It had been two months since our last tournament in Turkey back in November. Christmas and New Year all went by too quickly, and all of a sudden we were away again. This was to be my 14th year on tour, and Paul's 26th !!!! It always amazes me how time goes by so quickly. This was our 12th year in a row at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, and I can remember our first visit like it was yesterday.
Paul had spent the festive season on holiday here in Abu Dhabi, staying at the hotel next to the course, and had played it several times, so there wasn't any great need to arrive too early to see the course. Probably just as well. I hadn't been feeling too great, and on Wednesday went to see the doctor who gave me antibiotics for a chest infection. Two days later, Paul was doing the same. Talk about starting the year with a bang. Our early pro-am on Wednesday was a very civilised affair, and we we're ready for the tournament. We had an early tee time for Thursday, playing with Marcel Siem and Oliver Fisher, which was a good draw as Paul knows them both well, and my roommate Martin caddies for Olly..... Happy days. Our tee time on Thursday was 8.30 and the weather was perfect. Just a puff of wind and not a cloud in the sky. Both Paul and Marcel showed signs of the winter lay off, both scoring 73, while Olly cruised round in 66, much to the delight of my little roommate who chuckled his way round every time his boss knocked a putt in. We had work to do, with the cut looking like 2 under. A bogey and a double bogey early on in our 2nd round left us with a mountain to climb. Paul rallied well, but in the end it wasn't to be. As we were on a 3 week trip, there was no bag to be packed, as we would spend the weekend here practising, before moving on to Qatar. Hopefully the antibiotics will have kicked in by the time we reached Doha.....
2016 Portugal Masters
Another one of our very enjoyable weeks of the year, we all look forward to this tournament for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the weather is generally always good, the location is excellent, with the beautiful Vilamoura Marina on our doorstep, meaning there is no shortage of restaurants or watering holes, and the course never changes from year to year.
As Paul was in the pro-am on Wednesday, I flew out on Tuesday morning. My flight was early... very early. 6.30am, thus a 4am alarm call was most unwelcome. The upside of this was that I was in my rented apartment by midday, sitting on the balcony with an ice cream from the Hagendaas shop next door, looking over the Marina. Sometimes the job isn't too bad. The pro-am was only nine holes this year, with each team getting a new pro for the second nine holes. It's a great idea, and hopefully we'll see more of it in 2017. As in previous years, we had Chippie's "Barmy Army" supporting us.... namely, Audrey & Brian Morrison, Val & Alan Reid, and of course, Paul's wife Marian.
Our playing partners for the two rounds were Pedro Oriol, stepping in as a late replacement for Thomas Bjorn who had pulled out injured, & Scott Jamieson, who was just inside the mark for keeping his card, and needed to make the cut to safeguard his playing rights for the following year. Fortunately, Paul and Scott get on well, and my best mate on tour , Ritchie, caddies for Scott, so it helped relax the atmosphere, and as a result both of them played well. After two rounds, Paul was ten under and Scott just behind at nine under. This put us just inside the top ten going into the weekend. With no wind, receptive greens and very little rough, the scoring was very good.
Saturday was a little bit trickier, with a decent breeze blowing, and although Paul got off to a slow start, the putter warmed up on the back nine, and a 6 under 65 was a very good days work. Not that Chippie's Barmy Army thought so. On the 11th, after a nine iron to about 12 feet, there was no applause from our gang....."That was a good shot. Why are they not clapping?" " Nae idea" was my reply. Walking to the next tee the disgruntled Chipmaster pulled them aside and enquired as to their lack of appraisal. Purely tongue in cheek of course, but it gives you an insight of the psyche of the tour golfer. I just chuckled my way to the 12th tee, having heard it all before. On the twelfth green, Paul holed a lovely 35ft putt for eagle, and this time they all went nuts, although I'm sure it was more to make a point!!
Onto Sunday, and we were in the second last group with Andy Sullivan and Chris Paisley. We knew to have a chance of winning we'd need another 65 at least. Again Paul got off to a slow start, but rallied again on the back 9, returning a 67 and a total of 20 under par, which was good enough for 5th place and our best finish of the year. We ended up 3 shots behind eventual winner, Padraig Harrington. It had been a lovely week, and a great way to finish the year. Time to look back on the year, get in the gym, and come back fitter and stronger next year. Well , that's my plan. We'll see how it works out.
2016 Porsche European Open
I had managed to get home early on Sunday from Milan, which was a bonus, and wasn't flying to Munich until Tuesday, so I had a nice couple of days at home. For the second week in a row, we were playing at a new venue, The Hartle Resort in Bad Griesbach, which is a two hour drive from Munich airport. My flight landed at the same time as Paul's, which was very handy, as he had a courtesy car arranged to pick him up ( Caddies don't get this service, so it was handy to hitch a lift for a long journey) Naturally, as the tournament was sponsored by Porsche, we had a lovely Porsche Cayenne 4x4 for the journey. I even got dropped off first at my hotel. Lovely.
I unpacked the bag and headed straight down to the restaurant for schnitzel and chips( which I ate every night) The tournament was going to be very different from a normal event. Due to record rain and flooding over the weekend, the course had been under water for two days. This meant all practice on Tuesday was cancelled, and even the Wednesday pro-am had to be called off. This meant no one was able to play the course before the tournament started. We were allowed to walk round, but not on the greens. It was doubtful that the tournament would even start on Thursday, but the green staff did the most remarkable job, and by Thursday morning, you would almost never know how much water had been through the course. The one thing that did give it away was on certain holes, there was the smell of rotting flesh from all the worms which had come up due to the rain...Not pleasant!!
Unfortunately, just like the previous week in Italy, we had more delays, but this time it was due to fog. We managed to start after a three hour delay, and Paul played steadily, shooting 2 under par. More fog delays on Friday meant we didn't play at all, so we just hit some balls and headed back to the hotel. On Saturday, we had fog for the third day in a row, and the tournament was now going to be reduced to 54 holes. We played our second round on Saturday afternoon, and were going along nicely, inside the cut line with 4 holes to go. Similar to Italy the week before, two bogeys at our 15th and 16th left us needing to birdie one of the last two holes to make the cut. The par five 8th looked to be our saviour, but a par was the best we could do, needing us to birdie the 9th to make the cut. After splitting the fairway with a three wood, Paul hit a big 8 iron to a front pin over water to about 20 feet and rolled the putt into the centre of the hole. Bingo. It was nice to make a putt when it was needed. Our third and final round on Sunday went on schedule, and Chippie breezed round in 5 under, holing a few nice putts on the way. Our journey from Munich earlier in the week had been in some style, in the sponsors highest spec car. Our journey back to the UK was even better. Due to Paul being vice- captain at the Ryder Cup in Minnesota the following week, we had to be in London on Sunday evening to catch the Monday morning charter flight to the states. There was no commercial flights guaranteed to get us there in time, so the promoters of the European Open very kindly put on a private jet for those who had to get to London. And It was a cracker. A 15 seater, with only 8 of us on it. We were even able to take our Mcdonalds takeaway onto the plane. The perks of the job.... sometimes all the travel isn't too bad.
2016 British Masters
Having done a fair bit of travelling on planes over the previous few weeks, it was nice to be able to drive to work, albeit a long one. We were heading to The Grove, just outside Watford, and I headed off on Monday evening at around 5pm, hoping to avoid the motorway traffic on the M6. It was fine for most of the way until a broken down lorry just outside Manchester, and a junction closer on the M1 added over an hour onto my journey. I got to my hotel at 11.15.... Torture. Another new venue for the third week in a row, so I met Paul on Tuesday morning, and we had a quick nine holes with Simon Khan, then spent the afternoon doing some testing with some new Wilson Irons.
Our pro-am on Wednesday was a jocular affair, playing with Dave Jones, who presents the football on Sky Sports. Poor David didn't have the best day, and after around twelve holes, we had to give him some golf balls as he had ran out. He took it in good spirits though, Paul played nicely, which set us up well for our afternoon tee time on Thursday. Playing with Rikard Karlberg of Sweden and South Africa's Trevor Immelmann, it was a very civilised 3 ball. Paul played steadily for the first 15 holes, and and at level par, it wasn't a bad effort as it had been windy in the afternoon. However, bogeys at 16 & 17 meant we needed to be four under on Friday to make the cut. Even though the conditions were tricky, the greens were pure, and scoring was still very good. After a tricky start, the Chipster moved up a gear or two, reeling off a few birdies to give us a chance. We needed one more birdie in the last three holes to make the mark, but the birdie putt on the final hole failed to drop, and it wasn't to be. I waited until the following morning before driving home. I'd had enough late night journeys on the M6 for one week. We had one more regular week left for our season, the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura... Let's hope it's a good one
2016 Italian Open
I had a very welcome week off after Switzerland, and flew on Monday from Edinburgh to Malpensa airport in Milan. Even though Glasgow airport is less than 30 minutes from my home, I've found myself using Edinburgh more often due to better flight options and frequency. Easyjet was the airline of choice, and the very civilised flight time of 2pm was just perfect. On arrival I hitched a lift with Ritchie Ramsay to the hotel, arriving just in time for dinner. They even gave me a complimentary beer at check.... Now that's service.!!
Paul wasn't flying until Tuesday , so it gave me time to get a look at the course, which was a new venue for both of us. It was very tree lined, not too long, and fairly soft, so scoring was going to be good. The Wednesday pro-am passed without incident, which is always good, and we we're ready for our early tee time on Thursday, playing with Romain Wattell, and our old Friend, Robert Karlsson. Our tee time was meant to be early on Thursday, but thunderstorms and heavy rain put paid to that. We eventually got started though, after a long delay which meant lots of coffee drinking and even more story telling about players and caddies, past and present.
Paul got off to a flying start, birdieing two of the first three holes, but faltered slightly on the homeward stretch, ending up on level par. As scoring was good, the cut was going to be under par, probably 3 or 4 under.
More thunderstorms and heavy rain on Friday meant we didn't get to start our second round until Saturday morning. A good round was required, but nothing is impossible, and Chippie came out the traps like a greyhound. Flawless golf for the first 15 holes got us to 5 under par for the round and the tournament, and inside the cut line. Internally, I was thinking we could get to six or seven under , but I should've known better. As soon as you start thinking that way, something usually goes wrong..... And it did. A loose iron shot at the 16th and a pulled drive at the seventeenth, meant we had to birdie the last to make the cut. The putt slipped by the edge of the hole, and all of a sudden we were going home. It was a bitter pill to swallow having been going so well, but that's golf. I packed the bag, loaded it on to the van for the trip to Germany the following week and went back to the hotel with my tail between my legs, sulking and looking for a beer. Back at the hotel there were a few caddies in the same boat as me, so we sat on the terrace, played some good tunes, listened to the football results, and topped it all off with a few beers and even more laughs..... Life on tour isn't always so bad!!
2016 Omega european masters
My flight to Geneva wasn't until Tuesday, which was a blessing after my late return from Denmark on Monday. Paul wasn't arriving until Wednesday evening, so I walked the course on Wednesday morning and had the afternoon off. This wouldn't be our normal preparation for a tournament, but as Paul was playing 9 out of ten weeks, rest inbetween tournaments was important, and the course at Crans Sur Sierre is one that hardly changes, so it was the ideal week to arrive late. Or so it seemed.....
Paul played some of his worst golf of the year from tee to green, and if it wasn't for a sharp short game, we'd have been heading for an early bath before the second round had started. Somehow he managed to return a level par 70. Our playing partners, Lucas Bjerregaard and Felipe Aguilar couldn't quite believe it. Fortunately it was a different story on Friday, with Chippie playing much more solidly, returning a 68 to make the cut with 2 shots to spare. As is our tradition in Switzerland, we always head to our favourite Italian restaurant in Crans Montana after our late tee time. Naturally, the Chipmaster picks up the tab and all was well for the day.
On Saturday we played with fellow Scot David Drysdale and Brett Rumford of Australia. It was probably the most three spread out players I've ever seen in one threeball. David played lovely to shoot 64, Paul struggled with the short game and carded a 73, and poor old Brett just wasn't at the races and signed for an 84. There wasn't much hanging around to practice in our match, so it was pizza and a couple of beers before heading back to get packed for departure after the final round. Every cloud has a silver lining, and due to Paul not playing well on Saturday, it meant we were both able to catch a flight home out of Geneva on Sunday night, due to our early tee time. Buoyed at the prospect of getting home that evening, Chippie waltzed round in 67, and within 15 minutes of walking of the 18th green, we were in a car for the two hour journey to the airport, stopping off at McDonald's on the way. A week off beckoned and we were both ready for it.
I had a 4.30 alarm call for my flight to Copenhagen, then another flight to Aalborg, then a quick taxi to my hotel. I was there by 11am and fortunately was allowed to check in straight away. I went straight to bed for a little nap, then went out for some food with Robert Karlsson's caddie, Damien. Aalborg is a great little town, and we found a perfect spot outside a local bar and watched the world go by. A perfect afternoon was had. I managed a long lie the next morning and met Paul in reception before getting a courtesy car to the course, which is 40 minutes away. We did some practice, had lunch, then played nine holes in the afternoon with Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, and Paul's fellow vice-captain, Thomas Bjorn. It was meant to be a quiet nine holes, with most of the discussion about the Ryder Cup. It turned out to be pretty much a slagging match, with Thomas on the receiving end of most of it, much to everyone's merriment!!
The pro-am passed without incident, and we were all set for Thursday's opening round, playing with Shane Lowry and local hero Soren Kjeldsen. Paul played fairly steady, without setting the heather alight, and returned a one under 70. Friday was a better day, with Paul taking advantage of his good play, and a 66 was the result. This put us just outside the top ten going into the weekend. After the round, Chippie and I went to the local Irish bar for sausage and chips and a pint of the black stuff. Just the one mind.... We were here to work!!
Our playing partner for the third round was Ritchie Ramsay, Paul's fellow Aberdonian. They both played well, Paul particularly so, but couldn't capitalise on his ball striking, and a one over 72 was the final tally. To say he was annoyed was putting it mildly.
The weather forecast for Sunday was poor, so the final round started early, in an effort to beat the thunderstorms which were forecast. Chippie got off to an absolute flyer, and was 4 under after 6 holes. A bogey at the tenth halted the progress a little, and then on the 11th fairway, the heavens opened. Within 30 seconds, the horn blew to stop play. By the time we'd walked back to the tee to get transport to the clubhouse, we were absolutely drenched. Fortunately because we started early, there was still plenty time to finish the round once the storms passed. The only downside was that most people missed their flights..... Never good. After the restart, Paul played the rest of the round in one over, and we signed for a 69, leaving us in 15th place, which was a very solid week, especially from tee to green, as Paul had led the greens in regulation for the week. I booked into another hotel for the night, booked a new flight, and headed straight out to the Irish bar for more sausage and chips and certainly more than one pint of Guinness.....Sometimes after a hard day you just gotta do it......!!
2016 D+D Real Czech Masters
We hadn't played this event since 2014, so I was looking forward to returning. The course was about 30 minutes from town, so we all stayed in the city. Prague is a fantastic place, and not too expensive. The weather was great and the course was in magnificent condition. We were looking forward to a good week. Paul wasn't flying till Tuesday, so I had a quick scout round the course to reacquaint myself. There had been a few changes to the 1st, 10th and 12th.... All par 5's. They had added water hazards to all three of them, making them a much more difficult proposition, and this was shown in the scoring.
We had an early pro-am, and as the course was 30 minutes out of town, it was an early rise... 4.30 to be precise. It was a decent day, and we spent a bit of time on the range afterwards, before heading back in the afternoon. Our playing partners on the first day were Robert Karlsson and Rory Sabbatini, who had just come back from injury. Paul played nicely on the first day, cruising round in 3 under 69. It was a decent effort, as the wind was picking up in the afternoon. Friday was a different affair, as Paul struggled with his ball striking through the middle of the round, and finished with a four over 76. We were right on the cut line, and had to sweat it out to see if we made the weekend. Fortunately, we scraped through on the mark. We played on Saturday with Matthew Baldwin and Nacho Elvira, who sounds more like a wrestler than a golfer. Nacho played nicely, shooting 67. Paul played decent, but didn't hole much, and returned a level par 72. Myself and Baldwin's caddie get on well, and we pent most of the day chatting, which was mentioned by the Chipmaster on more than one occasion. "Do you two ever shut up." "No!" Was our answer . Quite often there isn't much chat on the golf course , so it was nice to have a bit of a gab. His name is Andy, but goes by the nickname of P.D. , as apparently he looks like a plastic duck!! Just another tour caddie handle that has stuck with him.
We woke up on Sunday to rain and wind.... Right up Chippie's street! On with the waterproof jacket, and he cruised round in 68 in the worst of the conditions. This jumped us up over 30 spots to 35th, which in the end was a reasonable finish, as we hadn't played much since the Open. I stayed in Prague overnight before another 4.30 alarm call on Monday morning to catch the first of two flights to Aalborg, in Denmark, for our next event which was the Made in Denmark Open, which attracts huge crowds every year. I was just looking forward to a long lie...
2016 Aberdeen Asset Paul Lawrie Matchplay
I had a very enjoyable two weeks off after the British Open. It's nice to get a break in the middle of the season, especially as the latter half will be very busy for us.
I drove up to Archerfield on the Monday, and had a quick wander round the course. It was very good. I had played it 7 or 8 years ago, but had no recollection whatsoever of the course. I met Paul on Tuesday morning and we played the back nine, then after lunch we did some work on the range. It's a difficult week for Paul, as he has so many commitments and responsibilities, not to mention dealing with requests of all kinds from the players.
The Wednesday pro -am was a fun affair, as we played with Eric Herd of Farmfoods. Eric is huge supporter of Paul and his foundation, and great company on and off the course. He is also extremely competitive. A shake of the head and a strut off to the next tee when one of our team missed a putt let you know how he felt. We had a great afternoon, and it set us up nicely for the first round on Thursday afternoon. Our opponent was Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark. He has a reputation of being a big hitter, who can blow hot and cold. During the match Paul was two up very early in the match, and played solidly from there onwards, never giving Lucas a chance to get into the match. A lob wedge to 3 feet at the 16th was enough to win the match 4 & 2, and we were into round two, where we faced the Australian left hander Richard Green, a very experienced campaigner.
Similar to our match against Bjerregaard, Paul got off to a quick start, and held the lead throughout the match. With 3 holes to go we were two up, but a bogey on the 16th and a birdie by Green on the 18th took the match into extra holes, where Green holed for birdie from 10 feet, after Paul's putt from 12 ft had lipped out. All of a sudden we were out. It had seemed unlikely as Paul had been in control the whole day, but that's the beauty of matchplay. Green went onto to play the eventual winner, Anthony Wall in the third round. Wall defeated Green in extra holes, and in the final, he won on the 18th hole against Alex Noren. It had been 16 years since his previous victory, and " The Great Wall" as he is known on tour was understandably emotional.
For me it was back to our accommodation for the week, a quick pack of the case and I was home in just over an hour. We have a week off now before the beginning of a big run, starting with the Czech Masters. See you all in Prague.
Paul wasn't arriving in Troon until Monday evening, so I nipped down in the morning for a look at the course. I had been down about a month earlier, just for a quick look, and it had changed a lot in 4 weeks. Due to a lot of rain, the course was much greener, and the yellow gorse bushes around the course had become lush green. The course was in tip top condition, and as is normal with the Open, the huge infrastructure around the course makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
I met Paul early on Tuesday, and we spent a fair bit of time on the range and putting green. Paul had just re-signed with Wilson, so there was a few things to do on that front. We then nipped out and played four or five holes, before play ground to a very slow pace, so we decided to head back to the range. Roger Maltbie, who is an ex PGA tour player and currently works as an on-course commentator , kindly drove us back in a buggy to the practice area. Paul had done some work with his coach, Andrew Locke , over the weekend, and was keen to reinforce what they had worked on.
Wednesday morning was a very early rise. We were playing with Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke, at 6.45. Normally the first practice time at the Open is 7am, but being a Ryder Cup vice captain, and playing with the captain does hold some Kudos, so off we went. Darren and Paul aren't renowned for messing around, and we were off the course by 10am..... Lovely. A bit of breakfast, some more practice and we were done for the day. We had a good draw for the opening two rounds, playing with Thongchai Jaidee and Brandt Snedeker. The weather on Thursday morning was dry but breezy, and probably the toughest part of the day. Paul played nicely from tee to green, giving himself a few chances, but the putter was misbehaving, and a one over 72 was the result. The wind dropped in the afternoon and the field took advantage, none more than Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 63. On Friday the weather turned sour, and the afternoon starters got the brunt of it. As we warmed up on the range, it was pouring down. By the time we teed off, it was a little better, but the umbrella was hardly down for ten minutes before it started raining again. Paul played decent again, but a couple of bogeys around the turn meant we had to birdie two holes coming in. A driver off the fairway to ten feet on the the par five 16th secured the first one, and an 8 iron to 5 feet on the 18th gave us our opportunity. As the putt slid past the hole, the scoreboard changed, showing the cut mark going from +3 to +4. We had managed to sneak in after all. Having missed the last couple of cuts, it was a welcome result.
On Saturday we played with Jim Furyk, which is always fun thanks to his caddie, Mike "Fluff" Cowen, who is great company. Again Paul played nicely in tricky conditions, returning another 74. On the Final day, we were paired with Masters Champion, Danny Willet. He and Paul had played several times together, and both play quickly, so it was a good pairing for us. Again Paul's ball striking wasn't quite matched by his putting, and another 74 was the tally. Within 35 minutes of walking off the 18th green, I was home with my feet up, ready to watch the exhibition of golf from Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. Lovely. Our next event is in Scotland again..... None other than the Paul Lawrie Matchplay, at the glorious Archerfield links. Another home tie.....love it
2016 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open
I drove up the A9 to Inverness on the Monday afternoon. As always, the scenery was breathtaking, but I'd forgotten how arduous the drive was. Even more so since they had imposed a trial 50 mph speed limit on hgv's , which effectively meant that everyone had to drive at that speed. Fortunately I had Marc Warren's caddie, Ken' The Oracle" Herring for company. I'll let you work out why he's blessed with this nickname. Anyway, it made the journey easier having someone to talk to. We had rented a house for the week in Inverness and were sharing with David 'Magic' Johnstone, who works for David Drysdale.
I met Paul on Tuesday morning , and we played 9 holes in perfect weather, before heading over to Royal Dornoch to play a 9 hole Exhibition match with Sandy Lyle and Kelsey Mcdonald, to celebrate 400 years of golf at Dornoch. It was very good fun, but the rain poured down, and it wasn't the most comfortable drive back to Inverness. The pro-am on Wednesday afternoon was a similar affair with the rain, so it was a quiet night before our afternoon tee time on Thursday. We were paired with Thomas Peters and Thorbjorn Olesen. Two very good young players who had already proved themselves as winners on tour.
We had gotten a bit unlucky with the draw, as the wind was very strong on the Thursday afternoon. It was just on the verge of playable, as the ball was close to moving on the greens. To give you an idea, on the 12th hole, we had 275 yards to the hole, uphill, but strong downwind. We hit a five iron, and should've used a six iron!!! Paul struggled with his ball striking, returning a score of +9. This left us with an uphill battle to make the cut. Friday was a better day, as Paul played much steadier, returning a 73. Unfortunately we were still well outside the cut mark, and I headed back to our house to pack my case and head down the road, this time on my own....it seemed to take twice as long.
Thus we had the weekend off before the biggest tournament of the year.... The Open. This year it was being played at Royal Troon, which is 30 minutes from my house. Staying at home for a major.... It doesn't get much better than that.
BMW International Open
We'd had a couple of weeks off after Sweden, and we're now onto one of the best organised tournaments of the year. Just like their cars, BMW don't scrimp on the running of golf tournaments. This year we were in Cologne. The course sits right inbetween Cologne and Düsseldorf. There was a direct flight from Glasgow to Düsseldorf on Monday afternoon. Bingo. When I arrived in Germany it was raining. And it didn't stop all day. I met Paul early on Tuesday morning, and we played nine holes on a very wet golf course. The rough was brutal, and this weeks winner would have to be a combination of long and straight.
The weather for the pro-am was much better. Warm and no wind. All three of our partners were from the UK, and had flown in just for the pro-am. To be fair, their golf wasn't up to much , ( one of them lost 20 balls!!!) but they were great company, and made the most of the day.
Our playing partners for the first two days were Joost Luiten and Bernd Weisberger , making Chippie the elder statesman, but he showed them a clean pair of heels several times, giving them some yardage of the the tee. Unfortunately, it wasn't always on the fairway, as he struggled with accuracy. A classic example was the 17th in the first round. We can laugh at it now, but we weren't at the time. Paul had hooked his tee shot into the heavy rough where around 100 spectators where standing. We all shouted fore. Thankfully , no one was hurt, and we assumed someone would have seen the ball. When we got there, it seemed everyone had found a ball, but not one was ours. After five minutes of searching I called "time up" and we started walking back to the tee. Five seconds later, our ball was found. Typical. It was too late, we trudged back to the tee, and Paul's drive went in exactly the same direction. Shouts of fore again ensued. Surely we would find this one. About 80 yards from reaching the ball, the crowd had gathered, and were laughing and giggling. Chippie wasn't impressed " What are they laughing at? Is it funny like?" As we approached, the crowd parted, to leave one guy standing with his sweater pulled up, to reveal Chippie's ball firmly lodged in his knavel. It had found its way down his collar and got stuck in his shirt. Everybody was creasing themselves, except of course, me and the Chipster. To make matters worse, when the referee arrived to give us the ruling, she burst out laughing as well. Paul did well to keep his composure , and after a drop, and a couple more shots, we walked off the hole with a triple bogey seven. We eventually signed off for a 73, +1. With the cut going to be under par, we required a good day on Friday. Unfortunately, the driver was misbehaving again, and we recorded a 75. It's typical of where we are at the minute. Paul's putting has been improving over recent weeks, but the long game has been a struggle. Just a spell where we have to knuckle down and grind through it. I got a flight home on Saturday morning, ready for a week off before the "Fifth Major" ........The Scottish Open of course.
2016 Nordea Masters
Having recovered from my drive home from Wentworth, I flew to Stockholm on Tuesday morning. I cadged a lift off Andrew Coltart to the course, unpacked the bag. Got Paul's putter re gripped, then headed straight to my hotel. This weeks accommodation was a bit different. We we're staying at a spa hotel. Not normal caddie residence, but the price was right, it was only 10 minutes from the course, and the scenery was awesome. We were right on the edge of a large lake, so I had brought along my fishing rod. I guessed it would be a quiet week, so I reckoned I would be a good way to kill some time.
The venue was Bro Hof Slott golf club, on the outskirts of Stockholm. We'd been here a couple of times before. It's probably the the longest course we play on tour. It's certainly the longest walk, with roughly 200 yards average walk between holes. This made for long rounds. Our playing partners were Alejandro Canizares and Joakim Lagergren. After announcing both our playing partners in their native language, Chippie looked at me smiling....."Does that mean I'm going to get a 'Fit like min'?"
It turned out to be even better than that.... "Ladies and gentleman, from Scotland, the one and only Paul Lawrie" Myself and Lagergren's caddie ( affectionately known as 'Daft Wayne' ) were buckled with laughter. Somehow Chippie composed himself and ripped his drive down the fairway. The day itself was a bit of a mixed bag, and resulted in a one over 73, which was just outside the cut line. Friday was a bit tougher, with a gusty breeze blowing. Paul rose to the challenge, birdieing two of the last three holes for a 69, and safely in for the weekend. Saturday was tricky again, and anything under par would be a good day. It was looking like a level par day, until an untimely double bogey at the last tallied to a 74. We only dropped a few spots, so a final round would make for a solid week. Sunday turned out to be the windiest day of the week. Again we had a bit of a mixed bag, dropping shots at the par fives when a birdie seemed more likely. Both times this was the result of a wayward shot with the 3 iron rescue, which had been misbehaving all week. On the par 5 15th, Paul's tee shot had nestled in the rough. "I can get that 3 iron onto the green!" I wasn't so sure, as the lie wasn't great, the green was surrounded by water, and the club's track record hadn't been good this week. Reluctantly Paul agreed, so we opted to play short of the green with six iron, which promptly flew straight right into the water..... The Chipster was livid.."Give me that ******** 3 iron" It now lies at the bottom of the lake adjacent to the 15th hole. It won't bother us again....
A birdie at the 17th perked the score, and we signed for a 73, and a tie for 30th place. It was a steady improvement on the previous two weeks, with some encouragement in the putting. We now have a couple of weeks off to recharge the batteries and prepare for four tournaments in a row, starting with the BMW International in Cologne. For the record, I fished for 3 nights in a row, and drew a blank each time.....
BMW PGA Championship
I drove down to Wentworth on Monday afternoon with Stephen Gallacher's caddie( also Steven) and we managed to avoid most of the traffic, cruising down in under 6 hours. I arrived at the course early on Tuesday and, as usual, nothing much had changed. The range was chaos with managers, coaches, advisors et all. Paul arrived just after lunch and we had some time tweaking a couple of clubs and trying to get some practice in without the usual distractions.
Wednesday brought the celebrity pro-am. This year our team had a slightly more cultured look..... Mike Rutherford- ex Genesis guitarist, John Illsley, bass guitarist with Dire Straits, and Liam Botham, ex rugby player and son of cricket legend Ian Botham. The golf wasn't up to scratch, but the company and chat was top drawer. It was interesting to hear two former rock legends talking about their lives, past and present. Onto Thursday, and we had an afternoon tee time, playing with Ross Fisher and Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg. Ross has a habit of calling Paul "Chip" rather than Chippie. It's not a name Paul is overly keen on. We walked onto the first tee and Ross was straight in...."Afternoon Chip" I nearly hit the deck laughing. Ross realised straight away from my reaction what Paul was thinking. He didn't call him Chip for the rest of the day!! "Chip" played decent, and returned a level par 72. The putter was misbehaving slightly, but it was a steady opening round. Friday got off to a slightly more adventurous start. On the 6th hole, Broberg, who was last to play, was waiting for a ruling in the fairway. Fisher's caddie (Woody) and I walked forward towards the green, while Paul and Ross hung back with Broberg. As Woody and I were chatting, we heard a cry of "Fore" instinctively we bend down, covering our heads...THUD!! A ball bounced of my back and ricocheted 20 yards back down the fairway. We hadn't been paying attention as Broberg played his shot, which he pulled towards us. Fortunately it didn't hurt( Strong Shoulders) and when it was apparent I wasn't injured, Chippie took his opportunity to play to the crowd.... " I quite enjoyed that" as he walked towards me, failing miserably to hide his grin.
It was a bit windier on Friday morning, and the closing stretch was playing tough. We knew the cut was going to be maybe +1 or +2. Every time we made a birdie , we seemed to bogey on the next hole. A bogey at the final hole proved to be our demise, as we missed the cut by a solitary shot. It was hugely frustrating, as Paul had battled hard for two days. On a positive note, it was an improvement on the previous week in Ireland, and gave us some encouraging heading to Sweden. We had to wait until late in the day to be certain we'd missed the cut, and I didn't fancy driving six hours through the night, so I left at 8am on Saturday for the drive back home. I had forgotten it was bank holiday weekend. The result was an 8 hour, 30 min drive back home..... Lovely!!
I reckon were due a break sooner or later. Hopefully it will come around soon.
2016 Irish Open
The Emerald Isle..... Always one of my favourite weeks. The golf courses are great, the people are friendly, and the Guinness is always pure. This year we returned to the K club after an absence of 11 years. I could hardly remember any of the holes. I met Paul on the Tuesday morning, and we played nine holes, then did some good work on the range in the afternoon. We had a late tee time for the pro-am on Wednesday....2.30 Lovely. Normally this wouldn't be a problem , but we had an early tee time for Thursday's first round, so it was a quick bite to eat then bed before an early rise.
Our playing partners were David Lingmerth of Sweden, who plays the U.S. Tour, and Andrew "Beef" Johnston, the recent winner of the Spanish Open. We teed off in torrential rain, but thankfully it subsided, and we just had a decent breeze to contend with. Paul played not too badly, with his short game keeping the momentum going, and a level par 72 was the result. It was a decent effort in tricky conditions. As it turned out, we had the rough end of the draw. The wind dropped in the afternoon, and the scoring improved, but we were still inside the cut mark at the close of play.
Friday was a different story. The morning was dry, and the early starters took full advantage. With an afternoon tee time, we weren't so fortunate. By the time we got to the fourth hole, the rain was starting to pour. The green keepers were out with the squeeges, keeping play going. Paul struggled early on, dropping a couple of shots, and it became an uphill battle, fighting with the elements. The weather never abated, and we signed for a 79. It had been a bit of bad luck, getting the rough end of the draw, but that's golf. After a four week break it was never going to be easy. I spent half an hour drying all the clubs,bag etc, packed everything up, and headed back to my hotel for a few pints of the black stuff, and an early flight home on Saturday. It gave me a couple of days at home before driving down to Wentworth on Monday for our flagship event.... The BMW PGA Championship. Let's hope for some better weather
Nine weeks off since Dubai in the middle of a Scottish winter might not seem too appealing to most people, but I used to to my best advantage by doing diy round the house and attempting to get in better shape. I managed a little bit of both. After the Middle East trip, I'd weighed 14st12lb. I'd managed to get that down by 6lb. Not quite the target of getting below 14 stone, but, as they say, one step at a time.and after my efforts at diy round the house, I decided it would be better to get an expert in future. Less frustration, and certainly a better job. As you can imagine, by the time came to leave for the Spanish Open, I was literally running to the airport.
The Spanish Open is one of the oldest tournaments on tour, and this year it was being staged at the prestigious Valderamma Golf Club. We hadn't been here for a number of years, so I was looking forward to the return. I met Paul on Tuesday morning, and we played 9 holes followed by some work on the range. I had forgotten how tricky and frustrating the course can be. Small greens, overhanging trees on the fairway, and lightning fast greens. If conditions got the slightest bit windy, it was going to be a tough week. Even tougher due to the fact I had a knee injury.We played the 9 hole pro-am on Wednesday, and my knee swelled up like a balloon due the the hilly nature of the back nine. On Wednesday afternoon It was looking unlikely I'd manage, and had Scot Jamieson's caddy, Ritchie, ready to cover for me on Thursday afternoon. Fortunately, there was a physio on site who worked wonders on me, and with the aid of anti inflammatory tablets, a knee support, and taking little steps, I made it through the first round.
Paul played steadily on the opening day. He drove it very well, and his short game was tidy, especially after a long lay off. A two over 73 was a decent effort, and had us just outside the top thirty. Friday was a different story. The wind was blowing from the start and the course was firming up. Paul struggled with his iron play, and struggled to make birdies. He finished on 76(+5) for the day. Fortunately the rest of the field were struggling also, and we only dropped a few shots. The thick rough and windy conditions were causing carnage round the course. The cut fell at +9. There were a few battered and bruised golfers and caddies on Friday evening. Saturday was another breezy day, and again Paul struggled with his iron play. It was a pity because he was driving the ball so well but couldn't take advantage. We signed for a 79 which dropped us a few more spots. On the upside, a decent final round would move us up through the field. We couldn't have asked for a better start on Sunday, with birdies at the first two holes ( We started on the 10th due to a two tee start). Paul had only ever broken par once round Valderamma, and I was thinking it was time to do it again. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, and 72 was the tally for the day. It was still a decent score and moved us up quite a few places, making it a steady week after a long lay off.
Thankfully my knee gradually improved each day thanks to the efforts of Physio Roger Morgan, an ex caddie who now runs a physio clinic in Malaga.
We had a bite to eat then headed to the airport. We were both flying around 9pm, but we're at the airport before 5. Chippie was flying Ba and I was Ryanair. Amazingly, I got to check my luggage in straight away, whilst the Chipster had to wait a couple of hours. He wasn't best pleased. We now have a break before the season really kicks off with the Irish open at the K Club in a few weeks time. Hopefully another pound or two lighter.....
After the mad dash to the airport in Doha, , I made my flight by about ten minutes. It was a quick 45 minute flight to Dubai. I arrived at my hotel around 9.30 , had a quick shower and went straight out for a few relaxing beers. As the tournament in Qatar finished on a Saturday, we had the luxury of Sunday off. This was a rare occurrence, and I took full advantage by having a lie in and an afternoon stroll round the Emirates mall. My roommate for the week was Robert Karlsson's caddie, Martin Gray, and we had booked an apartment for the week. We were both of the same mindset, given that this was my fourth and his 3rd week in a row..... Let's have a relaxing week. Our location was perfect, right next to the metro station which is two stops away from the golf course, so transport was easy. No relying on scheduled buses this week!! I met up with Paul early on Tuesday morning, and we nipped out to play nine holes before the usual morning rush. The course was in magnificent condition, with the rough just right, and the greens slick. After playing the back nine, we stopped for a bit of putting and short game, then some lunch, and then back out to play the front nine. By this time the course was quiet so it was a perfect time to play.
Wednesday is normally pro am day, but this year we weren't participating. Sometimes it's not a bad thing, as it means you can have a leisurely day, and plan your practice over the course of the day, or if you wish, have an early start and get done by lunchtime. Paul chose the latter, as Marian, Val and Alan Reid, and Audrey and Brian Morrison had flown in the night before. This gave me the afternoon off, so it was straight back to the apartment to put the feet up, which were now starting to give me a bit of grief after 4 tournaments in a row.
The opening round was a bit up and down as Paul's iron play wasn't up to his normal standard. It was a mix of birdies and bogeys, and a one over 73 was the result. With the cut looking like being at least one under, maybe two, we had some work to do. Paul played much better on Friday, but this time it was the putter that was misbehaving. A level par 72 was the final tally and we'd missed by a couple of shots.
As I'd been away for 4 weeks, I was ready to come home, and didn't fancy clicking my heels for another two days in Dubai (Tempting though it may sound) I rang Emirates airline to change my flight home from Monday to Saturday. Normally you can do this for a small fee, but Emirates had changed their pricing structure, and I had bought a super duper non flex extra cheapo ticket. I had to buy a new ticket to get home... As you can imagine, the air was blue. At over £500 for a new ticket it wasn't really an option to save two days. Then I had a brainwave( unusual for me I know) I contacted Paul's personal assistant in London, and enquired how many airmiles Paul had.... PLENTY was the reply. A quick text to the Chipmaster for a bit of grovelling, and I got a flight booked using the boss's airmiles...Thanks Chippie👊👍!!!
I landed at Glasgow airport at 9am the following morning. And was home for a roll and bacon by 10. Happy days. We now have a few weeks off before the next tournament, so it I'll be time for me to get in the gym. I put on a few pounds during the trip, courtesy of the excellent food provided by the sponsors at each tournament. For the record, I weighed in at 14st 12 lb, so the target is for the first number on the scales to say 13. Wish me luck... I'll need it!!!
We arrived in Doha without incident from Abu Dhabi. I unpacked, had a couple of beers then straight to bed.( At £7 a pint there wouldn't be many consumed this week.) As this tournament starts on a Wednesday, we were straight into practice on the Monday morning. We played 9 holes then spent the afternoon on the range, followed by loads of putting practice. Then it was straight back to the hotel for some rest. This is one of those weeks where we catch up on sleep. Most days it's an early start due to the lack of daylight. First tee time is usually 6.30am, so 4am alarm calls aren't uncommon. Due to the increasing traffic in Doha, it can take an hour getting to and from the course. Throw in breezy conditions which tend to be the norm each year and it all adds up to a tiring week. Every night the bus journey back to the hotel is full of snoozing caddies. Our playing partners for the first two rounds were none other than Robert Karlsson (that's three years in a row) and the ever colourful John Daly. Big JD was good company as usual, but was nursing a knee injury and struggled for two days. Paul played nicely and the putter was behaving itself. The result was an opening five under par 67 followed by a 66 in the second round. That was good enough for a one shot lead at the halfway stage. The third round was a windy affair. Gusts up to 30 mph made scoring tricky, but Chippie's resolve was strong, and he signed for a 70, and increased his lead to two shots at 13 under par. It's amazing how certain courses seem suited to players, and this was a classic example. I think I'd done 24 rounds for paul on this course and can only think of one, maybe two rounds where he has shot over par. The omens were good for the final round. The forecast was the same, with gusty winds. Our task was still going to be tough. Our playing partners were defending champion Branden Grace and Thorbjorn Olesen, who'd had good success here in the past. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Paul struggled with the driver, and the putter dried up. Throw in some bad luck on a windy day and we were up against it. A 78 was the final days tally, and we dropped back to 13th place. Branden Grace came through to win, becoming the first player to defend the title, so huge congrats to him. It was a week to take lots of positives from, and is very encouraging for the rest of the year. As usual, within 10 minutes of leaving the course we were in a car to the airport. No messing about for Davy and the Chipster.....
I landed in Dubai on Monday morning after our overnight flight from Johannesburg and headed straight to Abu Dhabi to my hotel. I did some Laundry and had a little snooze in the afternoon. Chippie did have plans to take the day off but as he was staying at the hotel on the course, he sneaked down to hit a few balls in the afternoon. We met early on Tuesday morning for our practice round as we weren't in the pro-am on Wednesday. The course was in the best condition I'd ever seen it, with the greens very slick. The rough however was very penal. If you missed the fairway , unless you were inside 100 yards, you wouldn't be getting it on the green. After the round we had the obligatory spaghetti bolognaise in the clubouse ( it is epic), then spent the rest of the day on the range. Wednesday was another early start, and Paul put in another serious shift on the range. Our partners for the first two days were former masters Champions Mike Weir and Trevor Immelmann. Both players had been returning to the game after a long lay off. We teed off early on Thursday morning in perfect conditions. No wind and clear blue skies. Chippie struggled off the tee, which made scoring difficult due to the thick rough. He returned a five over 77 which made things tight for making the cut. On Friday we had a fog delay in the morning which meant we wouldn't get our round finished before it was dark. We needed at least a 67 and just as Paul managed to get some momentum going with birdies at 7,9 & 10, darkness started to fall and we had to return the following morning to finish the round. There was more fog the next day , so we didn't restart our 2nd round untill 10.30. Unfortunately we couldn't finish enough under par, and a 71 meant we missed the cut by a few shots on four over par. It had been a better effort though, and stayed at the course all afternoon, doing more work on the range and putting green. We were due to fly to Qatar on Sunday evening, so we spent all day on the range before heading to the airport. It hadn't been one of Chippie's better weeks, but the second round had been better, and we'd done a lot of good work on the range, so we headed to Doha with some anticipation, and looking forward to a course where we'd had success in the past.
Happy new year folks. All of a sudden, it's the first tournament of the year. We'd had three months off since the Portugal Masters in October, so it was time to blow away the cobwebs and get ready for the season ahead. Normally paul would start the season off in Abu Dhabi, which is traditionally the start of the Middle East swing, but due to the long lay off, we started in South Africa at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golf course. There are two courses, the East and the West. We play a round over each, then the the final two rounds over the longer, tougher East course. In South Africa, the pro-am is on the Tuesday, which is quite a good idea, as it gives all the players the freedom to do as they please on the Wednesday. Our day got off to a flyer, as one of our pro-am partners asked Paul if he still played professionally. I almost fell over laughing. Unperturbed, Chippie was the usual exemplary pro-am host, and everyone had a good day. Everyone except for my little tootsies. My feet were on fire....!! Three months at home had softened my feet up and walking on the thick kikuyu grass had left them covered in blisters. As expected, there was no sympathy from the boss, but I got my own back when we went out for dinner to the famous Butcher's Shop and Grill in Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. You won't find a better steak and chips anywhere. All week, Chippie had payed for breakfast and lunch in the clubhouse, so when the bill came for dinner, I grabbed it and said the steaks were on me. I handed over my credit card, only to be told that due to the recent thunderstorm, the credit card machine was down , and it was cash only. I didn't have a bean on me, and had to hastily hand the bill over to the boss and ask him to pay. Them's the breaks lol On the golfing front it was a decent start to the year. Opened with a two under 69 on the west course, followed by a 3 under 69 on the east and we had made the cut comfortably. A 72 and a final round 70 meant we were 7 under for the week and finished in 31st place. The season was off and running and after such a long lay off it was a good start to the year. As per, it was back to the hotel, showered and changed and straight to the airport for our overnight flight to Dubai for the Middle East swing.....We were back on the hamster wheel !!