Posted: 25/01/17

Smith chats to the European Tour after good start to the 2017 season

Ahead of this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, European Tour rookie Jordan Smith discusses his rapid rise through the ranks, playing with Rory McIlroy, being mistaken for Jordan Spieth and why the L has disappeared from his name...

I’m loving being on the European Tour. I’m just going out and having fun each week. I really like travelling and seeing new cultures. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase either. There’s more travelling than we did on the Challenge Tour, but we also get looked after a bit better. The courses are set up tougher and the standard is better, but the Challenge Tour was a great standard too and it really helps prepare you for the European Tour. The desert swing is obviously a big part of the European Tour. I really enjoyed Abu Dhabi and played well there, and now I’m looking forward to Qatar this week. I quite enjoy playing in the desert. Both of my victories on the Challenge Tour came in the desert, in Egypt and Ras Al Khaimah, so it seems to work for me. I’ve really enjoyed the desert swing so far, so hopefully I can keep it going.

Playing with Rory in South Africa was an amazing experience so early in my European Tour career. I still have to pinch myself, but I really enjoyed it. I was quite nervous on the first few holes but after that I settled down and enjoyed it. I loved going down the 18th with him and Graeme Storm. I wanted to try to birdie the hole to have a chance of getting in the play-off, but the atmosphere was amazing. I remember looking back at the crowd with my caddie and just being amazed at the number of people there. I will never forget the experience. Rory was such a nice guy. We had a lot of good chats going round and playing with him has given me so much confidence. I was able to go toe-to-toe with him that day and it’s given me a big boost knowing I have the ability to do that. When we shook hands on the 18th, he said to me “you’re going to have a really good year”. He told me to stay confident and that I had the ability to do well so just to enjoy it. That meant a lot to me. It was also great playing with Thomas Bjørn and Stephen Gallacher in Abu Dhabi too. I wanted to impress Thomas and like Rory he was really chatty all the way round, so it was another great three-ball.

Justin Rose is probably the player I look up to most on Tour. He came up through a similar system to what I have, playing in England squads and the Walker Cup. I’ve accomplished those as well and I would love to go on to accomplish what he has done after that. I think he is very professional in everything he does. I was close to playing with him in in Hong Kong before Christmas and he came up to me and introduced himself, which was nice.

I’m a bit of a latecomer to the game of golf. Growing up, I played football and rugby at school. When I was about 12 I watched the Masters with my dad and we then went to the golf course to try playing and it just developed from there really and I got better and better. But football was my first love. I used to play centre back or defensive midfielder, but when I got better at golf I had to make a decision and I chose golf. It seems to have worked out so far. I still like to watch football though.  I support Liverpool because where I come from in the South West of England there aren’t that many teams. I also had an obsession with Michael Owen and Steve Gerrard, so I’ve followed them since I was a kid.

I’ve been a little surprised by the progress I’ve made over the last few years. I finished as number one on the EuroPro Tour two years ago and then Challenge Tour Number One last year so it has all happened pretty quickly. Especially on the Challenge Tour, it was a bit of a surprise how well it went. I knew eventually it might happen, and I was confident that it would, but perhaps not this quickly. I’m really enjoying it though and hopefully I will keep developing and progressing this year. It’s been a good start so far. I obviously came into this year off the back of a really good year on the Challenge Tour so I just wanted to ride that wave and keep it going. So to do well in Hong Kong and then finish third in South Africa was great and I was pleased to keep it going last week in Abu Dhabi. My expectations were really to keep my card this year. I’m already in the top 100 in the world, so my goal after that is to get in the top 50 and maybe even get a win.

My parents have just had Sky Sports installed so they can watch me play. When I won the Challenge Tour, Sky’s production team came to my house and interviewed my parents. We didn’t have Sky then so they joked that they’d have to install it so my parents can watch me playing on the European Tour. Hopefully my parents will be able to come out to a few more events this year too, but at least now they are able to watch me on TV. 

There is a good generation of young English players on the European Tour at the moment. Through playing in the England squads I’ve got to know Matt Fitzpatrick and he has become something of a role model for the rest of us coming through. There are a lot of other good players out here who were in the same squad as me too, such as Callum Shinkwin, Nathan Kimsey, Garrick Porteous and Max Orrin. We are all coming through together and there is a good group of us. I’ve got to know Tyrrell Hatton too. When I was coming through the rankings on the Challenge Tour he messaged me and congratulated me. Then when I won the Challenge Tour rankings he sent me another message and said we should arrange a practice round. That was really nice of him to go out of his way to congratulate me.

I’ve dropped the L in my name, finally. For a couple of years I was known as Jordan L Smith. When I was an amateur you got world amateur ranking points for bigger tournaments and there was another Jordan Smith, from America, I think. I ended up getting his points somehow, which made my ranking go down. So they found out that had happened and we put the L in my name to save any confusion and it just stuck. I was hoping to remove it last year on the Challenge Tour but we’ve finally got round to it now, so I’m just Jordan Smith again. I had loads of people coming up to me asking what it meant, so I’m quite happy it has now gone!

I have been confused for Jordan Spieth too. In Oman, for the prize giving on the Challenge Tour, they announced the top 15 on the rankings and when the guy doing it announced me he mistakenly said Jordan Spieth. So I’ve had a bit of stick for that. I guess it is close enough and he’s not a bad person to be mistaken for. I’d certainly like to achieve what he has.

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