x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Sky is threatening to fall on Bond-lover Quiros

After hitting the heights of winning the 2011 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the 'perfectionist' is in danger of missing this year's cut.

Quiros is under pressure ahead of his return to the Jumeirah Golf Estates, the scene of his crowning moment.
Quiros is under pressure ahead of his return to the Jumeirah Golf Estates, the scene of his crowning moment.

Given Alvaro Quiros's fascination with James Bond, perhaps the Spaniard should enlist 007 to help in his attempt to qualify for next month's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

The champion, whose stellar 2011 had made him too a master marksman, has suffered this season, by his own admission, from a crisis of confidence. He has lost that signature licence to thrill.

Quiros, currently 73rd in the Race to Dubai, has given himself two tournaments - the BMW Masters, which started yesterday, and the following WGC-HSBC Champions - to creep inside the top 60 players in the standings and collect an invite to the showdown at the Earth Course in four weeks' time.

For the typically swashbuckling 29 year old, it is very much a case of You Only Live Twice.

"They are finals," said Quiros at Jumeirah Golf Estates, days before flying to Shanghai for part one of his mission: the BMW Masters. "They're like the final match of the [English] Premier League or [Spain's] La Liga. Because I know if I don't play well in both events I'm not going to be here.

"The target right now in the Race to Dubai is simply to qualify. I know that's poor considering last season I was comfortable in the tournament and finished sixth in the Order of Merit.

"It's a shame, but I have to try and approach golf very calmly, believe my game is coming around right now and just hope the situation will change."

The dispirited demeanour is in stark contrast to the last time Quiros visited these parts.

On a late November afternoon last year, the Cadiz-born golfer navigated with a pair of thunderous three woods and a 50-foot putt the 651-yard 72nd hole of the then-Dubai World Championship, carding an eagle three and claiming a two-shot victory.

The win marked his second of the season - in February he had reigned supreme at the nearby Dubai Desert Classic - and his sixth top 10, in the process nudging Tiger Woods from the No 21 spot in the world rankings.

His place at the four majors guaranteed, and a Ryder Cup contribution seemingly soon to follow, Quiros expected big things from 2012.

Instead, the season has brought only one outright top 10 and a multitude of missed cuts - he has not made a weekend since May - most notably at golf's premier quartet.

The loss of form finds its source in a technique change designed to encourage consistency and help Quiros more regularly contend titles. It has had the opposite effect; belief and boldness, once his two greatest attributes, have been replaced by insecurity and sapping introspection.

"I've been criticising myself that much this season that I don't let myself just play," he said. "It's been difficult for me, so difficult. Because I push myself, I'm a very ambitious guy and sometimes too much of a perfectionist.

"And in golf, perfection doesn't exist. The key for why I'm in this bad moment in my career is I've been practising more and working out more, and so was expecting more, too.

"I wasn't able to accept that I missed shots this far right or that far left, when at the end of the day we are human beings and must try to accept it, be ready to face the next shot and not think how bad was the mistake before.

"That's what has happened to me 95 per cent this season."

Quiros, who posted a first-round, two-under par 70 yesterday at Lake Malaren to sit tied-22nd, seeks solace in past peaks.

Under pressure, he has usually prospered.

In his first event after earning his place on the 2007 European Tour, the emerging golfer remained unaffected by the water threatening his approach shot on the final hole of the Alfred Dunhill Championship to secure a par and seal the trophy.

Then in 2010, with another two titles under his belt, Quiros holed a testing par putt on the penultimate hole at the Open de Espana, his home tournament, to become the toast of the country.

He again held his nerve during a frantic final round at Emirates Golf Club last year as he collected the Coffee Pot Trophy, before his snaking eagle putt 11 months ago in the climax to the Race appeared to reinforce his considerable conviction.

However, remembering the special moments has this year grown harder by the week. Quiros, though, is hoping the search for answers is almost complete.

"There is no doubt I can take inspiration from [past experiences]," he said. "I was conscious of the need to change last season because the most difficult thing technically is to develop under pressure.

"After winning in Dubai I thought I was a player who could win tournaments, but I wasn't confident enough to see myself in the top 15 or top 10 in the world. So I asked myself what I had to do to get into that position more, and consistency was the key.

"But focusing on getting a score while my swing was in transition was the hardest thing for me. I focused more on technique, on how I was supposed to do it, rather than just playing, which is why this year has been so bad.

"But I'm getting close now. I'm focused again on dealing with the things I have rather than worry about those I don't. I'm coming back a little, but golf is complicated."

Should Quiros scramble through to Dubai next month, he will have completed the kind of escape even his fabled secret agent would struggle to produce. A successful defence of his crown would presumably be stretching the imagination beyond even Ian Fleming-esque proportions.

"We have to analyse and be honest in every situation and it's not the same as last year," Quiros said.

"We can't expect the same happy ending as last year. But obviously I have a few points in my favour: I have good memories of this tournament and I have good feelings on this course. But I will never think of winning this tournament again. It could happen, but I can't think about it."

Having been significantly shaken this season, it is time for Quiros to stir.

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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