Bill Longmuir: Some players may still be anchoring

Senior Tour star talks golf in Barbados, leading the Open, 'bug bear' slow play and Tiger for 16 majors

Andy Roberts's picture
Thu, 25 Feb 2016

Bill Longmuir: Some players may still be anchoring

GolfMagic caught up with Scottish pro Bill Longmuir to discuss his burning desire to keep winning tournaments on the European Senior Tour at the age of 62, and his life of luxury at Royal Westmoreland.

Longmuir has played on the European Tour, European Senior Tour and US Champions Tour during his 48 years and counting as a golf professional and has won 14 times with eight victories on the European Senior Tour.

Bill, who led the first round of the 1979 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes, also spoke exclusively to us about a number of hot related golf topics including the recent anchor putting ban, the issue of slow play, Tiger Woods, the 'Big Four', and the current state of the game.

Bill, you must have been delighted to end the 2015 European Senior Tour with four consecutive top-20 finishes. How excited are you heading into the new season?

I was very pleased with my finish last year. There were some really encouraging performances in there, and with having spent this winter in the sun in Barbados keeping my swing and practice going I'm really looking forward to competing again in 2016.

So unlike us back in Great Britain, you've been enjoying plenty of sun-kissed golf during the off-season?

Absolutely. I've been playing an enormous amount of golf out here at Royal Westmoreland, not only giving playing lessons but joining in with the members in their weekly roll ups.

There are some great golfers here and it's extremely competitive, especially when I have to play off a +4 handicap! I have spent a considerable amount of time coaching both visitors and members over Christmas and New Year.

I've just been made director of golf here and I'm really enjoying the role. Everything about the resort is positive whether it be the place, the course, the people.

I've been immensely impressed at how everything works like clockwork under our CEO Greg Schofield and for a golfer to be in almost perfect weather all the time, you couldn't really ask for more.

Have you got any particular goals on the Senior Tour, and if so, do you believe you can fulfil them?

I want to win more golf tournaments. My last win was back in 2010 so I would be thrilled to get back in the winner's circle again.

Given the way I finished 2015, and how I feel right now, I believe if I have a good week then I have it in me to win again.

But realistically at my age of 62 now, my goal on the Senior Tour for this year would be to finish in the top 20 of the Order of Merit.

I would also love to try and shoot my age, too. It will get one shot easier on June 10 when I turn 63!

Which events are you most looking forward to this year and why?

There are many great venues we play on the Senior Tour but one of my absolute favourites would have to be the Swiss Seniors Open at Bad Ragaz.

It's a beautiful Spa town just north of Zurich set in spectacular scenery. The locals truly appreciate us visiting their town and golf course and the Grand Resort Hotel is one of the best in the world.

I've made many friends there, it's the longest running tournament on the European Senior Tour and the golf course suits my game with its tight fairways.

The Travis Perkins at Woburn is also right up there for me. The Duke's Course there really is beautiful, the tournament is always well attended and it attracts a great field.

You have won 14 times as a professional with eight wins on the Senior Tour. What has been your greatest achievement as professional? 

While I am very happy with all of those wins, I would have to say the best moment of my career was walking up the 18th hole at Royal Lytham & St Annes at 6-under par, holding a three-shot lead over Hale Irwin on day one of the 1979 Open Championship.

That was a magic moment for me and one I will never forget, despite going on to finish tied 30th. Seve Ballesteros went on to lift the Claret Jug that week as many of you will no doubt remember. 

Could you talk us through your golfing background and how you got into the sport?

I was introduced to golf by my father, no doubt like many of us, and he used to get me to caddie for him. He allowed me to hit the occasional shot when it was quiet and I became totally hooked by the game.

I left school at 15 to become an assistant pro at Basildon Golf Club and served my apprenticeship cleaning members' shoes and repairing golf clubs, but every spare moment I had I spent it on the range.

I passed my PGA qualifications and then began teaching and playing in local events when I could. Eventually the members of Thorpe Hall Golf Club collectively sponsored me to play on the Safari Tour in Africa for a seven-week trip and I won my first tournament, the Nigerian Open in 1976 which then enabled me to play full time tournament golf.

Who is the best player that you have ever played with and why?

Seve, he was quite simply a genius. 

Who would you say is the best player over 50 right now?

It's difficult to look past Bernhard Langer at 58 years of age, but Miguel Angel Jimenez, at the age of 52, is certainly giving him a run for his money.

What advice would you give an aspiring golf youngster today?

It's great to have a mentor but be wary of being over coached and getting too technical.  Play competitively and practice as much as you can.

One of the most controversial topics in the game right now is the issue of slow play. What are your thoughts on it? 

Slow play is one of my absolute bug bears. It drives me crazy on the course when you have slow players in the group because of the impact they are having on everyone else.

I'm so pleased that now it's becoming a priority for the tours to eradicate slow play.

EUROPEAN TOUR CLAMPS DOWN ON SLOW PLAY

Having previously dabbled with a broom putter yourself in 2011, do you believe the recent anchored putting ban that came into effect on January 1 this year was really necessary?

I think so, yes. However, I believe it's a shame the R&A didn't simplify things by saying your putter must be the shortest club in the bag.

I've watched a lot of players still using the long putter and it's not always easy to see whether they are anchoring it or not.

ANCHORED PUTTING BAN - UNDERSTANDING RULE 14-1B

What do you make of the recent changes being made to the European Tour under its new CEO Keith Pelley?

I do believe the European Tour needed new blood and fresh ideas, so it's great to see some of his ideas coming to the table already.

Hopefully Keith will bring a much more competitive attitude towards our future.

EUROPEAN TOUR ALLOWS PLAYERS TO WEAR SHORTS

What do you make of the state of the game right now?

I'm enjoying the impact that so many good young players are having on the game.

I do believe, however, the golf ball needs to be slowed down, especially for tournament play. This would allow the touch and feel players a much better chance to compete and make the game more skillful.

Talking of good young players in the game today, which of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler' impresses you the most?

It's great to see these guys tussling for the world number one spot week in week out right now, and long may it continue.

While Jordan is currently out in front, I think the world number one position is going to change hands a lot between these players this season. While 37 now, watch out for Bubba Watson, too, who is up to world number four now. 

It's just fantastic for the game to have such talented young players who appear to be capable of winning any of the big events.

For me, though, Rory is the most naturally gifted swinger of a golf club today. 

Rory to complete the career Grand Slam at The Masters in April, then?

Yes he would be my tip for the Green Jacket this year. He needs it on his CV. Jordan will be keen to defend his title, though. 

What do you make of Tiger's demise in the game? Is he finished or is he going to come back and land a 15th major one day?

It's very disappointing that Tiger is no longer a force in the world of golf. It's almost distressing to see him suffering when he's out on the course.

I truly believe he was the best golfer we will ever see. I do still believe he is capable of making a comeback, though, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him win another major, if not two. 

What can you tell us about this year's Open venue - Royal Troon? Which players can you see doing well around there? 

Royal Troon has my favourite par-3 hole in the world of golf at the eighth, the 'Postage Stamp'. It is a narrow green that runs diagonally and a very small target that always catches your attention.

For me, there are two young British players who have the game to compete at this venue and they are Danny Willett and Matthew Fitzpatrick. I think they will both be worth backing at decent odds. 

And just finally, is Darren Clarke going to captain the European Ryder Cup side to a fourth consecutive victory over the Americans this October?

I will obviously be routing for Darren and Europe but I believe the United States are going to be extremely difficult to beat on home soil this year under the captaincy of Davis Love, especially if he has the back up of a vice captain like Tiger Woods.

About Royal Westmoreland, Barbados

Royal Westmoreland is a 750 acre exclusive golf, beach and spa estate and offers a range of private villas, townhouses and apartments which are available for both home ownership and holiday rentals.

Five-staramenities include the par 72 championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., beach club, world class gym and pools, restaurants and tennis courts.

Developed in 1994, the estate was purchased in 2004 by UK-based Pure Leisure Group who has further developed it into a thriving community and leisure resort that has won multiple awards.

For memberships and more information on this Caribbean golfing paradise, visit www.royalwestmoreland.com

 

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