Haydn Porteous has made a strong start to 2016. Here we catch up with him
Welcome back to South Africa. Is it good to be home?
It’s nice to see my family and friends. Being away for three weeks at a time is not easy, but I’ve got a proper job and I’ve got to work!
You’ve had a superb time in the Desert Swing. What have you learned from competing at those events?
The biggest surprise for me was how close the world’s best are to everyone else. The competition was not far from other tours, even the players I saw on the Challenge Tour last year. The difference is so small that one round doesn’t show it.
How have you adapted so quickly?
I was battling at the end of last season. I had a few tough finishes, not getting a top-15 card at the Challenge Tour and missing out in the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School. I was struggling to feel confident playing with European Tour guys, because I didn’t know if I belonged or not. But then I won the Joburg Open and that was a huge confidence boost. The biggest week for me was Dubai. To win in Joburg was incredible, but when I was pegging it up next to Rory McIlroy and competing with him, not just playing in the same tournament – that was huge. After three or four rounds I was a few shots ahead of him and I built a lot of confidence that week. It’s easy to tell yourself you’re good enough, but to have that deep-down feeling of belief is tough. You have to prove it to yourself.
What are the crowds and fans like at such big events?
I’m not too worried about crowds. They just want to watch some golf, and I’ve been playing in front of crowds for a while now. I play for myself and hopefully I can put on a good show for the spectators. If I don’t then we’re both going to be unhappy.
How has your lifestyle changed in the past few months?
It’s been pretty incredible. Not long ago I was staying in an F1 Hotel in France with commune toilets. Then, all of a sudden, it’s the Ritz Carlton and you’re driving in cars you could only dream of buying. It makes you feel that little bit better when you step into a tournament like that, and through all of these things I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable as a player.
Any parts of your game that have changed?
I always thought I hit it well enough to be a good player, but maybe I lacked a little in game plan. That has been one of the biggest changing points and it made the difference at the Joburg Open.
And now you’re teeing up against the best …
I had just walked off the 18th green at the Joburg Open and the next thing I was on the range at Abu Dhabi hitting balls next to Jordan Spieth. That was surreal. We were even wearing the same shirt and pants, which was pretty funny.
How have you adapted to teeing up next to marquee players?
You realise that these guys are normal, and talk about the same things, which is an amazing experience. I spent most of the Desert Swing hanging out with George Coetzee and we really got along over those few weeks. We caught shuttles together from the hotel to the golf club and got to know each other. He’s a great guy and has his head screwed on right, which is what you need when you’re away from home. Maybe it’s not a bad thing for me to just hang around with him – he’s been there and done it.
You’ve started with a bang. Where to from here?
I’m really excited for the rest of this season, but I’m quite ready for a break. When you’re away from home for so long the body gets a bit sore and it takes a toll. The Dimension Data Pro-Am will be my seventh event in a row and we don’t get the weekend off. Well, hopefully we don’t get the weekend off!