Storm keen to get his form back on track

FEELING PRESSURE: Hartlepool's Graeme Storm is approaching 5million euros in prize money, but admitted he only saw 30 per cent of those winnings

FEELING PRESSURE: Hartlepool's Graeme Storm is approaching 5million euros in prize money, but admitted he only saw 30 per cent of those winnings

First published in Golf The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

Hartlepool golfer Graeme Storm gets his 2012 off to a competitive start in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, but he reveals to Golf Writer Paul Fraser that life as a professional golfer is not as glamarous as you would imagine.

IT is easy to overlook the intense pressure on a professional golfer to perform on the European Tour. After all, since breaking on to the scene back in 1999, Graeme Storm has collected millions in earnings.

Over the course of the next few weeks, starting with his first event of the year at the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, he is likely to break through the 5m euros barrier for the first time.

But beneath the figures lie a golfer with an overwhelming desire to succeed. He may not be competing with the likes of Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy for the right to be regarded as world No 1, but he is acutely aware he has the ability to deliver over a four-day tournament through a season.

Yet his success at the French Open in 2007 remains his only main Tour triumph as a professional, something he has craved a repeat of since in the hope of becoming a permanent fixture in the Race to Dubai's end of season showpiece.

A self-confessed worrier thinks his failure to establish himself on the Tour's top 60 in the last two seasons has largely been down to his tendency to dwell on his poor shots or rounds. Having introduced a psychologist in recent weeks, the Rockliffe Hall touring pro is hoping to see immediate results.

"All golfers get frustrated with their shots and it is no different as a pro," said Storm, before jetting off to the Far East for this season's opener. "As an amateur it's not your livelihood, so it's easier.

"For me when I was an amateur it was about striving to win the Walker Cup, win the Amateur Championship, I did all of that.

"But even then there is not as much pressure.

"There might be from those around you. They expect. But on yourself there's less pressure because it is not going to affect your family. It's not going to affect how you pay your mortgage, things like that.

"People don't see the weekly pressures. I probably only see 30 per cent of what I earn. Others will probably look at what I have earned and think he is doing alright.

"If you knew, you would understand the worries I have as a golfer. I'm not like a footballer, who gets paid regardless of the performances he puts in, I am paid depending on the level of my performances."

As well as turning to a sports psychologist again - something he did earlier in his career - the 33-year-old has made moves to change a number of other things for the new season.

Together with fitness coach Terri Knight - the daughter of Rockliffe's golf director Ian Knight - and a programme mapped out by Lee Westwood's fitness coach, Steve McGregor, Storm is working on improving his posture, mobility and general fitness.

His caddie has also been a bone of contention in recent years, so after numerous changes he will have Matteo Manassero's former bag-man Ryan McGuigan, a Northern Irishman, carrying his clubs this year.

Storm is hoping the adjustments will lead to a return to his best form, having seen his year on year earnings drop to 311,308 euros in 2011, which was the lowest total since making his comeback to the Tour in 2005.

"The pressure's there because you put so much pressure on yourself," said Storm, as he relaxed in the club-house at the Hartlepool Golf Club where he is an honorary member.

"You know what you can do and you know what you should be doing. If you scrutinise it like I do when you hit a bad shot you can really damage your game.

"It's about getting rid of some of that and moving on. I don't want to dwell on things. I don't want to be thinking about the cut line.

"Or when I am on the leaderboard, I don't want to think about falling down.

"When I have struggled a bit it's been because I have thought backwards instead of forwards.

"The perfect example was The Open last year. Making six at 18 that made me miss the cut, that really hit my confidence massively for weeks after. It was pure anxiety."

Having enjoyed a rare uninterrupted Christmas and New Year with his wife, Sara, and two young children, he is now intent on making a promising start to 2012.

"I finished strongly last season, especially the 15th at Valderrama in the Andalucia Masters, a course I detest, was great. I just turned up and tried to enjoy it. I was very relaxed about it," said Storm, who regularly appeared at the Volvo Masters and then played in the first climax of the Race to Dubai in 2009.

"My main goal is to get in to the top 60 for the Race to Dubai.

"That's the big goal. First, though, I have got to get through week by week to try to better what I did last year (finishing 71st in the rankings).

"If I put the work in then hopefully I will get rewards out of it. I want to enjoy it more.

"I want to know I have done the work, ready to go and hopefully the results will come with it."

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