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Johnson: Sandy Lane a plus for open hopes

Justin Marville

Johnson: Sandy Lane a plus for open hopes

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BARBADOS’ PREMIER GOLF TOURNAMENT is headed to Sandy Lane. Just par for the course for another of James Johnson’s title runs.
Not that the country’s best golfer doesn’t already start with the upper hand, but the reigning ten-time United Insurance Barbados Open champ believes the move to Sandy Lane gives him a further leg up on the competition following his recent outings at the course.
Johnson was speaking during yesterday’s Press launch at the course’s country club, where it was announced that all three rounds of next weekend’s Open would be played at Sandy Lane for the first time in the tournament’s 27-year history.
“I have a little bit of an advantage, having played the World Cup here, so I’m looking forward to a great event and I’m hoping to add one more title to the tally,” said the 32-year-old Johnson.
“I started playing golf at Sandy Lane at the age of nine on the old 18 and it’s always been a phenomenal facility so I’ve had the good fortune of playing here over the years.
“And I played here up to this weekend and the course is in great shape, [but] I understand the greens are lightning fast for the Open, which we aren’t used to, so that’s going to be a big part of my preparation; getting used to these very fast greens,” he added.
But while the venue has changed from Royal Westmoreland, expectations certainly haven’t. This is Johnson’s tournament to lose.
And the stats more than bear testimony to that.
Winner of ten of the last 14 Opens, Johnson further established himself as the pre-tournament favourite following a string of performances that saw the top-ranked amateur win events in Trinidad and St Kitts to go along with a victory at April’s Garfield Sobers Tournament.
“I [always] keep my expectations high, so I’m hoping to be in a good position to win again this year because the field is tough every year,” Johnson said.
“[But] I generally see my greatest challenge as the golf course and my own inward challenges. I know that all the other golfers are capable of beating me and playing very well, but I feel that if I’m playing my best I have a good chance of winning.
“[And] it’s been a good year for me. I’ve been playing well while getting some breakthroughs in my training.”
First-year president of the Barbados Golf Association, Hadley Byer, said response to the Open had been overwhelming, with the tournament being oversubscribed in certain categories.
Even Sir Garfield Sobers and fellow West Indies legend Desmond Haynes have committed to playing the three-day Open, which is slated to start on September 14.