Andrew Johnston - Exclusive Interview with OLBG

Updated: 237 Golf

OLBG talk exclusively to Andrew Johnston about, The Master, The Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy and Barbequeing too!

Andrew Johnston - Exclusive Interview with OLBG

Peetlesnumber1, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Steve Madgwick Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

Andrew Johnston is a professional golfer with an infectious personality, who wouldn't be out of place on the cast of "Happy Gilmore." He's fondly known as 'Beef' and has made quite the splash on the European Tour Golf circuit: going from relative obscurity to winning 2016 Open de España. Not only does he have mad golf skills, but Beef also knows how to charm his fans - especially when it comes time for autographs and interviews!

Scheffler, Rahm and McIlroy’s battle to be world no.1 has been hugely impressive. If they’re all playing at their best, who do you regard as the best in the world at the moment?

It's so difficult to choose between them because they're all so good in their own right. What I would say about Rory is that if he's really on it, then you have to fancy him. I think you'd have to go with him because of how good he is, but you can never rule out Jon Rahm and obviously Scottie Scheffler has been doing some amazing things over the past year.

There are so many good golfers out there now, it isn't like the Tiger era where there's such a gap between him and the rest.It's so tight to choose between the three of them currently, but if I had to choose one of them, then it would be Rory.It's good to see though because in all sports you want to see that competition.

Peetlesnumber1, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The more people you have competing for that top spot and competing for the tournaments, then the better viewing it is. It's the same as any sport, in tennis you have that era of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray. When you do have that, and you see these epic battles then it just adds to the entertainment and the drama.

Could you imagine the three of them coming down the back nine on Sunday at Augusta in the masters? It would be amazing to watch, so I hope it's something we continue to see, this battle between three great players.

The likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cam Smith will be featuring in the Masters, will it be good to see them back amongst a talented group?

It's such a shame because we've already got a lot of good players on the PGA tour and if you add the LIV guys back in with the likes of Bryson, Brooks, Cam Smith and Dustin Johnson; it's an amazing field. There's so many good players and you have to think how good the viewing would be.

You'd have 15 to 20 superstars all competing it out most weeks would put golf in great shape, so it's such a shame that it's been split up a little bit. But it's exciting because they'll be back for The Masters, so you're going to have a strong field.

You want these guys in the majors because you want to play against the best players in the world. 

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What are your thoughts on Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s Tech-infused Golf League coming next year? Do you think this will help attract a new, younger audience to the sport?

I think it's something that's got big potential. Personally, I don't know much about what's going to happen and I've only seen in the news that there's a new golf league coming along.

If they can get this right, it could be really good. My one concern is that it might come out a bit tacky or cheesy, I'm not sure if other people feel the same way, but I hope not. You want it to go well, and I've always said the more the merrier with golf.

The more people interested in golf, the more fun it is and the more people getting involved with the benefits is only good for the sport. I definitely think it's a good idea and it'll be interesting to watch when it comes out.

I hope it goes really well because you want as many people playing golf and supporting golf as possible. The names they've brought in so far is amazing, they're all going to be superstars in that league.

That alone drives the interest straight away and anything to do with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods is going to gain a lot of following. I'm really interested in how it plays out; I just hope they get the right angle on it so it's entertaining rather than it becoming tacky.

Is Rory McIlroy the natural successor to Tiger Woods as golf’s biggest superstar?

Yeah, I think so. It's going to be slightly different because I don't think he will be as dominant as Tiger Woods.

I don't think anyone for that matter will be as dominant as Tiger Woods was going through some of his piques. No one is going to win six, seven or eight tournaments in a row again, it's just not going to happen.

When you look back on Tiger's career and some of the records he holds, it's absolutely insane how good he was at that time. I think you'll get a lot of guys like Rory McIlroy, John Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas who will carry that mantle. There are loads of them out there, Max Homa at the minute is playing some great golf. They'll all be moving around the rankings; the world number one will constantly change with these guys moving up and down.

It's going to be tight and compact between these players which will make for good viewing and great tournaments.

2023 Masters Venue - Augusts - Ryan Schreiber, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Could we see Rory McIlroy win The Masters this year?

Even since he had the rough back nine when leading in 2011, every year you can never write him off because he's such a good golfer. There's no way anyone can ever say he's not going to win it. He's coming into the tournament playing some great golf as well, so it'll be interesting to see how he handles it if he's in the lead on Sunday. It's one of those things, but if he does win it, I think every golfer will be worried.

If he gets that monkey off his back, then I think he'll just keep winning more and more going forward.

I think everyone wants to see him win this major, finally see him get over the line because he's been such a good player for a long time. But it is one of those things, if he does win it, then a lot of the players will be thinking 'oh s***'.

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Does he need to get off to a good start?

It's massively important that he gets off to a good start. I think with the competition in the field, if you get off to a slow start and the others pull away, then it's so hard to catch up.

He doesn't have to do anything special, but he just needs to gradually keep himself in contention as the week goes on. That's what we look at in these tournaments and the old saying goes, “you can't win it on a Thursday, but you can certainly lose it.”

I think if he can come out, play some steady golf, and get himself in the mix on Sunday, then he's going to have a better chance than a lot of people.

What do you make of the new proposals around reducing ball distance, which Rory McIlroy has spoken in favour of?

I couldn't care less to be honest. If they're going to do it, then they're going to do it. I do think it'll harm the shorter hitters than the longer hitters for sure.

If you've got Rory McIlroy hitting it 350 yards and it tones it down to 320, you've got to think of the guy hitting to 290 which tones down to 260, then that's a big difference. So, I generally think the short hitters will get the worst of it.

20/30 years ago, it was the majority of great ball strikers winning the majority of the tournaments so it might go back to that in the ball striking favour. I don't really know where I sit on it, if they're going to change it then so be it and we're going to get used to it and play with a different ball.

What I'd like to see from a ball perspective is slightly different; a couple of years ago I hit an old wooden driver and didn't understand what the fuss was about. I hit it straight out of the middle, but the second one I mishit slightly, and it ended up going sideways.

I thought if I hit that with my driver then I'd be on the edge of the fairway, so for me I'd like to see the ball spin more or curve more if you do mishit it a bit. I think that's got to be the difference, I don't think it necessarily matters how far it goes, but when you mishit it, then it's a bit more penalising rather than hitting one out of the toe or the heel where it still goes pretty straight.

The ball and the driver work together, and they need to get the balance right where possibly you make the driver heads slightly smaller and the sweet spot a bit smaller. Yeah, you can still hit it that distance if you get it right, but it goes off line if you're not. That's the change I'd make personally.

How are you? How is the injury holding up and can the people expect more BBQ content going forward?

It's been really frustrating to be honest. To play one event and get a lot of pain again which means I have to stop is really frustrating for me. But it is what it is.

On the upside there is definitely some more barbeque stuff in the pipeline, I would love to do more because I had such a good time doing it. There's just so many people I need to go see, barbeque with and eat their food.

After going through injuries what are you own personal ambitions become going forward?

Injury wise, it's just about getting back fit, that's the key really for me. I know I can play good golf, that showed in Dubai after a year out, so for me it's about getting back and getting healthy.

If I can play 25 events a year, then I believe good things will happen for me and I can get back to my best.

Who do you want to see in that green jacket, and do you think we’ll get any surprises in the field this year?

Of course, I want Rory to win it, but as I've said there's a lot of good golfers in the field. I think The Masters is always a tournament that does throw up a few surprises. Sometimes it warrants players who play a steadier game like we've seen with Mike Weir.

There's going to be a lot of wedges which suits players like Danny Willett to a certain degree. The solid steady players, who aren't necessarily the bombers will benefit more, I think.

Moving the 13th back as well changes it quite a bit because I think most players will lay up now. They'll use it as a three shot, and I think it takes the longer players out a little bit.

Cam Smith is someone who I think could have a good run because when you lengthen the par fives, it can suit the wedge players much more. Instead of coming in with a six iron, they might now come in with a three iron into that green which previously might have been difficult.

So, these players will know that they aren't going to hit the green in two, so it's better to use your wedges and lay up in four.

Scottie Scheffler has recently pointed out the challenges some of the golfers could face on the 13th hole at Augusta (lengthened by 35 yards), could we see some struggles throughout the tournament?

Yeah, it'll bring some sort of drama, the way the green is sloped and the way the fairway sits means it isn't an easy second shot. You will see some mistakes or struggles because it might come down to it as the week goes on.

Players might play conservatively, but all of sudden someone might be one or two shots behind and they have to take a risk and take it on. It'll bring in some good drama towards the end, but sometimes when you lengthen it you think maybe they can push the tee forward on Saturday. You want to see guys taking it on around the corner because there's risk in doing that. You've got to hit a good tee tight to the trees to get it around the corner as well.

One part of me says it takes the risk and reward out of it from hitting a good tee shot, the other side says they want to make it more difficult for the players. I don't think it makes the hole necessarily harder, it just changes your approach where players will hit a 3-wood or an iron off the tee to lay it up in a certain space. It won't make it the most exciting hole I don't think, but when it comes to Sunday and players want to win, then you'll see them go for it.

In the recent Match Play Championship, McIlroy was testing out a new driver and putter shaft – is that a slight risk less than two weeks out from a tournament? What would your attitude to doing this be?

You know what, I've been wanting him to go back to a bladed putter for years. I remember playing at the juniors with him and seeing him use a bladed putter, it just suits him more. He's always used it since he was a kid and I think it's a good choice for him to go back to that type of putter. With the driver, he obviously wasn't happy with something, so there's no point going into The Masters unhappy with the set up on a driver.

You might as well change it and see if you can build some confidence right before the tournament. All it takes is one practice round or a session on the range to make you realise you need to tweak something. Suddenly you go out there and drive the ball well in a tournament, so it justifies your decision to change it.

I don't think it's massively important in terms of making those changes a couple of weeks before The Masters.

The other side will be because it's such a big tournament, everyone will have their eyes on him.

If he doesn't drive the ball well at Augusta in the first nine holes or the first round overall, then people will be on his case saying he shouldn't have changed his driver or done this or that. For me personally, I think it's a good move and a positive move. If you're not happy, then you have to do something about it.

LIV golf has caused some divisions, do you think we’ll see any tension when all players come together at the Masters?

I don't think we'll see any more tee flicking going on! I think most guys will be concentrating on the week. There's obviously going to be media speculation about it and the guys coming back. But if I was to put myself in Jon Rahm's shoes or someone like that, then they're there simply to win a golf tournament.

Federación de Golf de Madrid, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

He's there to compete against these guys, I think they'll let it go and concentrate on what they have to do during the week, so I'd be surprised if we see any arguments on the course. If there is a bit of spite to it, then definitely yeah it will add to the entertainment. If you're going to get a Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy last group pairing, then there would be a lot of eyes on that group. It nearly happened in Dubai in the Desert Classic, which was crazy to watch.

So, if you're going to get a pairing like that, there’s definitely going to be a bit of needle in it. They both will not want to lose to each other, and it just adds to the emotion involved if something like that happens.

The PGA guys will not want to let the LIV guys win, and the LIV guys will want to beat the PGA tour guys to have a dig at them as well. I don't think we'll see much Thursday or Friday but depending on who's at the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, then I think we'll see some talking.

If one player birdies this hole or does this, then he'll be paired with this player, so it'll definitely add to the Sunday drama. I think it could be potentially interesting to watch depending on who's grouped together.

Do you think any golf fans will be upset if a LIV golfer wins at Augusta National? If so, can you understand it?

It will upset some people; it's got to the point where it's a marmite situation. Some people don't want anything to do with LIV, whereas others are more tolerable to it, but yeah 100% it will upset some people if one of the LIV guys wins The Masters.

At the end of the day, they've been allowed to play so you've got to accept that and crack on with the tournament. If it was me in that situation, on the PGA tour and in The Masters seeing these guys play, it wouldn't bother me. I'm there to play the tournament and do my best at this tournament. But I can see why the media might get upset and some golf fans who are die hard PGA fans will get upset if it happens.

JazzyJoeyD, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There's been talk in the golf media about the gulf between the European Tour and the PGA, what comparisons can you make from the tournaments and the players in those tournaments?

No disrespect to the DP Tour because there are some amazing events like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Wentworth, Irish Open and Scottish Open; they're all great events. But there's some weeks where it's right up there for great events, then others it's a totally different atmosphere. I find a lot of the PGA Tour events are at the higher level, every week was a really intense, big week for the players. Obviously, the prize funds are bigger and more consistent which helps as well.

The one thing I don't understand is the no cut events. I'm calling bull**** on sponsors wanting to make sure the top guys have to play all four days. If you go back and look how many cuts Rory, John Rahm and Justin Thomas have missed, they hardly miss the cuts anyway. Shortening the fields and not having full fields; I'm not a massive fan of that because these guys are up there winning tournaments anyway. These guys are usually playing the full four days, so I don't agree with that point at all.

I just think the gap and the evaluated events have made the gulf between the DP Tour and the PGA even bigger now. I don't think it's a good thing and I think the DP Tour is sort of becoming a feeder to the PGA Tour. It's great for the players, but I don't think it's great for the tour which is my personal take on it. That distance will keep on widening in the coming years, so that's something I'd be worried about.

Will it have any effect on the Ryder Cup at all in terms of the quality on both teams?

No, I don't think so, there are so many good European players, so they'll end up on the PGA tour anyway competing. The teams will be pretty even, you've seen how good the European team was 10 years ago, now we're seeing how good the American team is with the amazing bunch of players they've got at the moment.

The Europeans will come back again and be dominant because sport usually goes through these cycles. It turns like that over 10- or 15-year periods, so I don't think it will have any effect on the levels in it. It'll naturally dip in and out, there's so many good European players and they'll find themselves out on the PGA tour in the coming years.

Players will go from strength to strength, you've got Hatton, Fleetwood, Lowry, Fitzpatrick, McIlroy and Rahm, so there's loads of quality players already there.

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How much are you enjoying the YouTube channel you created?

I just love barbequing; it's been in the back of my mind in the past couple of years and I would always ask friends when I'm back who are big barbequers or if I see a cut of meat I fancy cooking. I just ask them the best way to cook it as well as other things, so I'm thinking if I'm asking all these questions, I can't be the only one thinking this. I can put on an episode showing people how to cook in certain ways and how to cook certain cuts of meat.

You can cook anything, some of the best stuff I've cooked over a fire is vegetables or even fruit, so you can cook literally anything. I just wanted to find that broad perspective that you can cook anything over fire, there's just certain ways on how you cook it. Being outside and lighting a big fire, there's just something I like about it as well as having your friend’s round. It's a nice sharing environment, cooking food and having a good evening.

That's what I've tried to get across in my channel. It's definitely made me a better chef, some of the tips have helped me so much.

I will never cook a spatchcock chicken differently from how Elliot (Cunningham) taught me, it was the best chicken I've ever eaten.

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