Sunday 18 August 2019

'We hugged it out' - Matt Wallace wants to show he's a 'nice guy' after berating veteran caddie Dave McNeilly

Matt Wallace of England during a practice round prior to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club on July 02, 2019 in Lahinch, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Matt Wallace of England during a practice round prior to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch Golf Club on July 02, 2019 in Lahinch, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Phil Casey

Matt Wallace is determined to restore his reputation and prove he is a "nice guy" after the latest incident of poor on-course behaviour.

Wallace has been heavily criticised on social media for appearing to berate veteran caddie Dave McNeilly towards the end of the BMW International Open, where the defending champion twice found water on the 72nd hole as he chased a birdie to force a play-off.

That incident came just six weeks after Wallace apologised for a "petulant act" after banging his putter into the 18th green at Hillside after missing a birdie attempt which could have given him the British Masters title.

The 29-year-old Londoner has cleared the air with McNeilly and insists he wants to be an ambassador for the European Tour after speaking to chief chief executive Keith Pelley.

"I spoke to Dave straight away after we finished on 18 and we spoke about the situation," a contrite Wallace said.

"I said let's not let this affect us going forward because he wasn't happy with how he performed as well, so I said let's move on from this, are we good? And he was, like, absolutely. So we hugged it out and moved on.

"The two times I've been in with a chance to win tournaments I've reverted back to how I used to win tournaments and that was to be intense, pretty much too much over the top.

"I used to do that on my own whereas now I've got a caddie and stupidly I've probably blamed him where I need to take full responsibility for what I did there - and I know that. It's something I am working on.

"I'm not proud of how I dealt with that situation and I have definitely addressed it and moved on. Just because I haven't said anything on social media doesn't mean I haven't addressed it with my team.

"A lot of the bad stuff I've done on TV has been all reactive. On the 15th (in Munich) I thought I'd hit a good shot and it went long, then I reacted straight away by throwing the club on the ground and you just can't do that when you're in the limelight and people are watching you and you want to set an example.

"I've thrown clubs in the past and no-one has picked up on it and it's just because I'm number one on the Race to Dubai and 24th in the world that people see it a bit more.

"The third place in the US PGA is one of my biggest highlights in my career so far because people wrote me off (and said) that I couldn't do it in the big tournaments - and it was nice to prove them wrong.

"And it's just like with my attitude; I'm looking forward to showing people who I really am, I'm actually quite a nice guy but I'm fiery and feisty and I want to win and have that passion. I'm going to show people that I can control it."

Wallace says he has not watched footage of the incident online but his parents have and were first in line to "give me a hiding."

"They said there's a few people out there that don't like seeing you talk to Dave in the way that you did and I'd be the first to say sorry to Dave," Wallace added.

"I actually haven't seen it but I've spoken with Dave and my team and Keith Pelley as well. I've actually seen him a few times over the last year or two talking about my future and this time it was more about controlling my emotions, what do I want to be perceived as on the European Tour?

"I want to be an ambassador, so having this bad news about how I reacted is not how I want to be perceived. I want to be known as a passionate, fiery competitor but it's controlling that passion and drive that will get me back to probably where people knew me from at the start."

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