Marcus Fraser: I almost quit
From Russia to Korea might not seem all that far – by jet. Yet for Corowa professional Marcus Fraser, it’s a journey that has taken him seven years.
You see, that’s how long it has taken Fraser – from his first European Tour success in Moscow to taste victory again – in bagging last month’s Ballantine’s Championship on the Korean holiday island of Jeju.
Marcus Fraser: I almost quit
Victory has opened so many doors for Fraser but as Golfer Pacific’s Bernie McGuire discovered when he caught up with Fraser in Italy last month, there was a time in between his two wins when Fraser seriously considered slamming the door shut on his pro game – completely.
It somehow seemed appropriate that Marcus Fraser should end a seven-year winless drought with victory on Anzac Day. Fraser led from start-to-finish to win the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea by four shots, in the process claiming one of the more prestigious titles on the European Tour.
Adding to Fraser’s comprehensive dominance on Jeju Island was the fact he defeated a field containing such luminaries as triple Major champion Ernie Els, reigning US PGA champion YE Yang, fellow Korean KJ Choi, American superstar Anthony Kim, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and European Ryder Cup stars Graeme McDowell and Oliver Wilson.
There was also the tidy first-prize cheque of Euro 367,500, along with a two-year European Tour exemption. Ballantine’s presented Fraser with two special bottles of their finest product including a 36-year old bottle, of which only 20 were produced, and a 17-year-old bottle as well as an Omega wrist watch, that he was proudly wearing when the Golfer Pacific spoke to him at the BMW Italian Open.
But there were other prizes, including entry into August’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio plus a start in the WGC – HSBC Champions event in Shanghai. Fraser also jumped from 232nd to 98th on the world rankings and if he can stay inside the top-100 there’s the likelihood of contesting his first-ever US PGA Championship in the week after his Ohio appearance.
However there was time some years ago when Fraser admits he considered quitting golf altogether.
The demons had got into his game so much that Fraser was at his wits’ end. But showing true Anzac fighting spirit, Corowa’s favourite golfing son fought his way out of the trenches to see the Australian flag flying high on the Korean holiday island.
“It is always nice to win as it had been a long time since that win in the 2003 Russian Open,” said Fraser.
“Seven years was a long time, even though I felt like I had chances to win but just hadn’t done it.
“So it was nice to go out and play well on a Sunday when I went into the day leading the tournament.
“Any win is always a good win but the Ballantine’s Championship attracted an enormous amount of world ranking points that week given that Ernie [Els], Anthony Kim, Henrik Stenson and YE Yang were competing. So that was a big plus for me to win in a field of that quality.
“But I have to admit that I doubted whether I would win again and there was a time about three years ago when I seriously thought about quitting tournament golf.
“I just thought I was wasting my time out here and just playing badly and not making any forward progress.
“I didn’t know what I would do with myself given that I have been playing golf all my life.
“But then to come here to Italy for everyone to be coming up to me to shake my hand has been fantastic and makes me proud that, with the help of those close to me, I stuck at it.
“It’s also been great to get so many emails and text messages. They were quite overwhelming, which is also another nice thing about winning.”
Poor weather reduced the Ballantine’s Championship to just three rounds and there was pictures of the competitors rugged up as though they were competing in Scotland at the end of the season rather than on the normally sun-soaked Jeju Island.
Fraser dropped just two shots over the 54 holes and one of those bogeys was in electing to lay-up heading down the final fairway.
“To only drop two shots over a week is pretty good given the weather we had,” said Fraser.
“I also putted pretty well that week.
“When I was handed the trophy, I remember thinking I never thought I would have had to wait seven years to again get my hands on another trophy.”
Since winning in the Russian capital, Fraser actually managed to carve out a lucrative career for himself competing in Europe and earning more than Euro 2m in between his two victories.
In that seven-year period the former New Zealand Amateur champion enjoyed two second-place results as well as a third and 11 other top-10s. Yet Australian golf fans probably remember Fraser most for his Australian Masters tussle with Queenslander Rod Pampling late in 2008.
Fraser went into the final round at Huntingdale five shots adrift of the lead and two behind Pampling, who trailed the leading duo of Robert Allenby and Michael Sim by three. Fraser found his way into the play-off thanks to a superb final-round 65, while Pampling carded a 67 before Pampling won the event with a par at the third extra play-off hole.
“The Australian Masters was easily the best chance I had to win again after Russia but that didn’t happen, so a lot of doubt does creep into your mind whether you can actually win again,” said Fraser.
“So the really big plus that I took away from winning in Korea was knowing that I did have to talent to win again on the tour.
“The good thing also is that when I do get into contention again, I know that I have a chance.
“There’s also those who have stuck by me that deserve special praise – like my coach, Denis McDade, my sports psychiatrist, Pat Farrell and also John Davis, who I had done a lot of work with before deciding to go back to work with Denis.”
Still Fraser revealed he had little time to celebrate with those who had helped shaped his career as he headed straight from Korea after his victory to London and to his Camberley base in leafy Surrey.
“My manager Pat Jansen organised a few dinners when we got back to London so that was nice but other than that, I haven’t had time to fly back home to Corowa,” he said.
“But we’ll get around to doing that something during the year.”
It was to his parents’ house in Corowa where organisers of the Ballantine’s Championship despatched a replica of the trophy as Fraser and his family were still waiting to move into their new home. And while Fraser is now a multiple winner in Europe he revealed he has no plans to take his game to the US Tour.
“No, not really. I am quite comfortable competing on the European Tour,” he said.
“Last year I had the chance to go to final qualifying over there in the United States but I didn’t even enter.
“So playing in America is not something that really grabs me.
“And besides, at the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you are doing, and I enjoy my golf too much competing here in Europe to consider moving to the States.
“If I was to win another big tournament here then up goes my world ranking and then once you get yourself inside the top-50, you can virtually pick and choose where you want to play.
“So I would love to be in that situation.
“But there is still a long way yet before that happens.”