Michael Hoey is targetting a much-improved performance when he tees up at the British Open at Hoylake.
Hoey has played in the Open twice before, once as amateur champion in 2001, and in 2012, missing the cut on both occasions at Royal Lytham.
However, the Northern Irishman has found a much-improved level of consistency this year, and booked his spot in this year’s third major with a seventh-place finish at the French Open last week.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Hoey said he wanted to do a lot better than at Lytham, when, he said, he had been making changes to his swing.
“This time, I feel I’m ready to play a lot better at Hoylake. It’s just great. It’s hard to get into. It’s really hard to qualify for, so I’m just looking forward to doing well.”
"I’m playing the game instead of the science, so it’s good" - Michael Hoey
Hoey credited experience of “Irish conditions” for his good finish at the French tournament and suggested it had also been a benefit for the eventual winner, Graeme McDowell.
Kevin Stadler, who had led from the opening day, was among a number of players who struggled amid bad weather on Sunday, but McDowell and Hoey persevered and found reward.
“Some of the European players struggled, [as they were] not used to the conditions like that. It was probably an advantage for us,” said Hoey.
“I had to go back to the old days, really, and just battle.”
The Ballymoney man pointed out that when there is rain on the US Tour, it is usually accompanied by thunder, which means players are brought in off the course, and that on the European Tour, too, players had little experience of challenging conditions.
“It softens us, we have turned into kinda babies a bit. And then when we do get hard conditions guys struggle, and that’s why level par was good enough for me on Sunday.”
Qualification for the Open is further evidence of a successful and consistent season for Hoey. He has made 15 of his last 19 cuts, and lies 32nd on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai money list.
"It softens us, we have turned into kinda babies a bit. And then when we do get hard conditions guys struggle." - Michael Hoey
He has had five top-ten finishes, and credited his coaches, Johnny Foster and Justin Parsons, with his improved consistency.
“I’ve won five tournaments, but I’ve never had that many top 10s,” he said. “ So that’s really nice.”
Foster and Parsons were working on basic elements of his game, Hoey said, and he is intent on avoiding overly complicated fixes.
“It sounds too simple to be true, and that’s why I haven’t listened in the past. Because they’re just working on club-face alignment, set-up posture, rhythm, ball position...
“Sometimes pro-golfers get too technical. I think a lot of players get sucked into doing something special on their swing, when you really just [should] work on the basics.”
Hoey said his coaches had allowed him to take the pressure off himself, and resist the temptation to make his own tweaks.
“I’m not trying to coach myself all the time. I’m playing the game instead of the science, so it’s good.”