By Simon Payne
Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston would not have picked himself for a Ryder Cup wildcard place if he had been in Darren Clarke’s shoes, claiming he has not done enough to earn a rookie role in the European team.
That was the honest verdict of the 27-year-old who shot to fame this year after a first European Tour victory at Valderrama in Spain and an eighth-place finish at The Open.
Europe’s skipper Clarke confirmed his team yesterday, including three wildcard selections, for next month’s clash with the US at Hazeltine, and Johnston admitted prior to the announcement: “If I was captain I wouldn’t pick myself.
“You need experience. I’d pick Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer and then you’ve got a lot of other guys playing well. You want to get in on merit, you want to be playing like a pick. That will be the goal for the next couple of years, trying to get in on merit for the next one.”
Johnston was speaking during a guest appearance at last weekend’s London Golf Show at Bluewater, Dartford, where yells of ‘Beef’ followed him around the arena as he met fans who have quickly taken to the laid back Londoner with the striking beard and meaty nickname.
The North Middlesex Golf Club member has enjoyed a whirlwind few weeks, taking both the rise of his popularity and world ranking in his stride. His performance at Royal Troon in July was followed by a “crazy” week at the US PGA Championship and Johnston has been happy to savour his hard-earned exposure after years of struggle.
“I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s something new to me, so we will see how it goes with how I prepare and then adjust, it’s another learning curve,” he said of adapting to his new-found fame, adding: “What you see is what you get, I’m not trying to be anything or do anything. The stuff I do is unplanned, I’ve always been like that. The more fun I have had and being myself, the better I have played. I will just keep doing what I’m doing and see where it goes.”
Yet despite this carefree philosophy there is a strategy behind Johnston’s success. He changed coach and caddie last year along with some aspects of his game and is now reaping rewards, each success being used as a “stepping stone”.
“The first thing I said after the win in Spain was I don’t want to sit back and say ‘I’ve done this and done that’. It’s about what we do next. It’s all about going forward,” he admitted. “I’m 100% focused on winning tournaments and doing my best.”
So now the search is on for a second Tour victory while still having fun along the way as the pragmatic Johnston prepares for a strong finish to the year. “If I have had a good practice, been in the gym and tried hard I go into a tournament knowing I have done everything I can, then whatever happens, happens and I just take it like that.”