Victorian Lucas Herbert has confirmed he will make his World Golf Championships debut in Mexico next week but insists he won’t be changing a winning formula to keep up with golf’s elite.
Herbert is one of seven Australians eligible to play in the $US10.5 million Mexico Championship from next Thursday with Kiwi Ryan Fox to line up for a second consecutive year courtesy of his PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit win in 2019.
Like Herbert, Order of Merit runner-up Zach Murray will make his WGC debut with 2016 Mexico Championship winner Adam Scott, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith and Scott Hend all expected to tee it up at the Club de Golf Chapultepec just west of Mexico City.
Victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic propelled Herbert to second in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings and thus earned an invitation to join the 72-man field that will include recently reinstated world No.1 Rory McIlroy.
By virtue of his win in Dubai, Herbert has guaranteed status in Europe through until the end of the 2022 season and said the release of pressure allows him to approach such opportunities in a relaxed frame of mind.
“I don’t know if it is a common thing that is going to happen for the rest of my career but it’s very nice now to get the opportunity to go and play a WGC event,” Herbert told the RSN Breakfast Club on Tuesday prior to joining mates for a celebration of his breakthrough win in Dubai.
“It’s obviously one of the best fields that you’re going to get for the year; there are not many players who are going to say no to a WGC event.
“You’re generally going to get the top 50 players in the world all there and it gives you a good chance to test your game against all those sorts of players.
“Now it’s all about the bonus stuff. Getting to play these WGC events and now with the Race to Dubai hopefully play a couple of majors and then at the end of the year play a couple of playoff events.
“That gives yourself the chance to play with a bit more freedom and not be too worried about what happens if things don’t go too well for you each week.
“It gives me a good opportunity to take my game to the next level but at the same time I know what it was that got me that win in Dubai and got me into that good form and that’s still the formula I need to stick by to play well.
“I can’t expect to change everything and expect the same results.
“A few of the tournaments I’ll be playing in will change but hopefully the process I go about getting ready for them doesn’t.”
The combination of injury frustration and the fatigue that comes from life on tour took its toll on Herbert in 2019.
Ultimately, Herbert required six weeks away from the game to allow a wrist injury to heal and said that it also helped him to fall back in love with golf.
“That wrist injury was a bit of a saviour for me because it forced me to have six weeks off from the game,” Herbert added.
“I didn’t have a choice. I was home for ages and couldn’t do anything golf-wise with the boys because I had this injury that we were trying to get ready for when I did want to play next.
“That gave me back the love of the game and with that comes the willingness to make all the sacrifices that you do need to make to contend at the highest level.”
The mental resilience Herbert displayed to fight back from hitting his second shot in the playoff into the water stemmed from work he had been doing with his mental coach Jamie Glazier, work that delivered immediate results.
“We thought it was a two to three-month process of putting things in place to feel more comfortable playing on the weekend again and the first week we put that stuff into practice I won,” said Herbert.
“It was a bit of a surprise for it to all happen that quickly but physically I had the feels that I needed to win golf tournaments, it was just whether I had the right mental capacity to do it.
“Something mentally has changed. There’s a realisation that my game is good enough to win and that I don’t need to go above and beyond to make anything like that happen again.”