Only a few weeks ago, I wrote about an enforced layoff due to a niggling hip injury providing Grant Forrest the opportunity to rest, reassess, recuperate and reset.
Grant could have viewed this untimely incident as bad luck and extremely annoying as it was slap bang in the middle of the season. Thankfully, as frustrating as it was, he took the time to reflect on where he was with his game and think about what needed to improve in order to achieve his goal of winning on the European Tour. Something that anyone who has seen him play will know he is more than capable of.
Forrest thinks deeply about his game and he made the decision to end his working relationship with his swing coach and seek the opinion of Matt Belsham, who is probably best known for his work with Alex Noren. What he had been working on wasn’t quite going to plan. The intention having been to improve his accuracy off the tee and with his iron play.
His ability to strike the ball solidly and hit it prodigious distances has never been the issue but his accuracy had been letting him down more than he was prepared to accept.
Decision made, after a couple of sessions, he felt he could finally take more ownership of his game and hit the shots he was visualising and intending to hit, which is obviously a very nice place to be on the golf course. Especially when playing tournament golf is how he makes his living.
Having spent a good deal of time with Grant over the last 18 months or so, helping him with his short game and putting, I have got to know him fairly well. He is always polite and punctual, two traits that cost nothing but are to my mind, invaluable.
Grant is not afraid of hard work, he puts in more than his fair share of hours and effort in the gym and on his game. He is also learning, very quickly I might add, the value of working smart. While integrating the changes he was making to his long game, he recognised he had perhaps been neglecting his putting and his recent stats backed that up.
With that in mind, he knew he wasn’t going to improve his putting stats or his scores by merely noticing he had been spending too little time honing his putting skills. He knew he would have to actually do something about it.
On the Monday preceding the Hero Open at The Fairmont, St. Andrews, Grant arrived at the Archerfield Performance Centre at 9am sharp, just as we had agreed. As always, we discussed what his INTENTION was, where his ATTENTION was and it goes without saying, we were going to tackle the situation with a good ATTITUDE.
When his putting goes slightly “off”, it is rarely anything drastic or dramatic. A little tweak here or there, a shift in focus of attention or a slightly different feel. In this instance, the strike off the putter was less than optimal, therefore making his pace control a bit of a challenge. Moving the ball slightly further forward in his stance seemed to do the trick along with experimenting with a left hand below right grip on a few putts.
The data we were picking up on TrackMan was virtually identical with both a conventional grip and left hand low. The difference was something only he could feel.
Long story short, six days later, Grant Forrest was crowned as Hero Open champion 2021 with an astonishing four round total of 24 under par.
Statistically, this was his best ball striking tournament of his professional career in terms of fairways and greens hit by some considerable distance. Opening with consecutive four under par 68s on Thursday and Friday, using a conventional putting grip was pretty solid but somewhat disappointing, considering how well he had played from tee to green. On Saturday he decided to go left hand low with the putter and 62 (10 under par for the day) shots later, he was tied for the lead.
Sunday was going to be a new experience for Grant as he headed out in the last group, tied for the lead with fellow Scot Calum Hill at 18 under par.
Despite making a bogey 5 on the opening hole, just as he had done en route to his 62 the previous day, he didn’t let that phase him. He and his caddie John McLure stuck to their task of assessing and playing one shot at a time, something else Grant has been working on. Being more present in the here and now, focusing on the task and trusting his technique. This shot and this shot alone. “Our big thing all day was one shot at a time, let’s just keep hitting shots and I hit a great 9 iron into 17 nice and close and that really helps and then two great shots into 18. It was a great way to finish.”
I hope for Grant’s sake, he wasn’t as nervous as I was watching him play the back 9. I think he added a few more grey hairs to my ever increasing collection. To his credit, he stuck to his task and played some outstanding golf shots, eventually making birdies on the last two holes to edge out James Morrison who chased him down with a spectacular final round of 63. Thankfully those closing birdies and a final round of 66 was good enough to clinch his first win in the European Tour.
“There are so many emotions”, said Forest after his victory. “To do it in front of everyone who has come up to support me – the last year and a half has been a real challenge on and off the course so I’m just delighted.”
With his mum Audrey, sister Ailsa and girlfriend Christie walking every step and feeling the full spectrum of emotions, in attendance, this was a very proud moment for Grant who dedicated his victory to his late father Graeme.
“I wish he was here to see this, he’d be so chuffed. He’s been the big inspiration and a lot of the reason why I’ve really knuckled down when times were tough.”
With sentiments like that, I doubt there has been a more popular winter on Tour in recent times and it is easy to understand why.
Good things really do happen to good people.
Until next time,