A last-minute Zoom call with coach Dom Azzopardi has helped Lucas Herbert to make a bright start to his European Tour season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi overnight.
A 4-under par round of 68 has Herbert as the best-placed Australian with the first round to be completed this afternoon due to the heavy fog that delayed the start of play on Thursday.
South Australian Wade Ormsby is one shot behind Herbert at 3-under as is West Australian Jason Scrivener, who completed only eight holes before play was called for the day.
A week out from his Omega Dubai Desert Classic title defence, Herbert was concerned that a new driver shaft in excess of 46 inches may hinder his control off the tee until a call with his coach over breakfast eased his fears.
“His preparation wasn’t ideal and I actually had a Zoom chat with him prior to his tee-off,” Azzopardi revealed.
“He was struggling with his driver but when he got out there he said he absolutely flushed everything.
“He was just having his breakfast, we had a Zoom chat for 10-15 minutes and just talked about some of the things about this new driver. He was losing a few right with this driver and I talked to him about what’s going to cause that in his technique, particularly now that he’s got the ball further forward.
“To get to that ball he’s got to get a little more lateral and to make sure that’s not happening too much. From the testing we were doing any shots that he was losing right was because of that.
“It’s just reassurance. We’re using a new driver and we’re going to find out over the next three weeks whether that’s the right option and what we want to do moving forward.
“It’s just a lot of reassurance for him in that situation. Calm him down and give him a lot of positives about the decisions we’ve made and why we’ve made them.
“Just get him to be less anxious and calmer about what’s about to happen.”
After a year in which he recorded his maiden European Tour win and posted his best result in a Major championship (T31 at the US Open), Herbert and Azzopardi discussed joining the distance explosion taking place on tour.
To this point they have put a significantly longer shaft in the TaylorMade SIM driver he was using last year and made adjustments in the 25-year-old’s set-up with impressive results.
Gains in swing speed and ball speed have added some 20 yards to his tee shots, evidenced by an opening round in Abu Dhabi where he averaged 321 yards off the tee, a massive increase on his 2020 season average of 301.25 yards.
“When he left last Sunday it wasn’t ideal. He was struggling a little bit to get the ball starting on the lines he wanted to and having the shape that we prefer and want but it wasn’t far away. I was fairly confident he’d find it when he got over there,” said Azzopardi.
“He said he was struggling a bit on the Wednesday with the driver. We had a really good chat about that and some of his tendencies and what we’ve done technically to change things with the new driver he’s using which is a fair bit longer.
“He seemed really happy with a lot of the stuff we were talking about and obviously took it out on the golf course and didn’t have any troubles.”