England's Matt Wallace has lofty goals, confidence to pull them off

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

England's Matt Wallace has lofty goals, confidence to pull them off

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England's Matt Wallace has lofty goals, confidence to pull them off

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HILLSIDE, England – Ever wondered who’s the most outwardly confident English golfer after Ian Poulter? Look no further than Matt Wallace.

Wallace, who arrives at Bethpage for this week’s PGA Championship after finishing second in the British Masters, isn’t backward about coming forward to tell everyone how good he is.

Poulter’s former boss Lee Scarbrow can recite moments when his assistant professional would talk about when he played on the European Tour, when he won big events, when he contended for majors, when he played in the Ryder Cup. There was no “if” in Poulter’s vocabulary.

The fact he’s now known as “Mr. Ryder Cup,” proves Poulter wasn’t just shooting his mouth off. Compare his confidence with Wallace’s. “I want to be a top-10 player in the world,” said Wallace, currently ranked 36th. “That’s always been my goal, because once you get there, you’ve got a chance of being number one.”

Wallace and Poulter share many parallels. Both come from humble beginnings. They work hard. They have total belief in themselves.

Poulter turned professional off a handicap of four with no amateur record to speak of because his family couldn’t afford to send him to tournaments. Wallace at least has an amateur record, but he didn’t exactly stand out in the unpaid circuit. He counts the Czech and Argentine Amateur Championships as his main achievements, hardly blue-chip tournaments.

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Like Poulter, Wallace built his success by winning on mini-tour circuits before heading to the European Tour. Poulter on the old PGA MasterCard Tour, Wallace on the Alps Tour. Wallace won five straight Alps Tour events in 2016. A year later he won the low-budget Portuguese Open to earn a full European Tour card. He took full advantage of that status last season by winning three times, nearly joining Poulter on the European Ryder Cup team.

Hunger for success has driven both men. Yet Wallace is not so much in a hurry as he once was. He’s hoping a new attitude will lead to more consistent play and help him reach the game’s upper echelon.

“I used to think every tournament was my last week out on Tour,” Wallace said. “I was so intense and so fiery. Everyone on my team is actually thinking of the next three years rather than the next week.”

“We’re going to be out here for a long time hopefully and, if I try and win every week, it’s not going to work.

“I’ll tell you a story from a few weeks ago at Hilton Head after a first round 4 over. In the past, I would be so annoyed. Whereas if you look at the bigger picture, it’s not about that 4 over. It’s about the long term.”

Wallace has two members of his back-room staff who might help him achieve his goals. The first is veteran Northern Irish caddie Dave McNeilly, who counts Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Padraig Harrington and David Feherty among players for whom he’s worked.

“He uses his experience to plot his way around golf courses that no other caddie can sometimes do,” Wallace said. “I just can’t believe how good he is at strategizing his way around golf courses because he’s been around there so many times. Next week, he’s been there plenty of times and nearly won those tournaments. It’s so key for me to turn up next week knowing he’s done that and I can just rely on him massively.”

Fitness coach Dr. Steve McGregor is the other important addition to Wallace’s team. McGregor includes Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood among his clients. The former New York Knicks employee has also compiled fitness regimes for English Premiership winners Manchester City.

“We wanted someone on board who could help us make the next step,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a chance to really take this on and take it to the next level, and Steve is one of the best at doing that.”


   

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