going to be mentally demanding and every aspect of your game is going to come under the most intense of pressure.
“Having never played a US Masters and US PGA, it’s difficult to compare, but people seem to think the US Open is the toughest of the lot.
“The Open here is very much weather-dependent and the courses are always set up amazingly and Augusta for the Masters has it’s greens as the only defense. But the US Open is narrow fairways, long rough and very fast greens which is the ultimate combination of toughness.
“I’m playing some tough courses like Olympic in San Francisco to get me used to the grasses I will encounter at Pebble Beach because I’ve never been to California before. It won’t be an exact replica, but as close as you can get and I’m going to Pebble Beach fairly relaxed knowing I’ve got a tough week ahead.
“I keeping my mind fresh and alert for a tough mental and physical examination.
“In Tennessee and the southern states where I played most of my American golf, you play on Bermuda grass fairways and bent grass greens like at the Augusta National, but California is very different.
“It’s the same as the courses I’m playing in the San Francisco area. I’m not putting an overly amount of pressure on myself and I just want to continue in the same vein as I have this season.
“I need to play some top-class golf and have that little bit of luck along the way and I’m going to Pebble Beach hoping to have both of them on my side.”
Davies could not be in a better frame of mind heading into his third Major, having also played the Open Championship at Turnberry last year.
His final-day 62 on the Ryder Cup course at the Celtic Manor last Sunday was as dazzling as the orange shirt he sported.
Two birdies on par fours, six birdies and just one dropped shot in a round containing just 21 putts sent the Hassan Trophy winner rocketing up the leaderboard.
And, though it means another 12 months at least will go by before the Wales Open sees a home winner of the event, even Davies was blown away with the reaction he got from his final-day heroics.
“I think the reaction to what happened on Sunday is a little bigger to what I anticipated,” he said. “I really enjoyed what I achieved on Sunday afternoon making those birdies and two eagles.
“And I was glad to see so many people out there at the Celtic Manor enjoying it alongside me as well.
“I must admit it was a round I really didn’t expect, but one I really did enjoy.
“I knew I was playing well enough that week to shoot a low score, but a 62, and the way I put the score together, took me aback a little bit.
“I believed I played just as well on Saturday as I did on Sunday and sometimes as a professional golfer you’ve got to accept some days the score just doesn’t reflect that.
“The difference between Saturday and Sunday was putts fell for me and those eagles on the eighth and 15th holes helped as well.
“I have shot nine-under scores before, but they’ve always been 63s and not on courses like the Twenty Ten and in the environment of a final day in a European Tour event.
“That has to be the best round of my career so far given I took just 21 putts as well.
“I believe I still have a course record 64 in Morocco and I shot a 63 in a tournament in Kentucky which was a best for the course.
“I was feeling tired on Sunday morning before going out for that final round. I had played a lot of golf and knew Sunday at the Celtic Manor was the final stretch of a stamina-sapping time.
“As a result I bided my time and didn’t push things. When the birdies came, I was away.
Davies’ performance last week also earned rave reviews from the man who beat him into second spot – Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who, like Davies, came through the tough finishing school of American college golf at Alabama State.
McDowell likened Wales’ latest sporting hero to Irish icon Padraig Harrington – being a player who possessed a natural short game but has worked tirelessly at bolting on a long game to become the complete package.
“It was nice to hear the comments from Graeme McDowell in the paper this week as regards me because he’s someone I have a high regard for given the great things he’s done,” said Davies.
“I have developed my long game and I think when I played with him in the 2007 Madrid Masters it was during a bit of a blip for me regards my long game.
“I wasn’t hitting the ball right out of the middle then, but I have worked on it and I have seen big improvements in the last 10 months and results speak for themselves.
“I’m definitely driving the ball better than I ever have.
“It was quite a comparison putting me up there with Padraig Harrington.”
Being likened to the three-time Major winner is just the tonic Davies needs for the biggest couple of weeks in his fledgling life among the stars of world golf.
The long and short of it for the ex-Brynteg Comprehensive School pupil is all aspects of his game need to be on-song if he’s not to hit the rocks at Pebble Beach.
I’ll have a video interview of Rhys posted on Sunday, STAY TUNED AND SHARE THIS WITH A FRIEND