Exclusive: Robert Dinwiddie US Open Q&A
Twelve months ago Rob Dinwiddie was preparing to make his US Open debut. Matt Cooper talks to him about the experience.
The last few years have been pretty exciting for Durham’s Robert Dinwiddie because things just keep getting better.
He graduated from US college golf with 11 wins, turned pro having played Walker Cup and collected a host of top amateur titles, and then two wins in 2007 saw him promoted from the Challenge Tour at the first time of asking.
The upward curve continued in 2008 as five top ten finishes earned Dinwiddie second place in the Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
The other highlight of last year came in June when he made his major championship debut in the US Open at Torrey Pines.
Europeans are supposed to struggle in the event, but Dinwiddie took fewer putts than anyone in the field and topped the Total Putting Stats on his way to a highly creditable 36th.
Who better, then, to talk to ahead of this year’s US Open?
Our Matt Cooper had a chat with Rob, discussing major debuts, the difficulty of US Open conditions and his curious habit of shooting super low scores on Fridays (in 2007 and 2008 he bettered his Thursday score by four shots or more on no less than 14 occasions).
Golf365: Hi Rob, let’s start with Qualifying for the US Open because it’s a bit of an unusual experience for the players.
Rob Dinwiddie: Yeah, I really like it. It can be a bit tough playing 36 holes straight after four days of competition elsewhere but it’s a good atmosphere.
Golf365: I was down at Walton Heath this year for the first time and I was amazed – I expected small galleries but there were thousands of spectators and they were just all over the place.
Rob Dinwiddie: It depends who’s playing – last year when I qualified there were only two blokes following my group! Funnily enough it worked in my favour. I got chatting to them and said, “I think I need a few birdies here.” Then I birdied six of my last eight holes and got in. That just wouldn’t happen in a normal event but I quite liked it.
Golf365: The other aspect that stood out for me was the thrill qualifying gave the players – they were excited in a different way, almost like kids again.
Rob Dinwiddie: I was like that last year. I had a five hour drive home afterwards and I was so excited I spent the entire trip thinking about what was coming up. It was a dream come true – just what I always thought about as a kid growing up.
Golf365: It’s amazing that just a few years ago the US Open was very difficult for a non-American to break into, but International Qualifying has totally changed that.
Rob Dinwiddie: Definitely, I’d almost say it’s the easiest major to qualify for – well, the same as the Open at least. It’s a great opportunity for us and I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t have a go at it. I suppose the players on marginal cards or with young families might not want the potential expense, but otherwise it’s such a fantastic prospect – 11 places in a major and, what, only 60 or 70 of us playing?
Golf365: Okay, so you’ve qualified for your first major, you’re excited, you’re in a great field. What’s that like?
Rob Dinwiddie: Just registering at the start of the week – something that simple – is brilliant. It’s the US Open! You’re looking at a golf course that is brutal but so beautifully prepared – the best and purest greens I’ve seen, the best conditioning, on the Californian Coast. All US Opens are played on great courses but Torrey Pines was fantastic. And we’re treated like kings, it’s pretty special.
Golf365: Most weeks hackers wander up and down the range being awed by you and your colleagues. But faced with Tiger, Mickelson, Vijay Singh … did that make you a little bit like us, so to speak?
Rob Dinwiddie: Tiger definitely. I really wanted to try and catch some glimpses of him, but actually didn’t see too much. I think on the third day I passed him on the range as I left to tee-off and had a little sneaky look. I probably saw more of him when I qualified for the Wachovia Championship at Quail Hollow a few years ago.
Golf365: Is there any sense of the Europeans pulling for each other after the experience of qualifying?
Rob Dinwiddie: Sure, that happened. When you get off the course you scan the scores and you’re looking out for friends, or just fellow Europeans. There was also that team spirit aspect because last year a few of us were making major debuts so we were all a bit pumped up. And I went for dinner with Ross McGowan a few times so we’d discuss things.
Golf365: The conditions at US Opens are often said to be alien to European players. What would you rank as the toughest aspect?
Rob Dinwiddie: There are a few. The rough is really thick. As an example I found the rough one day and thought I could get sand iron at it. I was only about 20 feet off the fairway, took a swing and moved it about five yards! Other times you’re left with nothing better than 7-iron. It’s like that around the greens too, so missing them leaves you with some very difficult shots. You have to manage the course so well – it’s a mental battle.
Golf365: The other standout feature every year is fast greens but that didn’t seem to bother you as you topped the putting stats.
Rob Dinwiddie: I love fast greens and I like bent grass greens. When I was at university in the States we played a course in Nashville that had greens at 13.5 on the stimpmeter and I loved it. But the greens at Torrey Pines were so pure. Just to know that if you hit the right line the ball will drop gives you lots of confidence.
Golf365: Moving on from the US Open, you mentioned Ross McGowan earlier and the pair of you seem to be part of a really strong generation of young European players. Do you all feel part of something special?
Rob Dinwiddie: Well I know those of us who broke out in 2007 have done well – myself, Ross, Michael Lorenzo Vera. Then there are others from the Challenge Tour before and after 2007 plus Rory McIlroy and now Shane Lowry. So, yeah, I think we do have a young and strong set of players.
Golf365: Scott Verplank implied that the PGA hadn’t seen an amateur win because it is too strong. I’m not quite sure about that myself.
Rob Dinwiddie: I didn’t know he’d said that. But you can take these things two ways. Either it means the European Tour is weaker and so amateurs can win on it. Or it means the young players and amateurs on the European Tour are good enough to win against high-class experienced professionals. I’d go with that myself.
Golf365: Amateur golf seems really strong these days. 15 years ago US college golf was seen as the way to go and that’s what you did, but you were also part of the English Golf Union set-up so had the best of both worlds almost.
Rob Dinwiddie: The EGU have helped out a lot. It used to be that you went out to America to get some competitive college tournaments under your belt in the winter before returning for the summer events at home. But the lads in the England squads now get that competitive golf by
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