GRAEME Storm has targeted a return to the winner’s podium as the 2010 European Tour kicks into top gear.
The 32-year-old Seve Trophy and Walker Cup golfer from Hartlepool feels he is ready to win again after recovering from a shoulder problem which restricted his early-season endeavours.
He spent five weeks away from the action in the hope of seeing the shoulder improve – and it has – and he also used the time to make a major move from Wynyard to a new base at Rockcliffe Hall.
Storm has decided to move from Wynyard to Rockcliffe in a 12-month affiliation deal which has a two-fold target.
First and foremost, he reckons the facilities at Rockcliffe are top-notch and will help tournament preparations and general conditioning necessary to compete in the European Tour.
Secondly, it’s an opportunity to be in position to help attract the biggest tournament in golf to the North East.
Clearly, Storm envisages the partnership between himself and Rockcliffe as likely to be long-term if everything goes well.
If that’s the case he sees himself being involved in a campaign to bring a top-line European Tour event to Rockcliffe and, eventually, the big one, the Ryder Cup.
But all that is very much in the future as he looks for another victory to add to his breakthrough 2007 French Open triumph.
“The shoulder is a lot better now,” said Storm as he relaxed in the five-star surroundings of Rockcliffe’s plush clubhouse.
“I was a bit down about it and I really shouldn’t have gone to Dubai, but I’m hitting the ball without pain now and I just have to focus and get on with it.
Storm, who turned 32 before jetting out to Morocco to rejoin the tour, hopes he has seen the last of the shoulder problem which affected him last season, although it didn’t stop him finishing in the money in 23 of the 30 tournaments he played and clinching 49th spot in the tour rankings with nearly £500,000 in winnings.
Nevertheless, he needs a good season – with a win – to make sure of his playing status for the next two or three years and that means being more consistent.
“I have to focus on cutting out the one bad round I seem have in the four now and then. It always seemed to be a Saturday last year, and it’s probably psychological.
“It’s something I have to sort out. I’m big into the mind thing, but, to be honest, I’m not very good at it.
“You have to be fit and alert, because the guys coming on tour have the game and they’re all fit and strong and hit it miles, and then you have guys like Lee Westwood – he’s always had the talent, but now he has got himself really fit, and it shows. I’ve been spending the last five weeks getting really fit because that is what you have to do.”
That’s one of the reasons for the move to Rockcliffe where he is able to use the fitness facilities, the spa and a state-of-the-art practice area.
“I’ve moved here purely to better myself,” he added. “ It’s like coming to the office and everything I need to practice, prepare for tournaments and relax is here.
“The target this year has to be another win to go with my 2007 French Open and make the top 60 in the world because I want to play in the WGC events. I don’t really think about winning every week, I’m not that type of person as I tend to take things as they come, and the Ryder Cup isn’t a specific target.
“If it comes along, it comes along, but I’m not making it a specific target. If I win three times I’ll be in it, but you can’t base your season on that target.”
Long-term, nothing would please Storm more than to see a big tournament at Rockcliffe as the prelude to the Ryder Cup coming to the North East, and he’s convinced that’s what owner Steve Gibson, the millionaire boss of Middlesbrough, has in mind.
Storm is more than ready to get right behind any campaign to bring a major tournament or the Ryder Cup to the multi-million-pound resort at Hurworth near Darlington.
“Rockcliffe can host the Ryder Cup, I’ve no doubts about that,” he said. “I’m sure we will see a European Challenge Tour or European Tour event here when the course is ready, but, long-term it’s definitely good enough for the big one – the Ryder Cup.
“I’ve played Gleneagles and Celtic Manor, who are to host the Cup, and I think Rockcliffe is better.
“They do mean business here, which is one of the reasons why I have come here. They’ll tinker with the course as you have to with all courses, but it is more than capable of being a Ryder Cup venue and when they do bid for it, as I’m sure they will, I’m hoping I will be involved in the campaign to bring the big one to the North East.
“They will have to put little bunkers in here and there, change things with time. Little minor things, but look at golf courses over the world, they all do that, Augusta does that for the Masters every year. They make changes to make it tougher.
“Celtic Manor is a great facility and rightly holding the Ryder Cup this year, but I don’t care what anyone says, that is not as good as this facility here.
“I have been to Celtic Manor and I know they are building new things, but this is fantastic and almost unique.”
“I’m really impressed with the way things have been set up here at Rockcliffe. They haven’t spared any cost and have done things properly, and they have a real gem, it really is something special.
“They have the clubhouse down here separate from the hotel, and it’s first class, as are the spa and the hotel.
“The affiliation is perfect for me and it’s also a bit more private and I can do my work without too much hassle and then relax in the spa or use the gym.
Besides the 12-month affiliation deal with Rockcliffe, Storm has signed new sponsorship deals with fashion specialist Tony Q’aja and Farmfoods while GAC, 2BM, TaylorMade and Adidas have all stayed on board which is testament to where they think Storm is heading.