ST ANDREWS, August 29, 2017 – Kevin Pietersen, one of England’s greatest ever cricketers, will be playing in his third Alfred Dunhill Links Championship next month, hoping to make the cut and reach the final round on the Old Course for the first time.
He says: “All the amateurs are desperate to play on the Sunday. First year I was a rabbit in the headlights. I didn’t play good golf at all. I was pretty much in awe of the whole event. Year Two, I knew what to expect, but I got hardly any shots so it was quite hard and my pro Matty Guyatt and I missed the cut as a team.
“I’m off six and playing decent golf at the moment, so this time I’m hopeful. Making the cut would give me loads of credits for all the games I play against my mates over the next 12 months.”
Pietersen played 104 Test matches for England, scoring 8,181 runs. Always popular with the fans for his powerful hitting and aggressive style, he has just returned to play for Surrey in this summer’s T20 Blast competition.
Question: What makes the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship unique?
Kevin Pietersen: Jumping into the environment of the professional golfer and having the opportunity to share the experience with them, I just love it. I love watching their ball-striking and seeing how good they are. Also seeing if there is any way in which we can be of help to their game. Being towards the end of the season, there are a lot of golfers playing for their cards, for their playing rights, so it can be quite a high pressure environment. I always realise how lucky we are to be in their professional world.
Question: Are there any parallels with cricket?
Kevin Pietersen: Golf’s totally different. Everyone is quiet, everyone is fairly complimentary most of the time, there’s no heckling, everybody wants you to do well. It’s a fun environment that all of us amateurs really enjoy. It’s just the best week. An unbelievable event. We just thank our lucky stars when the envelope with the invitation arrives.
Question: Do you feel like a team with your professional?
Kevin Pietersen: Absolutely. Matty was an Australian from the Gold Coast. He was a very hospitable partner in terms of how he helped me with my putting and he was very engaging. He was also a very calm individual. It was wonderful to play with him. In Year One I had Eddie Pepperell and that was a wonderful treat. Spectacular golfer, really good guy.
Question: On the amateur side, you seem to have ended up playing with a lot of cricketers – Shane Warne, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher? Is that fun or competitive?
Kevin Pietersen: They are my friends, so when you play with your friends it makes it a lot easier than playing with people you don’t know. The draw is well thought out and cleverly done. It takes the pressure off.
Question: Have you had any unusual moments?
Kevin Pietersen: On a warm-up round at the Old Course I was playing with Ernie Els and we were on one of the holes where they share the green with another hole. I was just about to hit a wedge into one of the greens and Ernie stopped me on my back swing and said ‘you know you’re aiming at the wrong hole’. That could have been interesting. That first year, I was star-struck, playing with Ernie, a hero of mine. I sort of lost my marbles. It’s one of the great things about golf that you can play with these guys on the same bit of sporting turf.
Question: You’re back playing cricket at Surrey. You had a great welcome from the fans at The Oval?
Kevin Pietersen: It was absolutely amazing. I love Surrey, it was a wonderful welcome. Unfortunately I’ve been out for a couple of weeks with a calf strain, but hopefully I’ll be back for the last few games of the round robin. In November I’m playing in the new South African Global League; in December and January I do the Big Bash in Australia and then February and March I’ll do the Pakistan Super League in Dubai. That’s my schedule over the next six months. I’m very, very lucky. It’s a fun year.
Question: Looking back over your cricket career, what would be the highlight? The 158 at The Oval that secured the Ashes in 2005?
Kevin Pietersen: I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful moments. I don’t ever say one was greater than the other, although that was very special. Scoring 200 against Australia at Adelaide was magnificent, winning the T20 World Cup in Barbados was just as good, scoring 450 in Sri Lanka was up there. So lots of different reasons for different days being up there in my career.