I’m usually a bit late with my blogs , so this one is going to be on time…I’m currently sitting at home with a glass of wine , watching the highlights of the final days play of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles , and boy ,does it make fine viewing!!! Paul wins his third tournament in less than 18 months , his second this year, and celebrates his return to the Ryder cup team with an almighty bang!!!!
Since I started caddying for Paul , I’ve been lucky enough to experience some fantastic weeks on the golf course. Strangely enough , I’ve always had a little feeling going into those weeks that something good was going to happen , and this week was no different. Having secured his place on the Ryder Cup team , Chippie arrived at Gleneagles with a smile as wide as the ocean , and nothing was going to remove the grin from his face….. He played lovely in the pro-am , and his body language oozed confidence!! So much in fact , that my friend Alan who walked round for 9 holes promptly stuck a few quid on him…”He’s playing well isn’t he “.. When I passed on his comments to Chippie , his reply was…” Why does he seem surprised, does he think I’m crap like?” Professional golfers’ humour at it’s best..!!
Thursday was an excellent start ,as a four under 68 left us only one shot off the lead. A 69 followed on Friday , maintaining our position , just a shot behind. On Saturday Chippie moved up a gear , shooting a five under 67 to take a one shot lead into the final round. He could easily have been two or three better , had it not been for a few missed chances , but he remained patient, spurred on by the fantastic galleries round the course. As we walked off the 18th tee , he commented on the large number of spectators following our group “I don’t usually get so many people following me..” I couldn’t help myself….” Don’t worry Chippie , It’s only because you’re Scottish..!!” …”Oh aye , knock me down when I’m on a high” was the reply… All good banter , and it kept the mood light for the rest of the weekend.
Sunday at Gleneagles , final group , leading the tournament….Does it get much better? One of the good things about teeing off late on a Sunday , is that the range is empty , as everyone has already teed off. You can choose your spot , and we walked on to the range an hour before our tee time. Peace and quiet , or so we thought……Someone who shall remain nameless had managed to sponge their way onto the range by walking next to another player…. His target…. Chippie, his mission …Ryder Cup tickets!!!! He actually tried to chin the tournament leader for Ryder Cup tickets an hour before he tee’d off..It was an unbelievable attempt , which failed miserably, as a resounding no was the answer. However , it gave Chippie and myself something to laugh about , and we strolled to the first tee on a good mood, ready for the challenge that lay ahead.
As it turned out , nobody could get anywhere near Paul. A two putt birdie at the second gave him a three shot lead , and he never looked back. By the turn , he was four ahead , and could have been six or seven. As he did in Qatar earlier this year , and in Spain last year , he flicked on the autopilot switch and closed out the tournament. Walking up the 18th fairway, he had the luxury of a four shot lead. Spectators lined the fairway all the way up the hole , and I have to admit , it was a special feeling , listening to the cheers and the applause echoing round the course. Winning in your home country is special indeed , and we both enjoyed the moment. A par five at the last and the trophy was secured… what a fantastic feeling. Paul had again outplayed the field , and racked up win number 8……. He’s becoming like a fine wine , getting better with age ,and I for one, will drink to that…… Cheers !!!!!!!
The final Major of the year… After the WGC event in Akron , We headed further south to Kiawah Island , scene of the 1991 Ryder Cup. It was hot….very hot.. It was indeed so hot that I almost renamed Chippie to Paul ”Bloody hell I’m hot” Lawrie, such was the Aberdonian’s dislike of the humid conditions..I didn’t escape it myself. On Wednesday during practice , I wore a pastel lilac shirt. Not great for hiding the odd bead of perspiration. A little American kid thought this was funny..”Hey man , your shirt’s leaking”. Thankfully I was too hot to answer back , or I might have got myself into a bit of bother.
Due to the heat , we kept our preparations to mostly putting and chipping. The fairways were quite generous , and the greens had lots of run off areas , so short game was going to be at a premium. We kicked off with a one over 73 on Thursday , which put us right on the cut mark. Before the round, Paul had chatted with Bob Rotella , the sports psychologist with whom he’d worked with in the past. “I’m going to be unflappable today” he claimed , striding to the first tee , full of confidence. Ten holes later after a frustrating front nine a three putt at the tenth … “Unflappable my !$%* “ was the outburst.. Oh well , at least it worked for 9 holes..!
On Friday , the wind picked up after a huge overnight storm(it woke me up… unheard of). A 25 – 30 mph crosswind engulfed the course , making things very difficult…Including picking the right club !! At the 13th and 14th , we (or I , as I was informed) had been a little bit out with the club selection. A five iron to the front edge on the 13th( 8 yards from the hole , chip and putt for par) and the same club to the back half of the green at the 14th( two putt par)… “Perfect shots and the wrong bat” exclaimed the perfectionist… “ Aye cos it’s that easy “ I muttered under my breath. On the 15th fairway after a big drive downwind , we only had just over 110 yards to the hole… “ perfect lob wedge” I said ,” one bounce and it’ll stop at the hole.”… “Are you sure?” asked Chippie , now smirking. I needn’t have have replied , as my look must have said it all. This he found awfy funny… I’ll need to practice that look. If it makes him laugh and smile on the golf course, it could be worth a fortune!!! We signed off with a 75 on Friday , on 4 over par for the tournament. This safely made the cut , as the high winds took the cut mark to 6 over par.
Saturday was a better day , shooting 1 under par , and moved us up about 15 spots. The only blemish being the huge lump on a spectators’ forehead after he had headered Chippie’s ball back into play after he pull hooked a four iron at the 17th hole. We all shouted fore , but the poor chap didn’t see it coming. Fortunately , he was well looked after by the medics on site , and received some signed balls and gloves for his efforts. Sunday was another day of frustration.. Some nice play had us 1 under for the day with two to play. Paul’s tee shot at the par 3 17th cleared the waste bunker , but plugged in the grassy sand over it… Normally this would be a free drop… Not this week. Any sand is considered through the green , and the ball is played as it lies… The result after one failed attempt to move the ball was a triple bogey six….. Chippie was not a happy chappy , and rightly so. It was a poor ruling , and cost him a top 30 spot , and we finished in 45th place…Hey ho. After the round , myself and a couple of other caddies drove to our airport hotel in Charleston , as we were flying home on Monday morning. I was knackered. Two weeks in very hot conditions had totally drained me , and I couldn’t wait to get home for a week off before the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles , which is a great week for me as I can stay at home…..bliss!!!
After a week off we were heading back across the pond gain to the good ol’ US of A , and to the Firestone Country Club in Akron , home of the third WGC event of the year. I had heard good things about the course and I wasn’t disappointed . It’s a great old fashioned course - treelined , fast greens and very hot… One day the temperature topped 100 degrees… nae waterproof Jacket for the Chipster this week!!!
We had some good preparation , with three lots of 9 holes from Monday to Wednesday , and had a nice early tee time on Thursday , avoiding the afternoon heat. Chippie had a bit of a mixed bag , and we finished with a two over par 72. Fortunately , there is no halfway cut in these events , so we had plenty time to make amends , and Paul duly obliged with a 2 under 68 on Friday , which could have been a few better , as he missed a few chances , but he remained patient( there’s a first time for everything…)) and birdied our last hole to make it a satisfying day. His mind set was even so good , he actually tried to crack a couple of jokes. Standing on the 7th tee , I thought I'd be a nice guy and gave a young kid a couple of balls… “ That’s just to save you carrying them” he quipped…. “Correct “ was my swift reply , to which he retorted … “ I hope they were old ones…...” You can take the boy out of Aberdeen…. !!
On the same hole , he made a very good par save from up against the thick collar of rough round the green.. I passed comment on his excellent display of short game skills , hoping to boost his confidence.. “That’s one of the best saves you’ll make all year” I enthused… The reply…. “Oh aye , I’m good…!!” Nae bum tickling required there then ….
On Saturday we were paired with Matt Kuchar , who we played with on Saturday at the British Open. He’s one of the most relaxed guys I’ve ever seen, and great to play with. For Chippie it was similar to the first day , with nothing much happening , and a 74 was the result.. On Sunday we had an early start off the tenth , as thunderstorms were forecast and we managed only 4 holes before the heavens opened , causing a 3 hour delay. When we restarted , Paul played nicely , giving himself several chances for birdies. After 3 missed chances inside 10 feet at our 10th,11th,and 12th holes , the frustration was building , and the top blew off after he bogeyed our 14th from the greenside trap. A bogey at the next followed , and we finished with a two over 72… 16 pars and two bogeys. A day of what might have been.
However , these days can’t be mulled over for too long , and we head off to Kiawah Island in South Carolina next week for the final major of the year , the USPGA , where the forecast is to be even hotter…..Phew!!!!