British Open

Watson shows debutant Wu the secrets of links

Five-time British Open winner lends a hand to China's first-timer during practice round

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 4:42am

China's debutant Wu Ashun prepared for his maiden major in the most venerable of company, playing a practice round and getting valuable tips from five-time Open winner Tom Watson.

All of 35 years, 69 professional victories, 34 British Open appearances, and eight major wins separate Wu and Watson, but the veteran American was more than happy to give Wu the benefit of his wisdom.

Watson, 62, has a habit of helping the rookies settle in, as he did with English protégé Tom Lewis at Royal St George's in 2011.

"Tom was very much a gentleman and could not have been more gracious," said Wu, 28, who qualified courtesy of third place at international final qualifying in Thailand in March.

"He was especially helpful in terms of explaining the nature of links golf and the differences from the American-style parkland courses I am accustomed to playing in Asia and it was totally different, bumping and running, especially on the approaches to the greens, but I felt I got into the way of it pretty quickly," China's number-two ranked player said.

Liang Wenchong, the top-ranked player, failed to qualify in a last-ditch attempt at the Scottish Open last week, where he missed the cut, but Wu also consulted him, saying: "He has played the Open championship twice and he gave me some tips too, more from a course management point of view.

"It's not only my first experience of links golf but my first time in the UK and Scotland, and when I was handed my player's badge and clipped it on to my visor, it was a very proud moment for me," said Wu, from Xiamen.

"It's all unknown to me so I plan to take one shot at a time, enjoy the experience as much as possible and learn from it.

Tom was very much a gentleman ... He was especially helpful in terms of explaining the nature of links golf and the differences from the American-style parkland courses

"The key is keeping the ball in play, fairways and greens, keep out of the bunkers and rough as much as possible.

"Making the cut is my first goal. We'll see how good I can be if I make that.

"I would not say I'm nervous ahead of my first major championship, but I am excited and had I not been required to play in Shanghai last week I might have played the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart."

Coach Joe Thiel said: "We have been working together for five years and Wu has worked so hard for this opportunity and he will handle it well. We have been talking about focus and staying in the moment, a shot at a time."

Wu is one of a record 15 Asian players taking part in the championship.

He said "Our players are getting stronger and more competitive. As far as Chinese golf is concerned, maybe it will be after the Olympics before we can compete - and win - at the very highest level, but I certainly have a much stronger support structure around me, much of it provided by the China Golf Association and I'm convinced a Chinese man will win a major before too long, when things will take off to another level again."