Gareth Maybin has a score to settle with the Open Championship. Three years ago he missed the cut on the sacred fairways at the home of golf, St Andrews. It was a quiet exit from one of the biggest stages of them all; four over after rounds of 72 and 76.
Fast forward 36 months and Maybin still hasn’t forgotten his last outing in a Major. For him, it was a week tainted by misfortune; he was at the mercy of the elements and what he describes as a “bad draw”.
“I got kind of unlucky at St Andrews,” he said. “I played quite well and then I got a rough draw and they probably should have cancelled play and they didn’t. I don’t really look at it as a missed cut, it’s just more of a bad draw than anything.”
Now the 32-year-old, a regular on the European Tour, has the chance to make his 2010 Open Championship a distant memory when he steps up to the first tee at Muirfield this afternoon (Thursday, 15:51).
And it hasn’t gone unnoticed that new dad Maybin has produced his finest displays of the year during his last two tournaments. Bang on cue, you might say.
Things are beginning to click and his recent progress has been there for all to see. A share of eighth spot in a hotly-contested French Open, won by compatriot Graeme McDowell at Le Golf National, was swiftly followed by a tied-fifth finish at last weekend’s Scottish Open.
Speaking to the Times after the French Open, he said: “It worked out well, I’ve been playing nicely for the last couple of months but just haven’t got much out of it. I really didn’t do much different, but I obviously made a few more putts.
“It’s good to perform well on a tough golf course. It’s probably the toughest course we play all year, so it was nice to have a good result against a good field.”
But it was his third round at Castle Stuart which really gave the watching world a glimpse of just what the man from Ballyclare is capable of. A sensational eight-under 64, which included eight birdies and an eagle, brought him right into Scottish Open contention going into the final day. In the end, it was four-times Major winner Phil Mickelson who took the title after a play-off with South African Branden Grace. Crucially, Maybin’s display guaranteed his tour card for next year.
One of the building blocks for his good form came at Sunningdale when rounds of 67 and 69 saw him qualify for the right to have a crack at getting his hands on the Claret Jug. Now he’s relishing the challenge on what is an unforgiving 18 holes at Muirfield.
“Playing in a Major is the pinnacle of golf,” he said. “To be able to test yourself against the best players in the world at the highest level will give me a fantastic idea of where my game is at and what I need to improve. At this stage of my career, I find the Majors to be more of a learning experience and a way of testing myself, really.”
But simply reaching The Open isn’t enough. Maybin wants to perform. “Obviously it would be nice to make the cut, but I think there’s no reason why I can’t top-10 there. To be honest, I’m playing well enough so I’m looking forward to it.”
Maybin is working alongside another local man in coach, Johnny Foster. “He has been fantastic. I expect him to do big things in the game here in the next five to 10 years. He’ll get a lot more players and should progress up the rankings himself.
“He’s a very under-rated coach and he’s someone who has made a massive difference in my game over the last year.”
And he admits becoming a father for the first time this year, to a little boy, has also broadened his perspective.
“Yeah, I think it definitely has. I’ve always had a pretty good outlook on things and where golf stands in terms of life.
“It’s been brilliant having him; it takes my mind off some stuff and gives me something else to look forward to.”