I had spent the last few weeks flying back and forth across the Atlantic. Now it was time to go the other way…..5000 miles east to China. A city called Tianjin to be precise. Two hours drive from Beijing airport , and , it seemed, days from anywhere else. We stayed in an airport hotel about 20 minutes from the golf course. There wasn’t much to do this week , out with the golf ,as there was nothing around our hotel , with the highlight of the week being the after dinner ice cream from the hotel shop!!
On the golfing front, things were a bit better. The course at the Binhai Lake Golf & Country Club was new, but you wouldn’t have thought so, as it was in good condition. Wide fairways and not much rough meant scoring would be low and this proved to be the case. Chippie had been well fancied at the start of the week, as it had been expected to blow all week, and were it not for some indifferent form with the putter, he wouldn’t have been far away..
We got a little bit stuffed by the draw for the first two days. Teeing off on Thursday afternoon , we got the worst of the wind. Paul played nicely , but couldn’t hole a thing , finishing with two birdies for a level par 72. On Friday morning we were early , very early. A 7.05am tee-time meant a 4.30 alarm call(that jet setting glamorous lifestyle again!!) For the first nine holes , the weather was ok , and Paul turned in two under par , putting us on the cut mark. As we turned into the back nine , the wind picked up to 20mph and changed to easterly , and the temperature plummeted . It was freezing!!! Nae bother to the Chipmaster… On went the waterproof jacket , his favourite garment , and he cruised round the back nine in 3 under , for a five under 67 , easily making the weekend.
Saturday and Sunday were very similar days. Paul played very nicely , without holing anything. I think on Saturday he only holed 1 putt outside six feet , shooting 68 , and Sunday was the same , although by the seventeenth , his frustrations were reaching boiling point. Having 3 putted the 16th to go back to 3 under for the day , he pulled his nine iron approach into the greenside bunker on the 17th. The pin was cut tight left.. Result……..no shot. Several blasphemes later , a bunker shot to 25 feet ,about 20 huffs and puffs , a lob wedge launched into the bag , Chippie rolled in the putt for par without cracking a light. “ You must have enjoyed that putt” I said , tongue firmly in cheek… “#?!£$#*X!” was the reply… Awfy funny. Having got it out his system , he promptly birdied the 18th for another 68 and 13 under par total , finishing in 14th place. A solid week , and a worthwhile trip , which keeps us ticking over nicely until our next tournament , which is the Spanish Open in Seville in just over a week’s time. We are getting close to the busiest time of the year , so it’s a nice week off before the tour circus kicks off in Europe….Time to fasten the seatbelt……!!
“Ok gentlemen , ye’all ready to play a little golf? Fore please , Paul Lawrie now driving” The unmistakeable announcement of the starter at Augusta National Golf Club. There is no place in the world , quite like Augusta. This was my second time here , having caddied for Kenneth Ferrie in 2007 , but the place still gave me goose bumps , and hopefully will continue to for many years. I arrived on Sunday , having had three weeks off due to Paul’s illness with bronchitis , and for the three days of practice , we kept things low key. Nine holes each day was ample , along with plenty short game practice , and we were ready to go.
The course was in awesome condition , albeit a little bit softer , thanks to some thunderstorms earlier in the week . Past Masters champion Larry Mize , and Denmark’s Anders Hansen were our playing partners for rounds 1 & 2. Round 1 was pretty good , to say the least. Chippie played nicely on the front nine , but struggled with the speed of the greens. He remained patient and got his rewards on the back nine – eagles at the 13th & 15th changed the day completely , and the result was a 3 under par 69 , and in 4th place. They don’t miss much at Augusta. On Tuesday in practice walking off the 5th tee , Chippie nipped through a gap in the trees for a little tinkle. On Thursday he went to do the same thing(he is a creature of habit!!) , and the gap in the trees had been filled in with another tree. Somebody must have noticed and decided we can’t have that at Augusta. Result – new tree. Amazing. Friday was a similar front nine to Thursday , but Chippie struggled with his game on the back nine , holing some clutch putts to keep the round going. The day ended in style , with birdies at the final three holes for a level par 72. At the halfway stage , we were right in amongst it.
Saturday was always going to be a fun day , as we were paired with Bubba Watson. He is , without doubt , the longest driver of a ball I have ever seen , and a nice guy to boot. On the 13th hole , Chippie hit a rescue club for his second shot to the green after a decent drive. Bubba was chipping in a little seven iron!!!! It was a fun day , although how he puts up with almost every spectator shouting “Go Bubba” is testament to his character. Another level par 72 kept us in the hunt for the final day. Sunday’s tee time was 2pm , playing with Lee Westwood. It’s easy to see why he has been at the top for so long. Tee to green he is the best by far. Long and straight driving combined with laser like accuracy with his irons resulted in almost every hole being a birdie chance. Had it not been for some indifferent putting , it would be Lee and not Bubba wearing the green jacket on Sunday night. For Chippie , it was one of those days where nothing really happened. If we missed a green , it was tough to get up and down , and the birdie chances kept slipping by the hole. A 76 was the result , leaving us on a tie for 24th place. It’s always annoying when you drop down the leaderboard on a Sunday , and Chippie wasn’t best pleased. However a top 30 finish in a Major Championship is still a pretty solid week , and I’m sure we’ll take loads of positives from the experience…. It was an awesome week. Even the caddies were treated like players(albeit in boiler suits) , as we were really well looked after. Hopefully Chippie remains in the world’s top 50 until the end of the year ,and then you get to return again next year “Fore please…….…..”
After the celebrations of the victory in Qatar , it was back to work on Tuesday in Dubai. I turned up at the locker room at 7.30 am , to find Paul holding a designer carrier bag. “A little thank you for you” he said. He had been presented with a Rolex watch for the win in Qatar , which he passed on to me. A classy touch , to match the watch itself. Thanks Chippie!!!
We had a chilled out run up to the tournament. A couple of hours practice on Tuesday , and the pro-am on Wednesday. The pro-am was actually good fun. After 3 or 4 holes , our team had scored no birdies , so Chippie offered a prize for the person to get the first birdie. Next hole , bang…. Two birdies. The two guys were ecstatic. So much so , that one of them suggested a kiss from Paul as the prize!!!!! This was of course firmly tongue in cheek(not in the literal sense) , but it still made Paul squirm a little , and made me laugh a lot!!
For the first two rounds we were drawn with Lee Westwood , and Alex Noren. An excellent draw. The fortunes of the three players pretty much covered the golfing spectrum for two days. Chippy played some nice stuff , especially with the irons , but struggled with the driver and putter. Lee played flawless golf. For two rounds he had 60 putts , but was still 10 under par. Poor Alex had a week to forget , which was surprising , as we had played with him a couple of times recently , and he was pretty impressive. Chippie made the cut with a couple of shots to spare , which was a decent effort ,after the exertions of Qatar , and also bearing in mind it was our fourth week in a row. On Saturday , Paul felt rested and refreshed , and returned a 3 under 69 , moving us into the top 30 going into Sunday. Windy conditions on the final day meant anything under par would move us up , but fatigue and frustration eventually caught up with us. Again some nice iron play set up some good chances , but Chippie struggled again with the blade. By the time we got to the 17th , he was pretty much burnt out. This was evident when his lob wedge from 96 yards , came to rest about 8 feet from the hole. Not a bad shot normally. Chippe let out a grunt of displeasure. Frustration was winning. That’s when you know you’re ready for a break. Our playing partner Jamie Donaldson turned to me and said jokingly”Did he miss the cut last week” We dropped to just outside the top 40 for the week, but it was another job done , and time to go home.
Paul wasn’t sure wether to play in Dubai , but he decided to keep going , and it proved worthwhile , as he moved up to 45th in the world rankings. We now have a week off , before heading to Arizona for the Accenture World Matchplay Championship. This will be the first of many big tournaments this year. Lets get stuck in……
After a week at home, we were heading back over the pond. This time to Miami, and the Blue Monster course at Doral, for the second World Golf Championship of the year. My week got off to a flyer. After getting off the plane, I was about ten places behind Chippie at customs, but in a different queue. Within 30 minutes, I was through, and heading off to pick up my hire car. Chippie meanwhile, was stuck in the same spot, arms folded, and face fizzing. Them’s the breaks!!
We had three good days of practice, and had a good 3 ball for the first two days, playing with past Masters Champion Zach Johnson and Tetsuji Hiratsuka fromJapan. Thursday and Friday were pretty breezy, and Chippy was strangely a bit out of sorts with his ball striking, but putted nicely to be level par, which was mid table at the halfway stage. As the week progressed, Chippie’s accent, and choice of words became slightly more stateside. If he was unlucky he was “screwed”. If he didn’t like something, it “sucked”. This, alongside the odd yankee blaspheme, and he was well on the way to being christened, “Chippie the Yank”, or Chip for short.
Saturday was a similar story on the golf course. Struggling with the long game, and having to scramble on several occasions. When I got to the course on Sunday morning, one look at Paul explained his struggle all week. He hadn’t slept, constant coughing, and no energy. A bad bout of bronchitis had been working on him, and now had reached its peak. He wasn’t going to play, but had to peg it up; otherwise his money wouldn’t have counted for the Race toDubaior Ryder cup points. He battled away on Sunday, managing to get round in 77 which was a pretty good effort. We played with Dustin Johnson, who hits the ball a country mile, and has a deft touch round the greens. We survived the week, and headed off to the airport for the return flight back across theAtlantic. It had been unfortunate that Chippie had been struck down with illness, but at least there was good prize money on offer, making it a worthwhile trip. Hopefully Paul regains his health soon, in time for theUSMasters. Believe it or not, even I had some sympathy for him last week (nae much mind you). Hopefully it’s not contagious..!!
This job never ceases to amaze me. When I eventually arrived in Qatar on Monday evening , having spent 12 hours at the airport for a 40 minute flight , golf was the furthest thing from my mind. Six days later , I was almost pinching myself , having just experienced one of the best weeks I will ever have on the golf course , as I witnessed Paul totally outplay the field at Doha golf club to claim his second Qatar Masters title. Now and again you get a feeling when something good is going to happen , and I could tell very early on in the week , Chippie had the same look in his eye as when he finished second in Dubai in December. I wasn’t to be disappointed….
Chippie was hugely disappointed after his 8th place finish in Abu Dhabi the week before. This might sound strange , but he played so well tee to green that 8th was the worst he could have finished. In Qatar he was out to make amends for an opportunity missed! We had an nice draw for the first two rounds , playing with Francesco Molinari and Peter Hanson. Almost like a carbon copy of Paul’s win in Malaga last year , he got off to a flyer. Starting on the tenth , Chippie rattled off three birdies in a row to show his intent. As the wind picked up , scoring became tougher , and he signed off for an opening 69 , 3 under par , and just two off the lead. On the Friday , strong winds cancelled play for the day , and we returned on Saturday to play our 2nd round , with the tournament being cut to 54 holes. To me , it was on this day where Paul won the tournament! On the tenth hole , he had an outrageous slice of bad luck. As he picked his ball from his pocket to replace his ball on the green , he dropped it on his marker. Nobody could tell if the marker had moved , so Paul consulted the referee , and had to call a one shot penalty on himself. This meant his eight footer for birdie was now for par. Boiling inside , he composed himself to roll the putt home. This seemed to strengthen his resolve. He wasn’t letting this tournament out of his grasp! He shot 5 under that day , taking a one shot lead into the final round.
I woke up on Sunday morning with that buzzing feeling again. Magic!! A birdie at the first set the tone for the day. Seven steady pars followed , and then the turning point came at the ninth hole. At the long par 5 of over 600 yards , Chippie was just short of the green in two. As he played his chip to the hole , I reached into the bag & pulled the putter out. I then looked up to watch the ball drop into the hole for an eagle 3. “Put that putter back in the bag” yelled Chippie , as the crowd went nuts. It was a pivotal moment , as just minutes earlier , Sergio Garcia had drawn level with us at 9 under par. Now we were two shots clear , and the driving seat. Yet again , just as had happened in Malaga last year , Chippie switched onto automatic pilot mode and closed out the tournament. After two missed chances at the 12th and 13th holes following probably his two best approach shots of the week , Chippie rolled in a 25 foot downhill left to right putt on the 14th that maintained his two shot lead. Birdies at the 16th and 17th followed , giving the luxury of a four shot lead playing the 18th. Heaven!! A rock solid par at the last and it was time to celebrate. A win is always a special moment , but this one was different. Paul had been highly fancied at the start of the week , due to his current form , and his previous record round this golf course. To go into a tournament with high expectations , and then deliver the goods is a phenomenal feat indeed. We knew a good week was required to get into the World Matchplay in Arizona in three weeks time , and to do it in such style is something I will remember for a long time.
Our schedule for the year now looks very different. Paul is now back in the top 50 of the world rankings. The World Matchplay in Arizona , followed by the Cadillac Championhip in Doral. Two weeks off , ,then hopefully off to Augusta for the Masters. After that we have the Volvo World Matchplay in Spain , the USPGA , and the Bridgestone World Series in Akron , not to mention the HSBC Champions event again in China. It’s been an awesome start to the season. Two top tens , a win , and a whole bunch of confidence. I’m not ashamed to say , I was worse for wear on the Monday after Qatar. I managed to catch my flight to Dubai on Sunday night , and celebrated with my fellow caddies. Days like this are to be cherished , enjoyed , celebrated and remembered. Normally I give Paul a bit of stick from time to time on my blog. It’s all good banter , and taken in good spirit. On this occasion , I take my hat off to you Chippie. Simply awesome……
“Welcome to the good old US of A. “It had been 4 years since I had caddied in the states. I didn’t even get through customs atPhoenixAirportbefore I was reminded of how different things were over here. “You’re a professional golf caddie?” asked the confused customs official. “ On a good day “ I replied. She retorted “I didn’t know there was such a thing. You couldn’t sign up for that when I was at college!!. Ye’all have a nice day now” as she sent me on my way. After a flight of almost 11 hours , I wasn’t in much of a mood for a chat. I was actually quite relieved. A technical hitch with Paul’s visa had left him within 5 minutes of missing the flight. He had resigned himself to missing the flight , as I had. As I queued at the gate , I looked round to see Chippie racing up the escalator , grinning from ear to ear…problem solved!!
The course at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club had been carved out of the desert , and from the air , it is a pretty spectacular sight. It was in fantastic condition and was a great test for matchplay , with four reachable par 5’s , and two driveable par 4’s. We had two days good preparation , with a lot of emphasis on the short game. The greens were very undulating , meaning pins would be in tight spots , and it would be difficult to fire at flags without leaving yourself in awkward spots. Matchplay is a very different animal. You can play great and get beaten , or play poorly and win. Our first opponent was Justin Rose….no easy start for us. After going one down at the second hole , Paul stepped into gear. By the turn he was two up , and never lost the lead. Had his putting matched his ball striking , it would have been over by the 15th. However we had to go up the 18th to close out the match 1 up. Job done and on to Thursday , where we faced the Japanese wonder kid Ryo Ishikawa. It was hard to believe he is only 19 years old. He isJapan’s answer to Tiger Woods. This was evident walking down the first hole , as we where followed by over 20 press and photographers. Bizarre!! The game itself was almost identical to our first round match, with Paul being in control throughout the match , but not being able to shake of his opponent. Again we had to go down the last hole to finish the game off. Nevertheless , it was another excellent victory , and we were through to the last sixteen. We now faced Martin Laird , an exiled Scot who plied his tried on the PGA Tour. This was a always going to be a toughie. The previous day he had eight birdies in 16 holes in his defeat of Matteo Manassero This was almost a local game for Laird , who lived less than two hours down the road. Momentum is such a huge part of matchplay , and we were up against it from the start , losing the first two holes. Laird was steady as a rock , and didn’t miss anything on the greens inside 10 feet. In the end , we lost out 3 & 1. It was a pity the two Scot’s were paired against each other , but a least we had one Jock in the quarter finals , even if he did have a mid Atlantic drawl!!!
Within 1 hour of leaving the golf course , Chippie and I were in a car , heading to the airport. We were home by Saturday tea-time. The joys of modern travel!!! It was certainly a very different week. You tee off in the morning, knowing you could be going home that day , but there is also the huge feeling of satisfaction in winning your match , and progressing to the next round. The result was a 9th place finish. Another top ten , and a few quid for the Race toDubai. Not a bad week all considered. We get a week off now before The Cadillac World Championship , which is held inMiami. Back to the states again . Have a nice day folks……..
Normally I wait until Tuesday or Wednesday before I compose my ramblings about the events of the previous week. Not today. I’m stuck at the airport on Monday. I got up at 6am for a 9am flight to Qatar , which was cancelled due to fog delays , and my rescheduled flight is now 5pm!!! Not a good start to the week. Who said this job was glamorous? Incidentally , Chippie found this highly amusing , as his flight was only delayed an hour or so , and he texted me to express his delight at my misfortune as he boarded his plane , just as mine was cancelled. Oh Aye , hilarious!!
The Abu Dhabi golf course was set up tougher than ever this year. Thick penal rough and tight fairways meant last years winning score of 24 under par wasn’t going to be repeated. Combine this with one of the strongest fields we’ll have all year(Woods , Donald , Kaymer , Westwood , McIlroy & Garcia to name but a few) and you had to be on top form to compete. Once again , Paul showed his liking for golf in the desert , and going into the final round , we were lying in 3rd position , in the second last match of the day , paired with Rory McIlroy , and Francesco Molinari. The game behind was Robert Rock , Peter Hanson , and Tiger Woods. Being in contention is now becoming a bit of a habit with Chippie. After a top ten finish the previous week in South Africa , we were right in amongst it again , and I must say , Chippie looked the part. In one of my blogs last year , I likened him to Michael Schumacher because of his driving. Now he looked like him……Sponsors logos emblazed across the broad chest of the young Aberdonian , and more badges on the sleeves which covered his big strong arms , not to mention the logos on the collar which lay beneath his strong chiselled jaw…..Anyway , I’m sure you get the picture!!!
The final round got of to a flyer , with Paul making birdie at the first hole. However on the next hole we got a slice of bad luck which set the tone for the day. His third shot at the par 5 second took one bounce and whacked off the flag , finishing twenty five feet away. Had it missed the flag , it would have been a tap in birdie. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Paul played nicely all day , but the putts just wouldn’t drop.With three holes to go we were in second place ,but bogeys at the tough 16th & 17th moved us down to a tie for 8th spot. A slightly disappointing end to what was another excellent week. Again it was great to be in the mix on a Sunday afternoon , but it wasn’t to be this time. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more chances throughout the season if Chippie’s form continues.
The eventual winner , Robert Rock , showed some bottle to hold on for victory in some illustrious company. We played with him in the 3rd round , and he looked very impressive. I’m sure he will kick on from here.
Meanwhile , I’m still stuck at Abu Dhabi airport , waiting for my flight. As I write this , Chippie has just sent me a text telling me he’s checking into his hotel now. He thinks he’s Aberdeen’s answer to Billy Connolly these days. I think we all know a bit differently…….
After 5 weeks off , which consisted of too much food & not enough gym , we were back on the road again. This time we started the year in South Africa , at the majestic Fancourt links for the Volvo Champions event. This is a new event , in which the field consisted of last years tournament winners , and any tour player under fifty years old who had won more 10 or more European tour events. This amounted to 35 players. With no cut & guaranteed prize money , it was a perfect way to ease our way into the new season. I had put on a pound or two over the festive period , and the awesome steaks that you get in South Africa did nothing to help my situation. Nine holes each day on Tuesday and Wednesday broke me in gently , but I have to say , after Thursday’s opening round , I was shattered. The weather was roasting. 40 degrees , very little wind , and the course was long , with some hefty walks between holes.
Chippie on the other hand , wasn’t quite so ring rusty. He had played a fair bit of golf with his sons Craig and Michael in Dubai while on holiday , and this showed in his play. Thursday was a steady 1 under par 72 , followed by a nice 68 on Friday. The warm weather meant the ball was flying miles through the air , but Saturday was a complete contrast. Overcast , drizzly and windy conditions caused the scores to rocket. The course played completely different. For example , on the third hole on Friday , we hit an eight iron 185 yards to the back of the green , after a three wood from the tee. On Saturday on the same hole , we played a driver from the tee , which left us a five iron from 169 yards(which , incidentally , even though Paul struck it nicely, ended up short of the green in the water. Not one of my better club selections. Told you I was still a bit ring rusty!!) but it gives you an idea of how the conditions changed. A one over par 74 was not a bad score , and we pretty much held our position. On Sunday it was back to normal. Sun cracking the flags , and a testing breeze , combined with some tight pin positions made it a tricky day. Paul shot another 74 , which left us in a tie with Padraig Harrington for 10th spot. Not a bad start to the year , and as soon as we finished , it was a quick shower and straight to the airport to catch a short flight to Johannesburg , and then on to Abu Dhabi for the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship. All of a sudden , Christmas seems so long ago……
When I arrived in Dubai from Hong Kong last Monday morning , I was in a good mood. Firstly , I had popped a sleeping tablet for the overnight flight , and had slept for 6 hours. Secondly , and more importantly , I was delighted that we had maintained our place in the top 60 in the Race to Dubai , allowing us to play in the season ending Dubai World Championship. This is one of the goals for most players at the start of the year. There is no cut , and an excellent prize fund. It’s almost like a reward for performing well during the season , and nobody wants to miss out on being here. Our flight landed in Dubai at 5.30am. After a quick trip to the hotel to dump my luggage , it was straight to the golf course for nine holes , and a day of practice. After a disappointing final round in Hong Kong , Chippie was determined to make amends this week. As we all know , there are no shortcuts in this game , and for three days , Chippie made full use of the excellent facilities at the Jumerah Estates Golf Club. He was so disappointed with his attitude on Sunday in Hong Kong , he made a pledge that every time he said he was unlucky this week , he would give me £50. I thought I was onto a sure thing here folks , but the after four exhilarating days in the desert , Master Lawrie didn’t owe me a penny…….
From the opening tee shot on Thursday morning , to the final putt on Sunday afternoon , Paul never took his eye off the job in hand. After three rounds , we stood on 12 under par , and in the final pairing on Sunday , 2 shots behind the leader , Alvaro Quiros. In the chasing pack behind us were no less than Luke Donald , Martin Kaymer , Paul Casey , Sergio Garcia , Louis Oosthuizen , Francesco Molinari , Rory McIlroy , and Charl Schwartzel . It just doesn’t get any better than this!!! As a caddy , this is what we do the job for. The buzz of being in contention on Sunday is like no other , and when it’s in one of the biggest tournaments of the year , in amongst such illustrious company , the feeling is multiplied several times over. The stage was set for a fantastic day , and the players didn’t disappoint. After nine holes , and an outward nine of 31 (5 under par) , Paul led by one shot. Between them , he and Alvaro had shared ten birdies on the front nine. As we sat on the buggy for the short ride to the tenth tee , I remember thinking how this would be making great viewing for all armchair golf fans. The back nine was playing tougher , as the pins were tucked away , and with Alvaro’s birdie at the 14th , to Paul’s bogey on the 12th , we were one behind playing the last hole. Realistically , we had to birdie , and hope Quiros made par. Chippie did his part , holing a 12 footer for birdie , but only after Quiros had rolled in a 40 footer for a stunning eagle , and a two shot victory. I can’t tell you what I muttered under my breath as Alvaro’s putt dropped , but I’m sure you can hazard a guess. However every credit to him . His three wood approach to the final green was worthy of a champion , and was a stunning end to the tournament. Paul’s final hole birdie gave him second place on his own from Luke Donald , which was a few quid difference in prize money , and guaranteed a place in the top 20 of the order of merit. At first it’s difficult not to feel some disappointment , because you always want to win. However when the dust settled , and I sat outside the clubhouse later , enjoying the first of a several beers , I reflected on what was an awesome week. The adrenalin rush of being in contention , the great weather , fantastic support from the crowds , and of course , watching Chippie play some of his best golf of the year. It was a great boost for him , and an important stepping stone for next year. We now have five well deserved weeks off before the Volvo Champions tournament in South Africa in January. It’s been a year of mixed emotions , from the win in Malaga in March, to the sad death of Paul’s coach Adam Hunter in October. Let’s hope 2012 is full of only happy times and good memories for the future. Merry Christmas folks and a Happy New Year when it comes…
Post Hong Kong
I left the house at 10.30 on Sunday morning for my 1pm flight to Hong Kong.30 hours later I arrived at my hotel. I was absolutely knackered. I had a 9 hour wait in Dubai for my connecting flight , and when I arrived in Hong Kong , our taxi driver took us to the wrong hotel. When we expressed our displeasure , and tried to exit the car , the driver locked the boot with our luggage in it , and called the police.Five minutes later , four policemen with riot shields came running round the corner. This was not going to plan!! After almost an hour of explaining & negotiating , we were allowed to move on. At the time , this was a total pain in the neck , but it actually prepared me for the week ahead....."The Wrath of Chippie". Sounds like a dodgy B movie doesn't it , and that would be about right!!!
We had 36 holes preparation for a change , which was beneficial , as the course was a bit tougher than in previous years. Paul played nicely the first two days , and apart from a couple of poor holes , we were handily placed for the weekend. On Saturday , after a nice start , Paul struggled for the last 10 or eleven holes , and to shot -1 was a pretty good effort. Heading into Sunday , I was quietly confident of a nice final round , and a decent placing in the tournament. Unfortunately , a slice of bad luck on the first hole put paid to that. Chippie’s approach to the green found the greenside bunker , but the lie was good , and normally this would be a standard up and down. However , there was no sand under the ball , and chippie bladed the ball over the green , resulting in a bogey five. From then on , Chippie whinged his way round the golf course like there was no tomorrow. He has had his moments this year , but this was definitely the crème de la crème. 17 holes of mental self abuse ensued. My ears were ringing , but my training with the riot police kept me strong , and I survived. Paul now tops the rankings for bad luck (apparently). As I am writing this , my room mate Dominic and I have thought up a new nickname for Paul - Mario Chippotelli. This is in recognition of Mario Balotelli , the Manchester City player. When he scored against Manchester United a few weeks ago , he lifted his strip to reveal a t-shirt which read “Why Always Me? “ I’m sure you get the idea. This is Dom getting has own back. Dom caddies for Colin Montgomerie , and chippie has christened him CMC (Colin Montgomeries Caddie). What goes around………….
On the Sunday night after the HSBC in Shanghai, I stayed at an airport hotel, before my flight to Singapore the next day. My room was very good, but the restaurant downstairs was the WORST restaurant I have ever been in. There was no menu, but 100 pictures on the wall of the food available, and it wasn’t HD quality, if you know what I mean. Your other choice was to pick a live fish from the numerous tanks next door. These had been hand picked from the local canal, which was filthy. They even had a pike if you wanted!!! Needless to say, I didn’t eat much, and was at the airport 4 hours before my flight the next day, stuffing my face.
When I landed in Singapore, I quickly remembered how hot the place is. It is so humid, you start sweating the second you go outdoors. It is one of those weeks where we try to keep everything as low key as possible. You walk slow, do very little practice, drink zero alcohol and lots of water and rehydration drinks. Preserving energy is paramount. Watching on T.V. gives you no comprehension of the heat.
We didn’t do much on Tuesday, as Paul’s neck was a bit stiff, so used the pro-am as our practice round. On Thursday and Friday we played with Kenneth Ferrie, and Darren Beck. This tournament is played over two courses for the first two rounds. We got off to a steady start on the Serapong course, which is the tougher of the two courses, but a triple bogey 8 on the seventh put us up against it. A five over 76 was the end result, which meant we had to shoot at least 8 under on Friday to make the cut. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be. We played our second round as a two ball, as Kenneth Ferrie pulled out after round 1. Chippie thought he himself struggled in the heat, but he wasn’t a patch on poor Kenny. He started Thursday wearing a pair of light grey trousers, but by the time we finished the round, they looked like something from John Daly’s wardrobe, with two tone being the new look!!
Normally Paul wouldn’t come to Singapore, as the heat doesn’t agree with him, but being in Shanghai the previous week, we decided to give it a go. I don’t think he’ll be back in the near future. My flight home wasn’t until 2am on Sunday morning, so on Friday night, myself and another three caddies went indoor skydiving. This is a big indoor wind tunnel, which simulates freefalling. For a split second , I imagined I was James Bond , speeding towards earth , chasing the villain , and then I lost control , and crashed into the side wall , and had to be rescued by the instructor!! I think I’ll stick to caddying……..
After a nice two week break, we flew east, to Shanghai in China. It is still technically a communist country, but spend some time in Shanghai, and you would never know. 28 million people live in this sprawling city of skyscrapers and neon lights. Traffic can be so bad; it can take two hours just to get into the city from the outskirts. They have a magnetic train that travels at 400 kilometres per hour!!!!!!! This is probably the safest way to travel, as the driving is nothing short of horrific. Driving through red lights, overtaking/undertaking, driving with no lights on are just some of the perils that await you. They even make Chippie look like an old Sunday driver, and that is saying something!!
I arrived in Shanghai on Monday evening after a 20 hour journey, from Glasgow via Dubai, and stayed awake as long as possible to beat the jet lag. I managed this fine, and didn’t struggle to sleep for the rest of the week, as my latest alarm call was 6.30, which meant I was knackered every night, and slept great all week. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Paul, as he complained of being wide awake at 4am every morning. Aww!!
The Champions event is mainly for players who have won during the year on the main European, Asian, and PGA tours, and of course, Steve Williams!! . It is a fantastic event. The course is very good, and we were looked after tremendously by HSBC. Paul’s golf was a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. He struggled a bit with his driving, which has been his strong point of late, which made the course play just that little bit tougher. Every day he felt he had thrown away a couple of shots needlessly, which isn’t like him. I think a little bit of jet lag, and poor weather during our two weeks off (he didn’t get much chance to play), contributed to a week which saw us finish just inside the top 50. Still, it was a very enjoyable week, and one we hope to attend again next year. You can’t get enough of playing in the World Championship events, and they leave you wanting more. One of the highlights of the week was the Caddie of the Year awards on the Friday evening. Free food, free bar, and great entertainment in the form of Andrew Cotter from the BBC, who was MC for the evening. His Colin Montgomerie impersonation is the best I have heard. There was also a guest appearance from the great Steve Williams, who added some controversy to the evening. I’m sure I don’t need to say anymore!!
Post Portugal Masters
I arrived in Faro on Sunday night , courtesy of our early tee time in Madrid that morning , so caught the earlier flight. I much prefer flying on the Sunday night if I can. It means Monday can be a proper day off. There were quite a few caddies and players on the same flight , so we had a wee night out to ourselves and used Monday as a recovery day. Sometimes you need a blowout now and again……
Paul, Marian and the boys arrived on Tuesday night , and we played the pro-am on Wednesday in the company of some expats , who were good fun , and made the day pretty plain sailing. The weather was very hot again(over 30 degrees ) and stayed the same all week. Paul brought one of his other putters with him. An odyssey 2 ball which he had put to good use in the past. It proved to be a good move , as Paul opened with rounds of 69 & 66 , which put us just a few shots off the lead at halfway. Pauls front 9 on Friday was immense. After a bogey at the first , he then birdied seven of the next 8 holes. After nine holes I had visions of something really special , but some lovely putts just didn’t drop on the back nine.
Unfortunately , after the round , Paul received the devastating news that his coach and friend , Adam Hunter, had passed away after his battle with leukaemia. This put a whole new perspective on the weekend. Saturday was a very emotional day for all involved , and I could tell Paul was trying his absolute best , despite the obvious emotional turmoil he was feeling. A 3 under 69 , followed by a 68 on Sunday meant we finished in 11th place. A pretty gutsy effort I reckoned , all considered.
Normally after this tournament , I can’t get home as there are no flights back to Scotland in the evening……..Enter Air Chippie !!! Paul had chartered a private jet to take Marian & the boys home , and being the ultimate employer that he is , offered me a lift home. It really is the way to travel. Ten minutes after arriving at the airport , you are on the plane , ready to take off. Amazing. We even had our own air stewardess!!! A choice of papers , food , drinks , desserts , crisps , chocolate , and a tall blonde girl serving you (I wondered how she got the job!!). It was a great experience , and very appreciated on my behalf as it meant I could see my wife Liz a day earlier than usual. Thanks Chippie!!
On the golfing front , it was a pretty good week , with Paul’s putting getting back to standard he expects. Had it not been for a bundle of putts from 10 to 20 feet burning the edge of the hole at the weekend, Tom Lewis might still be waiting for his first win. However , last week will always be remembered for Adam’s passing. He was an immensely popular guy , and the ultimate professional , in both his coaching and playing. He will be sadly missed…….
Madrid is one of my favourite cities in Europe. I call it the European “New York”. The city doesn’t really come alive till after 8pm , when everyone comes out for dinner. Apart from the fantastic tapas bars , there are very few places open for food before this time. This year we stayed out of the city at a new venue called El Encin. Tee to green the course was fine , but the greens were easily the craziest I’ve evrer seen. Huge slopes in the middle of the greens made things a little bit silly , and combined with windy condiions , it really was a bit of a lottery.
Paul played pretty good , but had lost a bit of confidence in his putter. So much so , that he bought one from a golf shop in Madrid. He used it on Friday and Saturday , but switched back to the old one for Sunday. It was one of those weeks where nothing much happened for us. It was difficult to get the ball close to the hole , and combined with hitting a couple of wrong clubs at the weekend , it wasn’t going to be our week. The weather was very warm all week , especially in the afternoon , when the ball starts to go miles because Madrid is quite a bit above sea level. We found this out to cost a couple of times. At one point I was thinking of asking the Royal Mail to sponsor my hat , as we “airmailed” over a couple of greens on Saturday.
The tournament was won by Lee Slattery , which was a very popular win amongst the players and caddies. Lee is a great lad , and his dark good looks mean he gets lots of attention from the ladies. I’m sure he will be inundated with proposals now after his win.
I flew to faro on Sunday night for the Portugal Masters , at the Victoria Course in Vilamoura. I always enjoy the week , as the weather is usually stunning , and the marina in Vilamoura is a fantastic place to wander round at night , with loads of great restaurants , and the odd bar which might entice you in for a glass of wine or two. Time to look out the shades and sunblock…..
The Dunhill links is one of my favourite weeks of the year. Mainly because we stay in the best accommodation of the year. A superb three bedroom luxury apartment overlooking the 18th green on the old course is our home for the week.Myself & another four caddies treat ourselves this week , as the long days require nice evening surroundings to unwind. The format of playing three different courses with an amateur partner has it’s pros and cons. It’s much more relaxed than a normal tour event , thus a bit more fun , especially playing with Paul’s sponsor , Martin Gilbert , from Aberdeen Asset Management. Not afraid to speak his mind , Martin’s one liners kept us going for three days. The downside is that rounds can take up to 6 hours , which makes for a long day. Fortunately this year , the weather gods were kind to us , and we had sunshine up until Friday.
Paul’s play over the week was a little bit déjà vu from the last few tournaments. Excellent ball striking created loads of chances , but Chippie struggled to find his range with the putter. This can often be the case at the Dunhill , as you have three types of greens to contend with in four rounds. Paul’s frustration reached it’s peak at Kingsbarns. He had his best ball striking day of the year in calm conditions , but his 4 under 68 felt like 78. After the round he dropped me off in St.Andrews on the way to his hotel. I didn’t realise that Paul “Schumacher” Lawrie took out his frustration on motorists after his round. “Get oot ae the way ya stupid ******* idiot” Paul politely requested , as he overtook one of the local residents who had the temerity to drive on the same road as Chippie. I began to wonder if an airbag was enough protection , and started fumbling around for the ejector seat button.
Saturday at Carnoustie was a pretty tough day , but Paul played lovely. 15 pars and three birdies is no mean feat , and we made the cut , (which fell at a very low 5 under par) with a couple of shots to spare. For the first few holes on Sunday at the Old Course , it was pouring with rain , but the course took it well. Another frustating day on the greens , and we finished in 45th place , which still earned a decent cheque , but it was a case of what might have been. I was home by 5.30 on Sunday night , which is the great thing about playing in Scotland , and the Chinese takeaway was at the door by 6pm. Lovely. A quick repack of the suitcase , and I fly to Madrid from Edinburgh on Monday morning. Lets hope the putting improves , or somebody could be at the local hospital , having a putter extracted from their person…….
We stayed in Switzerland on Sunday night after the tournament , and on Monday I flew to Amsterdam , while my wife flew back home. The course at Hilversum is one of the best on tour. Normally when we play here , the course is firm and fast. Due to weeks of rain , the course was soft , green and playing very, very long. Wednesday’s pro-am was cut to 9 holes because heavy rain. The forecast wasn’t great , and sure enough , we had a five hour delay on Thursday. We could only play 9 holes before darkness , and had to play 27 holes on Friday. I was absolutely knackered. Physically it was tiring because the ground was so soft. Mentally it was exhausting because Paul decided he was going to be in a grumpy mood all day. From the three putt on our first hole on the Friday morning until we walked off our 27th hole of the day , Chippy whinged his way through the day. Slow golfers , noisy spectators , bad shots , bad luck , me talking rubbish(apparently) . Nothing escaped the wrath of the” Greetin Scotsman”. He must have exhausted himself as well , because he said he slept for 12 hours solid when he got back to his hotel.
We made the cut with a shot to spare on 1 under par. On Saturday and Sunday , we had a two-tee start , and started earlier than normal , as bad weather was forecast for both afternoons. Chippy’s mood was much brighter for the weekend , and he signed off with a couple of 68’s , finishing in 16th place , which was a solid week. Paul hit the crossbar this week , as he could easily have chopped a shot or two off each round. When he played nicely the short game wasn’t on song , and when it was , his ball striking was off. Nevertheless , it was a minor miracle we got the tournament finished , and the greenstaff did a tremendous job getting the course playable. Simon Dyson won the tournament, his second of the year, and his third Dutch Open. Talk about horses for courses!!! We have a couple of weeks off now before the Dunhill Links at St.Andrews. Ahh….. peace and quiet!!!!
Post European Masters
Crans Montana. The venue for the Omega European Masters , & quite possibly the most amazing scenery on any golf course anywhere in the world. Every year we come here , I never get bored of the views. My wife Liz joined me last year for the first time , and was instantly hooked. Needless to say , she wasn’t missing out this year. Five of us hired a car for the two hour journey from Geneva airport. Myself, Liz, & another 3 caddies – David ”Magic” Johnstone (Michael Jonzon), Jeffrey ”By the Way” Paul (Gonzalo Fernandez Castano) & Ritchie ”Ballablairos” Blair (Soren Kjeldsen). Three of my best mates on tour , and a tremendous wealth of experience between them. As the nicknames suggest , they are also great characters , and the journey to Crans Montana flew in.
Paul didn’t arrive until Tuesday night , as he was attending his foundation dinner on Monday night , so I walked the course on Tuesday morning , and we spent Wednesday on the range , trying a new driver , and doing some chipping & putting.
Paul played pretty good the whole week , making twelve birdies in the first two rounds alone. Unfortunately , there was a few disaster holes in there as well. The course at Crans is very tricky , and you don’t have to do much wrong to run up some high numbers. As Paul probably mentioned in his daily blog , his putting wasn’t up to scratch. Most of his birdies were from very close range , and it seemed every time he missed a green , he made a bogey or worse. We finished the week in 35th place , which felt like the worst we could have been. On the positive side , his ball striking was very good , and we’re looking forward to Holland next week. Hilversum Golf Club is the venue for the Dutch Open. It’s a fantastic old fashioned tree-lined golf course. We’ll be looking forward to a good week to set us up for the end of season run in.
My last ramblings were from Royal St.Georges at the Open Championship. We were due to play the Irish Open in Killarney , but Paul’s back injury flared up again. I had arrived in Killarney before Paul pulled out , so I stayed for a couple of days , just to make sure the Guinness was up to the expected standard. I wasn’t disappointed!!!
Anyway , after five weeks off , we arrived at Gleneagles for the Johnnie Walker Championship. This is one of my favourite weeks , as I stay at home and travel everyday , which is just awesome. Getting to sleep in my own bed when I’m working is a rarity in this job. Paul played lovely in the pro-am , clipping it round in 64. Unfortunately , this form didn’t continue during the tournament , and Pauls game showed some signs of being a little bit rusty , which is understandable after a five week lay off , with only a few holes under his belt. We made the cut on the mark at level par , and finished the tournament in 60th place , which might not sound too great , but to play four rounds was important , and gave us something to build on for the following week. The highlight of the week for Chippy was on Saturday , on the 18th fairway , when a spectator told me to “P..s Off “ after I politely requested he refrain from creating a disturbance. Master Lawrie found this highly amusing. The offending chap was clearly under the influence of the sponsors product. This was the second time this week Paul had one over on me. We had a £50 bet over who would lose the most weight during the 5 week break. Paul lost 11 lbs , while I lost 9lbs , and the bet. Dinnae worry. I’ll have my revenge!!
If you ever happen to see him soon , he might not notice you , as he’ll probably be looking in the nearest mirror , admiring his new slim profile. Apparently when Brad Pitt was in Glasgow shooting scenes for his latest movie , Paul was spotted offering his services as a double!! Next week we’re off to the stunning scenery of Switzerland , for the Omega Masters. Till then……
“Ladies & Gentlemen , this is game number 21. On the tee from Scotland , Paul Lawrie”… An enthusiastic applause followed the familiar introduction from the traditional open starter , Ivor Robson. The packed grandstands around the first tee fell deathly silent , as the former Open champion stepped up to the ball. A smooth , full backswing and then BANG. The sound of the clubface meeting the ball echoed around the gallery……….. Unfortunately , Paul had hit the big ball first , resulting in a lovely skied tee shot , taking the days first and probably only divot from the first tee with a three wood. Thankfully there was a strong wind behind , and the firm fairways meant the ball still managed to travel 270 yards down the fairway. Our Open was underway!!!
The British Open is like no other tournament. The infrastructure is massive , the crowds are awesome and the field is the best in the world. This was my first trip to Royal St. Georges. I had heard it was hard and fast , and was not disappointed. A true links course if ever there was one. Our preparation was 27 holes practice(no pro-am in major championships. Lovely). The highlight being 18 holes in the company of Tom Watson. We were treated to a links golf masterclass , and at 62 years old , Watson proved himself to be a true legend of the game , finishing in 22nd place. It was easy to see why he almost won The Open two years ago.
On Thursday Paul struggled with his ball striking , but managed to scramble well for 73(+3). We spent a couple of hours on the range on Thursday night , which solved the problem , and Paul played well for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, the putter didn’t behave itself . Some weeks you can survive with poor putting , but at a major championship there is no hiding place. Combine this with having the worst of the weather every day (honestly, this is true) and we finished in a tie for 66th place.
Nevertheless , four rounds in a major is no mean feat , and it was still a very enjoyable week. There were several strories of the week. The amateur Tom Lewis, tied for the lead after round one, and Tom Watson’s round of 72 in the worst of the weather on Saturday. However the biggest story was Darren Clarke’s first major victory. He was undoubtedly the best player all week , showing phenomenal shotmaking and determination. With another European major winner , the European Tour goes from strength to strength. We have a week off now before the Irish Open at Killarney , which promises to be another fantastic event , especially with Darren Clarke & Rory Milroy in attendance. Great times for European golf.
Post Scottish Open
All of a sudden, the "Fifth Major" was upon us. That is , if you are Scottish!!! The Scottish Open is one of the best events on tour. The prize money is excellent, the field is high quality , and the venue is stunning. This year was no different as we travelled north to Inverness, where Castle Stuart is situated. It is a modern links design, and I have to say, the course was tremendous. Normally modern courses are a bit tricked up, and as long as can be. Castle Stuart was neither. Combined with breathtaking scenery, it promised to be an awesome week.
Fortunately Paul had recovered from the shoulder injury which had forced him to withdraw from the French Open the week before , and we had the draw of the week for the first two days , playing with Phil Mickelson & Padraig Harrington. On Thursday it took Paul until the back nine to get going , and a lukewarm putter resulted in a one under par 71. What a difference a day makes, and on Friday the putter was red hot. The result - eight under par 64. Lovely!!! This put us in a great position at what we thought was the half way stage. Unfortunately , play was suspended on Friday afternoon due to bad weather , and after a tremendous down pour on Saturday morning , there was not a ball struck again until Sunday morning. The tournament had to be cut to 54 holes, which was a real shame for the spectators , sponsors and everyone else connected to the tournament. Credit must be given to the greenkeeping staff , who where at the course at 4am on Saturday and Sunday. How they managed to get the course playable I’ll never know, but it was a tremendous effort. We eventually teed off for our third and final round on Sunday afternoon. The weather stayed dry , and the scoring was very good. Paul played nicely , and actually putted better than his score suggested , but the ball just wouldn’t drop. A two under par 70 was the result, and we finished in 25th position. A steady week , and great preparation for next weeks Open Championship at Royal St.Georges.
Apart from the weather , I reckon Castle Stuart proved to be a resounding success. We are there for the next two years , and hopefully the golfing gods will shine on us next year. Meanwhile , we travel down to Sandwich in Kent for the Open. It’s my first time at St.Georges, and I’m staying in Canterbury, which is supposed to be a great spot. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype……
After a couple of well earned weeks off , we headed to Munich , for the one of the most prestigious tournaments on the European Tour. The BMW International Open always attracts a star studded field , and this year was no different. Dustin Johnson , Paul Casey , Retief Goosen , Sergio Garcia , & Martin Kaymer , to name but a few.
I flew from Edinburgh to Munich on Easyjet on Monday. This is a well worn route , and one that I can book well in advance to get the best price. Long live budget airlines(except Ryanair).
We played with Thongchai Jaidee , & our namesake , Peter Lawrie. On Thursday afternoon , the rain started as we prepared to tee off , and didn’t stop until the sevententh hole. This might have put off most players , but not Master Lawrie , who clipped it round in 66 shots , to be lying in 3rd position overnight. A great start to the week! On Friday morning , Paul felt a twinge between his shoulder blades , which by the end of the day had escalated into something more painfull. We scrambled round in 72 on Friday , and hoped it would be better for the weekend , but , despite painkillers and physio treatment , the problem remained , and Paul struggled for the rest of the tournament , to finish in 50th spot. A disappointing end to a week which started so well , but unfortunately you can’t do much about injuries.
The tournament was won by Pablo Larrazabal , who defeated Sergio Garcia in a five hole play off. It wis great to see Sergio returning to something like his old self , and I’m sure he will recover his full form very soon.
I stayed in Munich on Sunday night , and flew to Paris on Monday morning , where I will be staying in Versailles for the week. It is a great town , with loads of little restaurants and coffee shops where you can sit a watch the world go by. Usually the weather is great , and very hot. Unfortunately the French don’t seem to have grasped the concept of air conditioning , unless you pay over £150 a night for a hotel, so I’ll be sleeping on top of the covers this week. Insomnia here we come…….
Post Wales Open
After a couple of days at home sulking on the couch after missing the cut at Wentworth, I drove down the M6(again!!!), to Celtic Manor on Monday afternoon. I stayed in the Premier Inn in Newport which is only 5 minutes from the golf course. Cheap and cheerful. Perfect!!!
We play the Wales Open on the 2010 Ryder Cup course , which is a very stern test. The greens are very tricky , and there is lots of water on the course , which means there are potential disasters on almost every hole. We had an very good group for Thursday and Friday , playing with Jeev Milka Singh & Thomas Bjorn(talk about chalk & cheese). Hopes were high of a return to form , but with hindsight, it was probably one week too many.It was our fifth week in a row. Paul struggled with his ball striking on Thursday , leaving a mountain to climb to make the cut. Strong winds on Friday added to the task , and we missed by a few shots in the end. Normally after missing the cut , Paul would make Hannibal Lecter seem like a cuddly toy , but I think 5 weeks on the road had taken it’s toll , and there was nothing left in the tank by the time we walked off the 18th green on Friday. I packed the bag and headed back to the Premier Inn for a few well deserved pints , a good kip , and a Mcdonald’s breakfast , before jumping in the car , and heading off up my favourite motorway again to get home.
We now have two weeks off before a run of very good tournaments. The BMW International Open in Munich , The French Open , The Scottish Open , and of course , The Open at Royal St.Georges. The break has come at a perfect time in the schedule. Paul has his own 54 hole Tartan Tour event at Deeside from 15th to 17th of June , and I’ll have the lovely stress free , unharassed experience of moving house. By the time Munich comes around , I’ll be running to the airport to get back to work…
The week was kick started by the “Ole Seve” pro-am for the Seve Ballesteros Foundation Charity on Monday , followed by the official BMW pro-am on Wednesday. We don’t usually do two pro-ams in a week(thankfully) , but they are a very important part of the tour. Without them we wouldn’t have sponsors , and therefore wouldn’t have any tournaments.
The alterations made to Wentworth over the last couple of years have been very controversial , and I’m of the opinion that they are too severe. It was a classic course which didn’t need much altering to keep up with the modern game. The result is a course which is bordering on unfair. Unfortunately , we couldn’t use that as an excuse for missing the cut!!.
Paul played nicely on Thursday , and except for taking an eight on the twelfth hole , we had no complaints. On Friday we were going along nicely at the turn , two under for the day , and one over for the tournament , but a run of bogeys from the 10th to 13th saw us move outside the cut mark , leaving us needing an eagle at the last to make it to the weekend. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be , and we missed our first cut since Dubai in February. Missing cuts is gutting at the best of times , but at Wentworth it’s worse. On a positive note , we are playing Wales next , which allows us to get back into things straight away , and hopefully make amends. I drove home on Saturday morning to get a couple of welcome days at home , and I’ll drive back down on Monday to Wales. Luke Donald proved he is worthy of the world number one tag with his second victory of the year. His first round 64 in windy conditions was worthy of victory alone , and I reckon he could be number one for some time.
Post Iberdrola Open
We flew from Barcelona on Sunday night after the Spanish Open to Mallorca , where we stayed in the holiday resort of Cala Millor , which is about fifteen minutes from the golf course. Usually this tournament is in late October , when it is a bit of a ghost town. This year was much busier with tourists (albeit mostly German pensioners) , which gave the place a very relaxing holiday atmosphere. In fact, it was so relaxing , that a certain former Open champion was spotted cycling down the main street on a rented bike , bumping into benches , and frightening the life out of the blue rinse brigade. No prizes for guessing who, but it was a sight to behold. We spent most nights in the Sportsman’s bar across from our hotel , which served up fantastic traditional british food , and looked after all the caddies and players very well.
The course at Pula Golf Club has improved tremendously over the last few years , mainly down to some very good design changes by Jose Maria Olazabal , and was in excellent condition. We spent the first two rounds in the company of Colin Montgomerie , who was in very good form socially , but unfortunately Monty’s golf didn’t match up to his patter , and he was heading home early after struggling for two days.
Paul played nicely on Thursday for a two under 68, then struggled on Friday, but made some great par saves to be round in 69, Saturday was a frustrating day , with shots from the rough doing the exact opposite from what we thought , resulting in a 72.Chippie was not a happy camper when he finished , and he stormed off to find solace in a 3 euro a day pushbike!!! As it turned out, we only dropped four spots , as the course was firming up and becoming very tricky. This was also the case on Sunday. Winds gusting to 30mph made scoring so difficult , that only 3 players broke par. Paul played pretty solidly , and birdied two of the last four holes for a level par 70 , which moved us up to a tie for 5th spot, and another good week. Darren Clarke won by three shots from Chris Wood , who had a four shot lead going into the last round. He is a very good player , who has time on his side , and will win very soon I’m sure.
We’re off to Spain now for the Volvo World Matchplay , where a very strong field will fight it out for a very handsome prize fund. Lets get those boxing gloves on….
Post Spanish Open
After five weeks off , I was raring to get going again. The weather back home had been pretty good(even in Glasgow) , and I had fully celebrated Paul’s victory in Malaga. Now , having watched loads off golf on t.v. , it was time to get back on tour , and hopefully pick up where we left off. Fortunately , Paul had played a lot of golf on his weeks off , and apart from an uncharacteristic double bogey , bogey finish to the first round , there was no signs of rustiness , and we finished the week in 5th position , courtesy of a 5 under par final round , which was the second lowest of the day.
The tournament was won by Thomas Aitken , who has been knocking on the door for a couple of years now , and he led from start to finish , which was very impressive. The course we played was a new design by Greg Norman , and was excellent. The emphasis was very much on driving the ball well , with some very strategic bunkering , giving most holes a risk/reward element , and was in fantastic condition. I believe we are returning to the same venue next year , which is great news.
Unfortunately the week was deeply saddened by the passing of Seve Ballesteros in the early hours of Saturday morning. It is a huge loss to the game not only in Europe , but around the world. When I was growing up , Seve was the pioneer for European golf. He conquered America , and led the way for the great success of European golfers from the mid 80’s until now. He also made the Ryder Cup the huge event it is today. Nobody will ever forget his heroics on the golf course , playing the game with his heart on his sleeve , and displaying his awesome talent and imagination. As many people have said , quite simply genius. Hopefully the young players of today , and indeed the future , realise that the vast sums of prize money on offer today , are very much down to Seve. May he rest in peace…….
Post Volvo World Matchplay
Carlsberg don’t do golf tournaments , but if they did, it would probably be something like this!!! From the minute we arrived at our hotel on the Monday , until we left on the Sunday, we were lifted and laid , and pretty much spoiled rotten. Volvo did a fantastic job looking after the caddies. They put us up in a lovely hotel for the week , covered our food and drinks bill (some were larger than others), and organized our flights to and from the tournament. Simply awesome! My wife Liz joined me for the week (she could suss out a freebie from miles away), and we stayed in beautiful two bedroom suite.
The golf course is called Finca Cortesin , and is one of the hilliest I have ever been on. So hilly , that during the tournament, we had nine buggy rides , either in between holes , or from tee to fairway. If we had been made to walk it , it would have been a caddies nightmare. The format of 8 groups of 3 players meant that we had to play both our first round matches in one day. On the Friday morning we played Ian Poulter , whose matchplay record is fantastic. Paul struggled a little bit on the front nine , to be two down at the turn. However he played lovely on the back nine , and gained a half point , and was very unlucky not to win the game. In the afternoon we played Francesco Molinari. Another tough match against a guy who basically doesn’t hit a shot offline. We were defeated 3 & 2. It seemed that every time Paul hit a good approach shot inside Molinari , he holed his putt first , meaning we were always under the cosh. Thus we were knocked out of the tournament. It was a bit of a disadvantage having to play 2 rounds in one day , while the others in our group played over two days. Poulter eventually won the tournament. Almost every match he played in he was in danger of being closed out , and probably should have lost on at least two or three occasions. It is a testament to his self belief and his will to win that he managed to get results when a defeat looked inevitable.
My wife and I stayed on for the weekend , and on Sunday I flew to London for the flagship BMW PGA Championship , where we hope to continue our run of good form.