Pete Cowen: Players should make hay whilst the sun shines

Hitting form at the right time is crucial in a golfer’s season so it’s key you don’t get fatigued and take advantage of the Rolex Series and Majors, especially when it’s a Ryder Cup year.

I know it’s tough to call but I think Brooks Koepka has the best chance of lifting the Claret Jug at The Open with the form he’s in. It’s great to see that ‘Poults’ is playing brilliantly again as well – especially with it being a Ryder Cup year. 

A big thing with The Open is that if you get the luck of the draw, you’ll get a chance but if you don’t you’ll struggle to make it past two rounds even if you’re playing well. The draw plays an integral part in links golf because the weather can play such a big role in proceedings. 

I’ve been working with last month’s US Open winner on his short game but it all transfers through to other areas of the swing. Claude Harmon is his swing coach and gets lots of credit for his success but you’ve got to be aware it’s his whole team, not just Claude that has helped him become a multiple Major champion. He’s got a strength coach, short game coach, swing coach, caddie among others behind him so it’s a huge team effort. If you put a good team together, the player will play his best golf.

Graeme McDowell has been making vast improvements on the physical side of his game. He’s improved his clubhead speed by around 8mph which is massive for a Tour player and has obviously added distance to his swing. G-Mac is playing decent and has a chance of turning his year around if he can perform well at the prestigious Rolex Series events.

All in all, the players that I’m coaching are doing well. I’m predicting that out of the top 60 that qualify for the European Tour’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship, I’ll coach 10 of them so it’ll be interesting to see how they all get on and see if I can have any winners like I did two seasons ago when Matt Fitzpatrick lifted the biggest title of his career. What an unforgettable moment that was. 

With The Open fast approaching and the qualification race for The Ryder Cup heating up, it’s going to be a tense period for the players because there’s going to be some top talents that miss out on facing the USA in Paris. If I was captain of the team I’d want 12 picks because I think that could make a difference when it comes down to the event. It would probably only be two picks different than the way it is formed now but that could be crucial. 

Much was made of Francesco Molinari’s decision to play on the PGA Tour rather than at the HNA Open de France where his Ryder Cup chances would have been more enhanced. But Molinari has already played the Ryder Cup and won it so is it that integral to him to be part of it again? 

I’d say his career is more important and he had to consolidate his PGA Tour card so competing (and winning) in the Quicken Loans National and opting to skip the French Open – which is one of his favourite European Tour events – was a brave but understandable decision. 

Unfortunately for Francesco, the World Ranking points for the Ryder Cup didn’t count in this event because it was on at the same time as a Rolex Series event. However, he’s currently in the qualification places and if he continues playing the way he is, there’s no doubt he will be in Thomas Bjørn’s European team whether it’s as a wildcard or an automatic qualifier.  

I think there’s far too much money in every sport. You’re not going to tell a footballer to turn down £250,000 a week and play for £100,000 instead. It’s just what’s put in front of them. I always say “make hay whilst the sun shines” because the golden goose isn’t always going to be there. 

The problem with prizemoney in golf,  is that it’s a little bit like box office movies where you’ve got the lead stars that get paid a fortune and then you’ve got the extras. You’ve got to remember that most of the guys playing sports are ‘extras’ but in golf more than other sports, the extras are still getting paid extremely well even if they’re not winning and just making cuts. 

The game of golf is unfortunately dying on its feet especially in the north of England where I’m from and we still rely on Tiger Woods to drive people towards the game. At the moment, nobody can match Tiger as the dominant figure of the sport but the one player I think that could certainly boost the Asian market is Haotong Li. He is a top-class golfer. If he can learn how to play rather than just hit, watch out because he is an unbelievable talent that I’m fortunate enough to work with.