Ricardo Melo Gouveia
What a difference a year makes in Ricardo Melo Gouveia. By the middle of March 2017 he had played seven tournaments and had only made two cuts, with a T-23rd at Abu Dhabi and a T-62nd at the Tschwane Open.
In 2018 everything changed for the better. Last week he was 4th after 36 holes at the Tshwane Open in South Africa, finishing T-29th, and last week he led the Hero Indian Open after 9 holes, closing in T-16th, equaling his best standings this season, in December at the Mauritius Open.
Perhaps the most important statistic of all is that in nine tournaments played he made the cut in six – and the last three in a row.
Ricardo Melo Gouveia had not yet gone through three consecutive European Tour tournaments this season playing the four days. He had not done so since the end of 2017 and the consistency of making a lot of cuts was one of his strengths in 2015, when he became the first Portuguese to become Challenge Tour #1, and in 2016, when he was the first Portuguese to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship.
Of course in the European Tour, the main Tour, it’s not enough to simply make the cut, and that is why, despite these positive results, the Team Portugal star is “only” the 114th in the Race to Dubai, knowing that only the top-100 at the end of the year retains the card to compete among the European elite.
But going through a lot of cuts builds the confidence that he will sooner or later break through, as Matt Wallace did in India.
Until last week, the Englishman had not achieved better than a T-19th in the 2018 European Tour (in Qatar), but he was the one to leave New Delhi with a second European Tour career title, to add to the one he got last May, at the Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort.
Wallace (rounds of 69, 70, 60 and 68), 27, beated Andrew “Beef” Johnson (72+66+73 +66) in a play-off, after a tie for 277, 11 under Par of the DLF Golf & Country Club.
“Congratulations to Matt Wallace for finishing at the top,” Ricardo Melo Gouveia wrote on Twitter, adding that, for himself, “it was a positive week,” showing “good signs.”
The Quinta do Lago Pro scored 288 (Par), with rounds of 69, 73, 71 and 75, and collected his highest prize of the season – €18,016, out of the total of €1.4 million at stake. Wallace pocketed €235,495.
A roller coaster performance that took him briefly to the lead after 9 holes, to the top-10 after 18 and 54 holes, and to the final T-16th, in a “tricky course”, as he wrote in social media. A course that last year had been considered one of the toughest on the European Tour.
“I feel that my game is slowly getting back to the level I want,” the ACP Golf player told Tee Times Golf, after showing in India a more complete game, with na average 1.7 putts per green in regulation and 83% driving accuracy.
“I started working with a new putting coach at the end of last year, Paul Hurrion, who also works with Danny Willett (the 2016 Masters champion), we made some important changes and I feel a lot of improvements,” added the Portuguese #1.
Another progress in Ricardo Melo Gouveia was the way he dealt with the test of the course. Fortunately, the weather was nice – “four very similar days, with 30 degrees every day and relatively slow wind” – because the playing conditions were challenging enough.
“This course is quite penalizing and this year the owner wanted to change some things in the setup to make us suffer,” said the Portuguese golfer from Srixon.
Matt Wallace’s caddy, Dave, agreed. “He told me that it was setup sometimes like the U.S. Open. You can hit great shots, but it can run into the rough or slope.”, said the Portuguese Open champion.
The DLF Golf & Country Club, designed by the great Gary Player opened in 2015. It is a tremendous challenge, but Ricardo Melo Gouveia appreciated it: “It was in excellent conditions, with the greens fast and rolling very consistent. A very penalizing course, with plenty of water, shrubs and greens quite undulating.”
Under these circumstances, the players knew that there would be bad holes. The champion, Matt Wallace, had a double-bogey and 9 bogeys in four rounds.
Also Ricardo Melo Gouveia did not avoid 2 double-bogeys, adding them 12 bogeys, compensated by 16 birdies. It was a constant struggle and the Portuguese London resident showed the mental strength to reverse negative trends.
A good example was the last round: it started badly, with 3 bogeys in 6 holes, but then came 2 birdies. Another dark series of 4 bogeys in a row, but then finished the round with the last 5 holes played in 2 under Par in the final and most difficult strech of the course.
The Portuguese Olympic athlete may have progressed technically, but he also showed the guts that were his strenth in his first two seasons as a professional.
“I knew it would be a difficult week on a mental level and I would have to have a lot of patience and a good attitude. I feel like I’ve been good in that departement and that has certainly helped me to get back after tough times,” he said.
“At the end of last year I also started working more seriously on the mental side with David Lewellyn (his longtime coach) and Tiago Boto. I’m slowly getting the rewards of that work and I feel I’m on the right track,” he concluded.
Ricardo Melo Gouveia will only be competing again on the European Tour from April 12 at the Spanish Open and is likely to lose some places in the Race to Dubai, after climbing from 133rd to 114th, but with his confidence growing up, he knows that spring can bring him back to the European top-100.
Hugo Ribeiro / Tee Times Golf