Unassuming star Aaron Rai maintains form with opening 68 at PGA Championship
Englishman Aaron Rai plays a shot on the 16th hole on the first day of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club i - AFP
Aaron Rai wears two golf gloves, places iron covers on his clubs, and has a running book that competes with a mathematician's blackboard for complex annotations.
But what really sets this remarkable 25-year-old apart from the rest of the field - aside from the form in which he finished second and first in the past two weeks and now at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth - is his take on fame and money. Apparently he doesn't long either.
The Wolverhampton man put together a round of 68 to fend off two shots from the leadership of English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, Spaniard Adri Arnaus and South African Justin Harding, then explained his philosophy of maintaining his love of the sport. First off, why not have a presence on social media? "Very conscious choice," said Rai. "I have a private Facebook account, but that's about it. I know that social media has many advantages and can be used positively, but I think it's easier to do without it."
But what about the commercial options? "This has been mentioned a couple of times, but it's something that is very close to my heart. I just want to try and focus on the game as much as possible. I know everyone out here is trying to some extent To be a brand, but I just want to put the Golf first. "
The agent has to pull his hair out? "I don't have an agent. I have a few people to help me, but no management. My point of view is that when everyone starts doing the sport, we start out with passion and enjoy it as a hobby. All along the line, it's very easy to Losing that when you compete at a high level and become professional and the original meaning of the game, which was once a passion and love, is gradually being watered down. I think it's important to keep as much alive as possible. "
Sounds easy now, but what if the mega-dollars are offered? “It gets more difficult at every point. The first thing that comes to mind is an interview Rory [McIlroy] did with David Feherty where he mentioned that he doesn't play golf that much for fun. I think that probably sums it up for some people; It will be a job and our profession. It's a natural thing and that's part of what we do and of course it's part of what I do and I don't lose that. But I think if you can keep a little of that spark alive, that's crucial. "
England's Tyrrell Hatton in action during the first round - Reuters
Rais Funke has helped him make a little over £ 1 million in the past 14 days, and by ranking 88th in the rankings he is within striking distance of the top 50 in the major world, which is where the golden doors open . Rai showed he isn't afraid to compete against the big names on Sunday when he defeated Tommy Fleetwood in a play-off to win the Scottish Open.
With the likes of the 2019 Open Champion, Shane Lowry and Matt Fitzpatrick in the group at five under par, Justin Rose next to Rai at four under, Ian Poulter at three under, and World No. 9 Patrick Reed and Lee Westwood at two under, is it fair to say this West Course leaderboard is already of high quality, which justifies the history of the event as well as the $ 7 million prize fund.
Surely Hatton is delighted to be in green, if stormy, Surrey, which has spent 8½ months in the US before, during and after the lockdown. "I live nearby and first saw this tournament when I was five," said Hatton after a round of a chip-in eagle on par-5 fourth, five birdies and the lone bogey. "There is no place like home and it would be incredibly special to win here."
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