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Driving test of a different kind awaits unfazed Neil

Emergency stops, three-point turns, parallel parking?

Bradley Neil, right,  shakes hands with Adam Scott after a practice round at Hoylake. Picture: Getty Sport
Bradley Neil, right, shakes hands with Adam Scott after a practice round at Hoylake. Picture: Getty Sport

Bradley Neil should have been doing all that yesterday on the mean streets of Forfar. Instead, he was performing a driving test of a different kind at Hoylake as he steered himself around the links of Royal Liverpool.

"Doing my test would have been another massive step in my life but I think you've got to put that on hold for something like this," said the 18-year-old from Blairgowrie who was gearing himself into fairway mode after ditching the Highway Code. "You can't exactly phone up the R&A and ask them to put the Open back a week."

Now there's a thought. The R&A in crisis talks with the DVLA?

Neil's blossoming career has been hurtling along at a fair old lick and his victory in the Amateur Championship last month has accelerated his prodigious process. "It's incredible to think I got in here, and it's arrived much earlier than I ever thought," added Neil, whose victory at Portrush was rewarded with the traditional invitation to the game's most celebrated major. The Perthshire lad is certainly enjoying the sights, sounds and experiences.

"It's incredible," he continued. "Usually I'd be walking past guys like Grant Forrest and Graeme Robertson [his Scotland team-mates]. Here it's guys like Adam Scott and Tiger Woods. I was like 'hold on, hold on, there's Tiger. Let's just stop and watch him walk past'."

The big hitters didn't just walk on by. Scott, the current world No 1, actually joined Neil on the tee for a pre-championship batter about.

"I was only supposed to be playing with Paul Dunne, who is an Irish amateur, and Shane Lowry," explained Neil. "But as I was standing on the tee watching Darren Clarke tee off and I saw Steve Williams coming through the tunnel towards us.

"I was thinking: 'Steve Williams caddies for Adam Scott, guys' but I thought he'll probably be playing in a one ball behind us.

"But he knows Shane obviously a lot better than us two guys and said: 'Is it ok if I join up with you?'

"We were like: 'You're the world No.1 - you can do whatever you want'. When I told Adam after six holes I won the Amateur he actually said sorry to me. He was very apologetic because he didn't know. He said he should have known why I was here. That was incredible."

Scott, the former Masters champion who let the Claret Jug slip from his grasp over the closing four holes at Lytham two years ago, may have taken time to register that Neil had captured the unpaid game's biggest prize but the young Scot had already caught the Aussie's eye.

"He had a practice swing on the first tee and it was this big swoosh that got my attention," added Scott. "These kids swing so fast. I could see there's a lot of talent and he's a strong young kid.

"He's got a great year in front of him with some incredible golfing experiences to come."

Neil is revelling in the Open hoopla. "But this is the highlight, talking to you guys," he said with a smile, as he nattered away with the Scottish scribblers who have kept close tabs on his development in recent seasons.

Confident, composed and articulate, Neil is as media-friendly as an industrial-sized quote vending machine and it's hardly surprising that he's been in demand in the build up to the Open. Television, radio, newspapers: you name it, Neil has done it. There can be drawbacks to this comprehensive coverage, mind you, particularly when the utterances get in the hands of a salivating headline writer.

The banner of an online article recently had Neil screaming that 'I can win the Open'. He's not the first to have been stung by a headline and he'll certainly not be the last. Neil just deals with it with a carefree shrug of his teenage shoulders, though. "It was not the way I said it," he stated with a roll of the eyes. "I said 'everybody wants to win this week and I'm one of them'. There's a difference between thinking you can win and knowing you can win. Guys like Tiger know they can win. I'm just thinking it would be awesome to win."

That is the kind of dream that every golfer harbours and this wide-eyed, but extremely focused and driven, teen talent is simply going to enjoy his moment in the spotlight. "Making the cut would be incredible," said Neil, who will be battling for the amateur silver medal with Ashley Chesters, Cheng-Tsung Pan and practice partner Dunne.

"The Amateur Championship was the event that got me here but to win the silver medal would be a dream come true.

"Everything seems a bit surreal right now and I don't think I will ever come down from cloud nine until all of it is over."

And when he does, he can always brush up on his Highway Code.

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