ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - After six years waiting for his first major championship, go-kart loving Australian Scott Arnold’s career picks up speed on Thursday when he tees it up in the British Open at St Andrews.
The 29-year-old grabbed one of three starting spots on offer at the final qualifying event last month, a year after a heyfever attack put paid to his chances.
“It’s funny, the last five years I tried to qualify for The Open I never got in and now it’s at St Andrews and I qualify, it’s quite surreal,” the former world amateur number one told Reuters on Wednesday.
“I don’t feel out of place, which is a good thing, especially with all the people in the stands. I‘m quietly confident if I keep playing the way I have been playing I can have a good week.”
Had things worked out differently for the laid-back Arnold he might have made a living roaring around motor racing circuits rather than plodding around golf courses.
He owned two go-karts and raced them on occasions, but now his sole focus is golf.
“I’ve only got one now, actually going to sell it when I get home because I never use it, it’s collecting dust,” he said. “But if I hadn’t have got into golf, I would have pursued a career in motorsport.”
While a rookie at major level, Arnold is no stranger to St Andrews, finishing second in the Links Trophy as an amateur in 2007 and taking part in the 2009 Dunhill Links.
”My game’s pretty good here,“ he said. The course kind of suits my eye I guess,” he said.
”It’s a scoreable course, especially when it’s playing soft like this. Never seen it this green before.
“It was weird playing it yesterday with no wind but I‘m pretty sure Scotland will produce something, pretty sure something will come out of the woodwork for us.”
One person keeping a close eye on Arnold’s progress will be former Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting -- one of his close friends and who he plays with at Cronulla Golf Club.
Ponting would have been walking the course, but will be otherwise engaged commentating on the Ashes at Lord’s this week.
“He’s a bit gutted to be honest, he’s a golf nut, he loves it,” Arnold, who only has a passing interest in cricket, said.
“We’ve been good friends since he moved to Sydney and he joined Cronulla. I‘m not a big cricket fan, that’s why we get on. He prefers talking about golf.”
editing by Justin Palmer