THINGS have not gone to plan for Graeme Storm this year, but a surprise appearance at this week’s US Open could provide the perfect escape for him to give 2014 a belated start.
As Storm heads in to his first round at Pinehurst tonight in his second appearance at the second major of the year, the Hartlepool golfer can at least head in to this one without expectation weighing heavily on his shoulders.
With the exception of his impressive international qualifying performance for this week’s US Open at Walton Heath a little more than a fortnight ago, Storm has struggled to post good tournament scores over four days and that has left him with work to do to secure his European Tour card.
He has made just four cuts from his 15 events on the Tour this year having been unable to find the magic touch on the greens to match his much-improved approach play. Could Pinehurst, in fantastic shape, be any different?
“There’s no expectation on me at all at the US Open,” said Storm. “At a major championship nobody expects me to make the cut never mind do well, especially when you look at my results. On form I haven’t got a chance.
“But I might go there and relax, do well and it could propel me to the next level in my season. I put the US Open in my schedule to give me another tournament. You just never know with golf. Tee to green I am fine. I’m swinging the best I have swung. I am playing well.”
The statistics back Storm up. On his way to finishing 70th in the BMW PGA Championship in late May he was ranked fourth in greens in regulation and in the top 20 for fairways hit. But he said: “I was 150th or something stupid in putting. That’s the way my game is at the moment.”
Storm warmed up for his trip to Carolina by shooting a 63 in the Rockliffe Hall Pro-Am last Friday, but appearing in front of thousands at Pinehurst with millions watching on TV will be a completely different proposition.
“It was fun shooting the 63 and it shows again that I am playing well, I just haven’t been scoring well,” said Storm. “Hopefully if I can score well at the US Open, even if it was anywhere around level par, on a given day, it is a confidence builder.
“The thing is, you can look at my scores and you can see high scores and low scores. There’s no continuity and that’s been the problem. That’s why I am missing lots of cuts.
“It’s dealing with pure pressure. To correct it is the hardest thing in the world. It’s the element of pressure. When you are younger it doesn’t bother you as much. When you are older, everything escalates, particularly if you are under pressure from other things as well. People look at my scores and think I’m am playing terrible, but I am not.”
Storm is not a stranger to playing golf in America. This will be the fourth major he has played Stateside, but the first since finishing 62nd in the USPGA Championship at Southern Hills in August 2007. “I was leading by two from John Daly after a first round 65 at Southern Hills, Tiger Woods won it,” he Storm.
As well as an appearance as an amateur at the Masters 14 years ago, the Hartlepool pro then made his US Open debut at Winged Foot in 2006. That year he also qualified from Walton Heath and he wants to enjoy the occasion more this time – and maybe even taste shock success like another former qualifier.
“I know about the history of who has won around Pinehurst in 2005,” said Storm. “The last US Open winner there was Michael Campbell, who qualified from Walton Heath. Maybe one of us from Walton Heath will spring a surprise this time. Who knows with this game.
“Unless you are Tiger Woods in his prime, you can’t predict a winner of the US Open. The courses are set up so tough. You could just throw a dart at somebody’s name. At the US Open any missed shots can really hurt you. It might be the last major I play in.
“You don’t know what’s around the corner. I don’t. I can’t tell you whether I will keep my card, what I will be doing. I think I have the answers and it custard pies me in the face. It’s hard work.”