Acclaimed American coach Chris O’Connell believes that Malaysian No 1 Gavin Green has the potential to be a World Top-20 player.
O’Connell made the observation while in Kuala Lumpur last week to work with Green on his game. “Gavin’s a great athlete. He hits the ball a long way and the further you hit it, the more potential you have. If you look at all the top players in the world, pretty much all of them hit the ball a long way now. The game’s changed … it used to be about control and shot-making, and now it’s about hitting it as far as you can, find the ball, and hit a wedge to the green … and so Gavin fits into that kind of mould,” said the Texas-based swing ‘guru’.
Green, who plays on the European Tour, is currently 242nd on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and has been ranked as high as 157. The 25-year-old has been training under O’Connell since just before he turned professional in mid-2015.
“I think Gavin has the potential to be ranked among the top 20 players in the world,” stressed O’Connell. “He shouldn’t be ranked 200-something. I actually thought he would win this year … he certainly had quite a few chances, more chances this year than he did last year, as he’s been much more consistent. And the exciting part is that Gavin still has a lot of room to grow … his best golf is way in front of him.”
Recognised as one of the top golf instructors in the United States, O’Connell is the co-founder and director of instruction of The Plane Truth Golf Institute at The Courses at Watters Creek in Plano, Texas. A 1995 graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he was a two-time MVP and team captain, O’Connell played briefly on the PGA Tour before turning his attention to coaching. His students include Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.
O’Connell noted that he enjoys working with Green, describing the long-hitting Malaysian as ‘very coachable’. “It’s fun when you have someone that’s talented and coachable. If you ask Gavin to do something, he’ll try it; he won’t fight me or say ‘I don’t think that’s right’. He’s very eager to learn and asks a lot of questions … he leans on me for advice on various things, not just golf swing-related.
“The ultimate for me is to have a great athlete that’s coachable … and that’s what I have with Gavin. If he wasn’t both of those, I wouldn’t come all the way to Malaysia to coach him because it’s a big trip. But I believe in him and I’m excited about where he’s going. There’s not a lot of people I would fly halfway across the world for; fly two days and only be here two days,” said O’Connell, adding that he and his wife are extremely fond of the entire Green family.
After a week off back home in Kuala Lumpur, Green resumes his European Tour campaign in the Turkish Airlines Open which starts this Thursday at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Antalya, Turkey. Currently ranked 68th on the European Tour’s Race To Dubai rankings, Green is hoping for a strong performance to get into the top-50 and book his place in the season-ending US$8 million DP World Tour Championship.
“I’m feeling much more comfortable with my driving now. This is my second year on the European Tour and it’s still a bit of a learning curve, as there are many new courses on the schedule,” said Green, who finished 84th on the 2018 Race To Dubai and has four professional titles to his name – including the 2017 Mercuries Taiwan Masters when he went on to become the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title.
By Jonathan Ponniah