The Open 2021 – Interview with Tom Lewis: “I’m always going to waste time. He can eat you”

For ten years, Tom Lewis has been looking for something. He’s not afraid to admit that sometimes it drives him crazy with frustration and leaves him in burrows of despair but, despite this, he’s never been tempted to stop watching.

It was during the 2011 Open Championship that Lewis, then only 20 years old, took the lead in the first round at Royal St George’s. His first round of 65 was the lowest score by an amateur in tournament history, he inherited the star usually reserved for Rory McIlroy, and left only upset that he ultimately did not finish better than the 30th place. Plus, with the sprawling world at his feet, Lewis took it all in his stride, barely gaining a month into his professional career and, at this point, few would have dared to put limits on his potential.

“It was just another round of golf for me,” he says. “The ball doesn’t know what’s going on, I just went over there and kept my routine and tried to get it into the hole as quickly as possible. Obviously, after Thursday, it exploded and it became more difficult to manage. This exhibition was always going to surpass everything else. It was a great experience and something I will never forget. “

But as The Open returns to Royal St George’s this week, Lewis won’t be on the pitch. He is ranked as the 134th best player in the world – a feat achieved only through consistent and unmistakable success – but by his own standards, that status carries little illusion of accomplishment. He dreams of majors, Ryder Cups, and a legacy that would survive his own career – ambitions that never seemed unrealistic – and he’s always looking for the seeds of potential that made him such a remarkable prodigy, even if he suspects that they might never thrive to the heights he hoped for.

“I will always be frustrated because my talent is high compared to my performance, there is a big gap there,” said Lewis. “I will always have wasted time. Will I one day achieve what I was capable of? No. When you have a lot of ability and you know you can do better, and it has taken many years, it can eat away at you. [I see them as a failure]. If you fail all the time, does it make you stronger when success comes? It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever know. “

A relentless practitioner, regardless of form or fortune, Lewis has worked harder than ever in pursuit of a breakthrough. In 2018, he brought cathartic relief from a hollow loss of shape, winning his second event on the European Tour seven years after the first. “When you go through hardships in life, you appreciate the things that happen to you rather than giving it to you,” he says of this victory in Portugal. And a year later, having again shown his prowess on ties with an eleventh place finish at the Open, Lewis secured his PGA Tour card and has since finished in the top 25 four times and held a 36-hole lead. at Rocket Mortgage. Classic only a few weeks ago.

These results represent a significant improvement, although Lewis is still struggling constantly. But rather than run after the shadows, he began to accept that, contradictory as it might sound, he must endure the disappointments of freedom. This is by no means an air of complacency, but then maybe he can ease the burden of the pressure he puts on himself.

“I won’t stop trying, but it can be a bit like a wet bar of soap,” he says. “You hold him too tight and he slips out of your hands. You just have to allow it to happen. It took me over nine years to figure this out. I’m not going to give up, I had these doubts, but I know that if I keep cutting back, good things will happen. Golf has given me a lot of disappointment but deep down I’ve always liked it. There are guys in the top 30, even in the top 10 who are also struggling with these thoughts. It’s important to be open and honest and realize that things aren’t always as good as they look on the outside. “

Tom Lewis lines up a putt on the PGA Tour

(Getty Images)

This sense of perspective also allowed Lewis to find more happiness in areas of life where he felt like he had to take a back seat or sacrifice himself to make up for lost time. “I used to focus too much on my career, sometimes it took a toll on my life,” he says. “I just wanted to be good. As I got older I realized that I wasn’t going to change the world, I was not going to be a Hall of Fame member and achieve whatever I wanted. So that makes you think what can I accomplish? I can be a good person, a good husband, a good father – these are all things that will probably come into my life over the next few years. “

If Lewis ever feels like he’s “deteriorating from being a good person or a good golfer,” he goes back to his first lessons. As a child, he hit hundreds, if not thousands of balls every night at a night-lit stall in Hertfordshire with his father, Bryan, who was also once a pro on the European Tour. “Everything I’ve ever learned, he taught me,” Lewis says. “I’m going to go through ups and downs, but Dad always taught me to never regret nothing and to look back and say that I gave it my all. Things will change and when they do, it will be great. “

And the fearless 20-year-old who stormed the Open ten years ago, what would Lewis say to him, knowing what was to come? “I would be more grateful for where I was,” he said. “I ran the open for a day. Maybe next time I can lead it for two, and the next 10 years can be more fruitful than the previous ones. “

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