John Senden

JOHN Senden, one of the best less-heralded golfers in the world, believes he has what it takes to win a major championship despite being on the wrong side of 40.

Many commentators and aficionados opine that professional golf is a younger person’s game.

Still, Senden, who is 43, says age is just a number.

Perhaps the tall, polite and affable Queenslander draws inspiration from players like Ernie Els and the late Payne Stewart, who won an Open Championship and US Open respectively aged 42 and Hale Irwin, who was 45 when he won a US Open.

“I still have plenty of fuel in the tank to win golf tournaments and my goals are still set quite high,” Senden said matter-of-factly.

“I feel I have a good chance to win a major championship and also win in Australia later this year.

“More and more I have the belief that I have a major in me.

“But I have to keep the discipline, the workload, stay healthy and I’m a chance. That’s the end goal … to win majors.”

Belief is a recurring word in our conversation.

Senden has been mixing it with the game’s big boys for more than a decade now so being awestruck is no longer a word in his vocabulary.

Senden feels now is the time to step up, especially with two US PGA Tour victories under his belt.

One man who has always believed in Senden is his long-time coach and mentor Ian Triggs.

“He’s really starting to get some great consistency in his game and, like most people near the lead, just needs that little bit of a break to totally compete,” Triggs told me.

“I think the US PGA Championship suits his game. He went close in 2007 when he finished fourth behind Tiger Woods.”

Like most modern-day players, Senden has the backing of his family and a strong team.

There’s coach Triggs, sports physiotherapist Michael Dalgleish as well as a massage therapist and a fitness trainer he works with in the US.

All believe he’s a major winner in waiting.

Still, Senden knows that if he is going to fulfil his dream he is going to have to maintain his fitness.

“The whole team keeps me fit and motivated,” Senden said. “That’s been really helpful and I have learnt a lot about fitness over the last 10 years.

“It’s been a big change and has made a big difference in healing my body.

“And it’s allowed me to stay out there and play good golf.

“For me to continue playing competitive golf on the US PGA Tour and in Australia for next five years, I have to stay in the gym and keep fit.

“I want to keep fit and finish off my career strong rather than fade away.

“If I can continue to keep that discipline, which I feel good for doing, there is no reason why I can’t keep performing well.”

Senden, who finished in a tie for eighth at the US Masters in April, is now focussing on the US PGA Championship to be played at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky from August 7-10.

I ask Senden what he knows about the Valhalla course and how he will prepare for the year’s final major.

“Well, I know it’s going to be very hot and humid so I’ll have to manage myself well around the course,” he said.

“The good thing is I am playing the Bridgestone Invitational the week before it. That’s a big event with no cut so you get good four-round experience playing on a very difficult Firestone golf course.

“So I’ll practice and prepare at the Bridgestone for a week and feel really good going into the US PGA with good mental thoughts and a good feel for the golf course.

“Going into the PGA, you have to be fresh for the week. You have to pace yourself mentally because the hot weather can be draining.”

Senden, one of the best ball-strikers on the US PGA Tour, knows his game, including his putting, will have to be at its best if he is to win his first major.

Oftentimes, his putting has been his Achilles heel, but he has turned around that part of his game as demonstrated by his top-10 finish at the Masters.

“It (putting) has been an issue over the years, but I have been getting help from Triggsy (Ian Triggs) and Ian Baker-Finch,” he said. “That has helped me technically.

“And both are very good at helping me with mental work.”

After the US PGA Championship, Senden, who won the Valspar Championship in March, will turn his attention to the Fed-Ex Cup playoffs.

“That is the big focus after the majors,” he said.

“Right now, I am heading into the playoff in the best position (22nd) I have ever been in.

“I really hope I can make this year one of the best years of my life.”

At the end of the interview, Senden thanked me for taking the time to talk to him. Usually it’s the opposite with pro golfers.

John Gerard Senden is indeed an exemplary professional.

 

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