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Sam Horsfield is aiming to make it a hat-trick of victories in the space of four UK Swing events when the Englishman tees it up in the ISPS HANDA Wales Open on the same course upon which he triumphed just last week.
The 23-year-old became the first player in European Tour history to go win-missed cut-win when he claimed the inaugural Celtic Classic title last week at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, adding to the win he picked up two weeks prior in the Hero Open at Forest of Arden Marriott Golf and Country Club.
Horsfield, a protégé of Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter, has already secured his place in next month’s U.S. Open through the UK Swing’s mini-rankings – which he currently leads. The top ten players in those mini-rankings at the conclusion of this week’s event will qualify for the season’s second Major at Winged Foot.
Robert MacIntyre and Haotong Li, meanwhile, are making their return to European Tour action for the first time since March. Both played in the year’s first Major, the US PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, and made the cut. Li is feeling particularly confident having led the field after round two before finishing in a share of 17th position.
Sam Horsfield: “The celebrations were good, I didn’t feel great on Monday morning. Me, (Sean) Crocker and Haydn (Porteous) had a few drinks and celebrated properly. It hasn’t really hit me yet about the two wins. I think once I have a few weeks off and some time to think about everything and reflect, it’ll set in then but I’m just trying to focus on this week.
“One of the first people to text me was Ian (Poulter), but I’ve had a bunch of support from everybody, fellow players and it’s always nice when people send you messages of congratulations.
“I am confident, I feel like I’m playing good golf. I think they’re going to change the course around a little bit, I don’t know exactly what they’ll do to it, hopefully I get out there today and see what they’ve done. I’m playing good golf and I just want to give myself an opportunity going into Sunday again.
“It’s going to be soft and it’s going to be playing long, and I think that helps me, I hit it pretty far off the tee and there isn’t so much on run-outs. It’s going to be plugging when it hits the fairway so I think it’s going to be a bomber’s golf course this week.
“I hit two left shots on 16 and 17 last week and I really do not like that shot but it’s hard when you’ve won twice in two weeks to find any issues but you can always improve so I’m going to try eliminate that left shot slowly but surely and see where it gets me.”
Robert MacIntyre: “It’s good to be back, good to get back to competitive golf week-in, week-out and the European Tour have done a great job getting everyone back and playing again.
“I obviously watched this place on the TV for The Ryder Cup and hopefully I can get out today to finally see it and if not I’ll just go out and enjoy it tomorrow. Greg my caddie has been here and seen the course twice and says it’s as you see it, so as long as I’m hitting it well which I am doing now, then why not have a good week.
“It was good at Harding Park, probably one of the toughest tests I’ve ever played on. If you missed the fairway by a yard and a half, you were chipping it 60 yards down the fairway if you could. If you hit it wider you were alright but I felt like I was just running off fairways from time to time and that’s what cost me.
“The game is in good shape though and I’m looking forward to this week. I’m not too sure what I want from the rest of the season, I’m just going to play here and next week and then I have the U.S. Open and we’re just trying to win every week we’re out here. Sam (Horsfield) is making a good effort at that so I’m just going to go out and enjoy my golf again and try be up there come Sunday.”
Li Haotong: “I see a lot of this rainy weather playing on tour around the world, so I’m kind of used to it. It’s pretty nice here, a traditional UK style place so I’m just glad to be here. The course is pretty good and I think it suits my game.
“You need to hit solid shots to shoot low scores here so it’s going to be a fun week. The game is good, especially coming from the PGA Championship. I got a lot of confidence over there.
“I felt like I can compete with those guys when I was playing there. I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience. Before then I hadn’t played in quite a while, I’m finding a lot of confidence now and hopefully I can go low this week.
“I think if I bring my A-game I will get a good result. Actually the bubble has been pretty good, I was surprised. The hotel and food and everything has been a lot better than I thought.”