Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston in focus following breakout display at The Open
Simon Sinclair | July 23, 2016
The crowd at Royal Troon on the final two days of The Open could have been mistaken for hungry barbecue-goers due to their audible shouts of “Beeeeeeef”.
It was not the case. People around the course were instead rallying their support to the cause of Englishman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston in his attempts to compete for the Major title.
The 27-year-old had come out of nowhere to make a name for himself among the Scots in attendance – due to his outstanding play and his striking bushy beard.
Although Johnston was unable to rise to the occasion on his final round, he certainly made a lasting impression that will have followers analysing his progress for years to come.
‘Beef’ still maturing
The Londoner made the decision to turn professional in 2009 after a successful amateur career, and had a steady start to life in the Jamega, PGA EuroPro and Challenge Tours.
He made his first appearance on the European Tour at the beginning of 2011 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, but failed to make the cut with a six-over display.
However, Johnston found his form at the Karnten Golf Open and finished tied-third at 16-under to announce his arrival on the tour. He also managed to reach the 140th Open through the Royal Cinque Ports qualifying rounds.
At the age of 22, the occasion overwhelmed Johnston as he failed to reach the latter stages of the competition, carding four-over and nine-over rounds respectively in his two days at Sandwich.
Johnston a quick learner
The Englishman appeared to learn from his experience as he improved significantly towards the end of the season on the Challenge Tour, placing second in the Russian Challenge Cup and third in the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
Johnston made enough of an impact to earn regular playing time in the European Tour, but again struggled to translate his game in tougher competitions, failing to finish inside the top 30 at any event in 2012.
A quiet 2013 ensued as his confidence on the course declined, but a resurgence lay just around the corner the following year as he claimed his first two titles on the Challenge Tour at the Scottish Hydro Challenge and Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.
As a result of his fine form, ‘Beef’ notched his highest finish on the European Tour by placing third at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, although consistency still eluded him.
A strong end to the season included placing in the top 25 at the Scottish Open, KLM Open, British Masters and Turkish Airlines Open, suggesting that the Londoner had finally found his feet on the European Tour.
Real Club a breakthrough moment for ‘Beef’
After falling narrowly short at the Qatar Masters, ‘Beef’s’ breakthrough came at the 2016 Real Club Valderrama Open de Espana tournament, securing his first title on the European Tour with a one-over display.
Johnston like others struggled at the US Open, but – for the first time in his career – he made the cut to play in the final two days of the competition. And, although he was well off the pace of winner Dustin Johnson, the experience would prove to be vital in his development.
The 27-year-old was set for the next occasion at Royal Troon and, aided with the lessons learned by his past troubles at The Open, he began strongly with a round of two-under on the opening day of the 2016 tournament.
Johnston was consistent on day two, carding another round of two-under 69 to move into contention inside the top 10, although the form of Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson was proving hard to match for the rest of the field.
A round of one-under gave him a chance of competing on the final day, but his efforts were to be in vain as Stenson romped to the crown, and although Johnston reached a high point of seven-under he was to finish in eighth place on three-under for the competition.
Winning admirers at The Open
‘Beef’s’ laid-back approach won him plenty of admirers on the course and, at times, he managed to take his play to the next level needed to challenge for Majors. Johnston’s task now will be to take that form forward and learn ahead of the PGA Championship.
The 27-year-old will be entering new ground at the final Major of the year, having never competed at the tournament previously in his career.
The Baltusrol Golf Club will provide a tough challenge, but there are plenty of first-time winners that have tasted success at the Championship, including Jason Day in 2015.
Johnston has long odds indeed of achieving that feat at 250/1, which could be worth a small backing considering the confidence he will have taken from The Open.
However, a better option could be 40/1 to notch a top five finish to continue his gradual improvement on the world stage.
You wouldn’t bet against shouts of “Beeeef” emanating from another golf course on the final day of Majors over the next few years, starting in Springfield, New Jersey next week.