James Ablett has vowed not to be overawed as he chases a top-10 finish at the BMW PGA Championship.
The prestigious event, which gets under way at Wentworth on Thursday, is seen as Britain’s second biggest tournament after The Open and pits Lee-on-the-Solent professional Ablett against some of the biggest names of the golfing world.
Sadly for the 38-year-old, long-term friend and Major winner Justin Rose –who he watched the tournament with in 1995 – will not be among the group after being ruled out through injury.
That was also the case seven years ago when Ablett made his only other appearance at Virginia Water.
But having joked Ryder Cup winner and Golf at Goodwood ambassador Rose is running scared of a reunion, long-shot qualifier Ablett insisted he is not just there to make up the numbers.
He said: ‘I am 2,000/1 to win it.
‘You would have to go along to a bookies, though, to find out what price I am to make the cut.
‘Normally, they only put that down as 2/1, which is pretty pants really!
‘But my big ambition is not to make the cut, it is just to do as best as I can.
‘Ideally, a top-10 would be the ultimate achievement.
‘As one of the 10 PGA pros playing, we won’t get paired with the big names at the start – that would be if you made the cut and got lucky enough on the draw after.
‘But, unfortunately, the one person I would have enjoyed playing alongside is not playing now.
‘Me and Justin grew up together playing junior golf with Hampshire and actually came to watch this event together about 20 years ago.
‘We were both on one side of the ropes back then.
‘But this is the second time I have played now and both times he has had to pull out because of injury – I think he doesn’t want me to qualify again!
‘Either that or he is running scared, I don’t know which one!’
Ablett insisted he has learned from his maiden Wentworth appearance in 2009, when he missed the cut by four strokes – after two rounds of 75.
But having earned a second crack at the European Tour’s flagship event, he believes his game is in a better position to deal with the course’s demands and dismissed suggestions the competition’s prestige will put him off his game.
He will be cheered on by friends, although Lee-on-the-Solent members will miss the opening day’s play after they scheduled their Pro-Am tournament on the same day.
‘There’s no added pressure to it – if you want to play here, that goes with the territory,’ said Ablett.
‘There’s no need to be afraid.
‘I have done it before and played a couple of tour events so I know a lot more of what to expect this time round and how I would react to things leading up to it and then on the course.
‘My game is in a good shape and there is going to be a big crowd supporting me – my closest friends from school are coming up, although I don’t know what state they are going to be in!
‘Unfortunately, my own club’s Pro-Am is on the same day as the first day.
‘That was a good call!’