Published: 06:00, 26 November 2020
Matt Ford had to draw on all his experience to land a top five finish on the truncated 2020 Challenge Tour.
Out-of-sorts Ford battled hard to finish 14th at the season’s Grand Final in Mallorca last week.
And it proved just enough to secure a top five finish overall - by less than 300 euros.
“There were so many potential scenarios that I couldn’t really work it out so there was no point worrying about it,” said Bearsted golfer Ford.
“I knew if I finished top five or three then it would be guaranteed and nobody else could do anything about that.
“But unfortunately my game wasn’t the best, I had a few swing issues. I lacked consistency and while I still hit some good shots, I just couldn’t create enough birdie opportunities and had a real struggle at times.
“After the first two rounds I wasn’t hitting the ball well. I just wanted to keep in touch and hope that I would have a better day and find some form. But I just couldn’t fix it and it was frustrating.
“But as it panned out I finished the round with a birdie on the last and thought that’s as best as I could do. I gave it everything I could so I had to be happy in that sense.”
It proved a vital birdie, a feat later matched by Ondrej Lieser at the top of the leaderboard, which gave him an outright win and left three players in a tie for second spot - including Christofer Blomstrand who ended up falling just short.
The way the prize fund was divided meant Ford - who started the week fourth - had done just enough to maintain his top five spot on the final standings.
It was a waiting game for Ford who appeared to have dropped out of contention.
“When I finished my round I was projected to finish seventh and I was just waiting for that confirmation,” he recalled.
“I was on the phone chatting to my wife and we both looked at the rankings at the same time, I went up to fifth and we both had to double check it!
“A lot of people had tied for second and that meant the money was shared out. The fact I finished 14th really made the difference.
“It’s really strange. Every shot really does count. You can look back at so many shots over the year. The birdie the week before was worth about 2,000 euros so that’s more than enough to have dropped me out of the top five.
“The week before I finished with three bogeys so that cost me a few hundred euros the other way. Even when I finished second in Italy, one shot more and I would have won and got 30,000 more.”
Ford puts his achievement as much down to his mental strength as his playing performance during the week in Spain.
He knew exactly how to keep a level-head and that mental toughness made all the difference.
“Mentally it was a really tough week so I had to keep my focus on the process,” he explained.
“It’s about the process and getting the best out of your game. That’s the one thing I’m really proud about. I was very good mentally and kept grinding out shots.
“It’s about practice and experience. Golf is not about hitting perfect shots, very rarely do you have rounds like that when everything goes right. It’s about mistakes and managing those mistakes.
“You have to control the golf ball and your mind. You have to do the best you can when you have days like that.
“When things are going well it’s easy but when things are not it’s bad, and you have to use all your experience and the hours you spend on the range.
“You know your game and tendencies. I’ve been playing this game for 20 years and I know what things I do good and what my bad bits are. It’s about managing that the best you can.”
The new European Tour season should get under way in January although that schedule is yet to be announced, and Ford is also waiting to discover exactly how many privileges he will get by finishing in the top five.
“If someone had said you’d finish top five and play 11 events this year, I would have bitten their hand off,” said 42-year-old Ford. “I had a few beers to celebrate on Sunday!
“I went with the mindset before the Grand Final that I’ve played well this year and if I don’t have a good week that it didn’t matter because I’ve had a good year either way.
“We don’t know what that top five means at the moment. The amount of invites and exemptions is unclear, it could be five or 15 events.
“It’s not quite the same as the top 20 finish in normal years. But it’s a better scenario than I had at the start of the year.”