ST ANDREWS, August 21, 2017 – Brian McFadden has revealed his game plan for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this year – practise long and hard at Carnoustie.
The former Westlife singer, who played for the first time last year with professional Robert Rock, is relishing returning to St Andrews, but says he has learned from his mistakes after the pair agonisingly missed the cut on countback.
He says: “We shot 9-under at St Andrews, 12-under at Kingsbarns, but at Carnoustie we were lucky to finish one-over. I hit the ball out of bounds on two par fives. If I’d made a bogey on one of those two holes for a net par, we’d have made the cut. The mistake was not practising at Carnoustie. This year I’ll definitely be having a couple of practice rounds.”
He also plans a rather different personal approach to the event. “As Rocky doesn’t drink I decided to go off the drinks as well. To be honest, as an Irishman, I play my best golf if I’ve had a few pints of Guinness the night before, but I decided not to drink the whole week.
“After Carnoustie, which was on the Friday, I said right, we’re out of it now, so I went to the local Jigger Inn with Ronan Keating and had a late night. Next day we shot 12-under at Kingsbarns! So this year, I’m going out every night.”
Brian, now 37, says golf has become a massive part of his life. “It’s right up there with music. I played golf as a kid, then took it up again about five or six years ago. I’m very competitive. We played almost 36 holes a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday last year, but no matter how much you’ve practised or what you think you can do, it all flies out of the window when you get on the first tee.
“You go from wanting to win, to just wanting to make the cut. And pretty soon when you get to Carnoustie, which is one of the toughest golf courses in the world, and you’re three or four over after nine holes, you’re thinking ‘I don’t want to come last’. Your goals change the whole week.”
In the last 18 months, Brian has been part of the morphing of ‘boy bands’ Westlife and Boyzone into a new touring entity called Boyzlife, with former Boyzone singer Keith Duffy?
He says: “Keith and I have put together a tour where we show videos and tell behind the scenes stories and sing all the hits from Westlife and Boyzone. We’re loving it. My plan now is to do a new solo album and Boyzone are doing a world tour next year for their 25th anniversary and I’m going to go with them. It’s going to be great.”
Does he miss the Westlife days?
“I miss the boys. I’ve been solo for a long while and it can be quite a lonely existence, but being back with Keith and going on tour is fun. It’s always better sharing all those great moments. You can see that through Ronan as well. That’s why he constantly goes back to Boyzone every three or four years. It’s a lot more fun to share it with someone else.”
Are there similarities with appearing on stage and playing in a massive golf championship: nerves, performing in front of an audience, or is it totally different?
“A lot of sportsmen have said to me they might have played at Old Trafford or Twickenham, but when you stand up at the tee box it’s different because you’re out of your comfort zone. But being used to singing, for me it actually helps. I get no more nervous hitting the ball with a hundred people watching me, as if I was hitting the ball on my own. I think I thrive on having a crowd. If you hit a good shot, you’re going to get applause, like if you sing a good sing the audience cheers.”
What does he think of the three courses?
“St Andrews is St Andrews, it’s the Home of Golf. Just to be on the property, the nostalgia of everything that’s gone on there. You go around thinking ‘I remember Tiger doing this here, I remember Faldo doing this there’. It’s like walking down Coronation Street. It doesn’t seem real when you’re there.
“Kingsbarns is probably my favourite of the three, it’s stunning. Even though it’s a links course, it’s got that real parkland feel. The views are just spectacular, it’s one of my favourite courses.
“Carnoustie is just the old beast. If you’re playing good golf you can probably do well round Carnoustie, but if you’re not playing at your absolute best it will eat you up and spit you out.”