The Travis Perkins Masters is a huge event for the seniors and, bizarrely, I had never played the Duke’s Course at Woburn before my win there in 2018. There were something like 8,000 spectators through the gates which would comfortably be our best attendances of the year.
I was playing OK going into Woburn, a few weeks before I had finished 10th in Russia where my good mate David Shacklady won and he said that if he could win on the tour then so could I. The season was my rookie one on the (now) Legends Tour but I wasn’t pulling up any trees. People told Dave and I, both PGA pros, that we wouldn’t be that welcome on tour as we hadn’t come through the European Tour ranks but at the first event in Sharjah Barry Lane, James Kingston and Roger Chapman all came and introduced themselves so that was brilliant. I have never once felt like an outsider.
The start of the week at Woburn was incredible. Usually at par 5s I will go for it, get it pin high and then things might not always work out and my wife, who was caddying that week, said let’s play the 1st differently and lay up. I could have cut one round the trees but I laid up to 80 yards and then holed my third shot for eagle. I was out in 29 and round in 66 – I had hit it lovely but it was nothing out of the ordinary and I hadn’t holed many long putts. If you can hit it straight off the tee then you should have a lot of wedges and I did that on the first day.
The second day was even better, a seven-under 65, and that remains the best round of my life. I played with Carl Mason and he said afterwards to the reporters that it was the best round of golf he had ever seen and that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me. Going into the Sunday I had a lead of seven.
I actually slept OK but, as I’ve always said if you’re playing well, the pressure doesn’t affect you as much but it’s different when you’re not quite on your game. I was only really nervous about the opening tee shot as the 1st at Woburn has out of bounds left and trees right but I got that away and was then alright. Another big factor was that I was playing with Clark Dennis and Stephen Dodd which made everything really relaxed.
The only thing I had in my mind was to try and shoot under par, if I could do that then Doddy would have to shoot 64 to tie and, if all that happened, then fair enough. Then Clark birdied the first two and was holing putts from everywhere, and then he chipped in at the 9th, but I never knew how close he was until the 14th green. That was my only real blip as I had to take a drop from some gorse but I holed a 15-footer for a bogey while Clark missed from 10 feet for birdie and, had that been the other way round, the lead would have been down to two.
So I had a four-shot lead playing the last two and, after hitting a good tee shot at 17, that’s when I thought for the first time that I had won. Then I got down there and it had run through the fairway and I was under the trees. I hit a beautiful, low hooking 8-iron which ran out to the back into a cuppy lie. I decided to belly wedge it so I was then only concerned about the double hit and I ended up making bogey.
At 18 they put the tee miles forward to tempt people to have a go, I was obviously never going to do that and I produced one of my best swings with a 5-iron into the perfect position and knocked it to the middle of green. Clark needed to hole his second to have a chance and, when that didn’t happen, I could really enjoy the final moments; the walk to 18, the glorious weather and the crowds. My mum and dad were there, as were two of my daughters, one grandson and some of my good mates from Sleaford so it was incredible. I left the first putt on the edge and said to my wife that’s the length of putt that I like to win.
I’ve no idea why I played that well that week. I gave myself a lot of chances which I’ve done at a few tournaments but, every chance I had inside 10 feet, I holed. If I could bottle that it I’d be a wealthy man. When I look back I’m a bit surprised how I handled it all, I had never had that big a lead in front of a class field and so you don’t know what’s going to happen. It was worse for my wife as at Q School I wasn’t playing well and, coming down the last few holes, I hit some shocking shots. At Woburn I was feeling good about my game, my wife said it was the longest 18 holes she’s had for a while! But you wouldn’t have known that, she looked like she was doing everything as usual; all very calm and she knows me pretty well and that really helped!
The money was obviously huge but, until they called it out at the presentation, I had no idea. I knew it was decent but I hadn’t looked at any point and the Duke of Bedford gave an extra £10,000 to the winner as well which was something else. I always believed that I could win on tour but, to do it that way and to shoot those kinds of scores, gave me an awful lot of confidence.