"On the tee from Scotland, the defending champion" Paul Lawrie Ivor Robson announced Chippie on the first tee...."I hate it when he does that" Hehe... Ivor knows this winds Paul up, and enjoys every minute of it, because Paul is constantly ribbing him on the first tee any chance he gets... Revenge was sweet. The Gleneagles week is another of my favourites. I get to stay at home, and it's a course where I feel very comfortable, having played it dozens of times, and caddied round it on at least 50 occasions. Paul had his challenge match with Jose Maria Olazabal on the Tuesday in Aberdeen , so I had a wander round the course to see if there had been any changes. It was a bit firmer than normal, due to the good summer, thus playing shorter, and there wasn't quite as much rough. It was going to be a low scoring week.
The weather was kind on the first day, and by the time we teed off in the afternoon, we were seven shots behind, as Bernd Wiesberger posted an early 65. The Chipster didn't play his best, but battled to a two under 70. The good thing about having a late tee time on he Thursday, is that you play early on Friday, so the momentum keeps flowing. Paul took full advantage of the calm conditions and posted a 67, putting us just outside the top ten going into the weekend. It's also a nice feeling when you finish early on the Friday having made the cut, while watching the rest of the field battle it out while you rest up. Saturday was a day where a low score was needed to push us up the leader board. The weather was again kind, but Paul struggled with the irons, and even though he still managed to shoot one under par, we dropped about 15 spots. We spent a fair bit of time on the range trying to sort it out, and Paul spoke to his coach on the Saturday night, hoping to find the cure. A couple of alterations on the Sunday, and Paul was back to flushing it again before we teed off. We reckoned a 62 would be required to have any chance. It might seem a bit far fetched to think of such a number, but round this course, there is always a chance. In the end, Paul shot 70, finishing just outside but gave himself plenty chances to be much lower, which bodes well for our next tournament, The European Masters in Switzerland, which is up in the Swiss mountains, where the ball flies forever in the thin air.....even I could hit a drive 300 yards up there!!!
One week after our adventurous British Open exploits, we were heading back to America for our last stateside trip of the year, and it wasn’t a bad week to start with…..The WGC event at Firestone country club. This is a favourite with many players and caddies, as we get so well looked after, and the course is always in pristine condition. Most of the European caddies stayed in the same hotel as last year, in a town called Wadsworth, about 15 minutes from the course. Unfortunately this year, it was undergoing some renovations, and resembled a building site rather than a hotel. However the price was right, and as caddies do, we made the best of it.
Paul had two days good preparation, which included pairing up with Ritchie Ramsay against Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher on Tuesday. The bet was $50 dollars. You could see the colour drain from Ritchie’s face as the figure was agreed!!! It was a tight affair, with the Aberdonians one down playing the last. Almost passing out at the thought of losing money, Ritchie pulled out all the stops, holing his greenside bunker shot to salvage a half. I was almost relieved for him!!!
For the first two rounds we were paired with Jamie Donaldson. This was an ideal draw, as both he and Paul chatted non stop for two days, and I’m very friendly with his caddie Michael. This made it a very laid back group. So laid back in fact that on the 14th hole on the first day, Donaldson was ready to hit his tee shot, then strangely backed off it.” Everything ok?” asked his caddie Mick, showing a bit of concern. The reply and following action was something I’ve never seen or heard before, and never will again.”I’m fine mate, I just need to fart” replied Donaldson, as he stepped back and let rip, to the dismay of the twenty or so spectators round the tee. Chippie and I were dumbstruck. As we walked off the tee, I burst out laughing. There was nothing else I could do. As left the tee, I heard a spectator say ”Man, that’s just not right “ I had to agree.
Anyhow ,Paul putted nicely for an opening 1 under 69, followed by a 72. He had played better on Friday, but struggled with putter. On Thursday he had struggled from tee to green, but holed out well, and took his chances, thus shooting under par. Saturday was a similar day to Friday. We played with Rory Mcilroy and Martin Kaymer, which was a fun 3 ball. Paul played by far the best golf tee to green, but struggled to score, finishing with a 72. Mcilroy on the other hand, was the complete opposite. He hit one green in the first five holes to be 3 under!!! He ended up shooting 69, hitting only 3 fairways, and not many more greens!! Amazing. On Sunday Paul got off to a slow start, and was a couple over with a few holes to go, but being the grinder he is, he birdied 3 of the last 6 holes to finish on level par. It had been a fairly sold week. The weather had been great, and the course immense , as always. Normally we would be jumping on a plane to travel to the USPGA the following week, but on this occasion , it was only a four hour drive to Oakhill Country Club in Rochester, and the final major of the year, the USPGA…….
It’s not often we get to venue for the next tournament on a Sunday evening between tournaments, but in this occasion, we did, as it was only a four hour drive from Akron to Rochester.This is a welcome bonus, as Monday’s are usually spent travelling, therefore we had the Monday off. After a long lie, I went to the course in the afternoon for a wander round. Straight away it reminded me of a US Open course. Narrow fairways with thick rough…. It was going to be a tough test. Heavy rain had also made the course play long, and the rough very juicy. This week’s winner was going to be a straight hitter for sure. We had the company of Stephen Gallacher again for both practice days, with Fellow Wilson staff player Kevin Streelman and living legend Tom Watson joining us on Wednesday. Watson is still very impressive. At 63 years old, he still hits it out there, and his enthusiasm is there for all to see. His approach to the game is the same as it has always been… why make it complicated when you don’t have to. So much so, that after a confab about certain shots with a couple of people, he walked to the next tee where I was already waiting, looked at me and said” It’s not rocket science is it?” “I Couldn’t agree more “ I replied. It made my day.
Onto the tournament, and we had a morning tee time on Thursday, which I though would suit us, avoiding the afternoon heat. How wrong I was… it was hot. Very hot!! Paul didn’t play his best, but battled for 2 over 72, which was right on the cut mark after day 1. We hit some balls after the round, and sorted the problem quickly thankfully, as I was close to melting. I was a happy man back in the room after a cold shower!! On Friday morning, the rain was pelting down, and I thought play had to be stopped, but they kept playing, and by the time we were ready to warm up, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. Talk about the good side of draw!! Paul played much better than on Thursday, but a couple of double bogeys made it an uphill task to qualify for the weekend. It doesn’t take much to hurt you in a major championship, but the penalties can be severe. Neverthless, Chippie rallied, and birdied two of the last three holes , only missing the cut by a shot. It was one of those weeks where it wasn’t to be. I packed the bag, got back to the hotel, and promptly changed my flight to fly home on the Saturday, which meant getting home a day early. This was done with ease, and I arrived at the airport, checked in, had a beer and looked forward to getting home. My calm and good mood was soon changed, when the airline announced that my plane for my first flight to Newark had a technical fault which would mean a delay. I spoke to the help desk, who put me on a later flight from Newark to Edinburgh. Problem solved, or so I though. An hour later, the pilot came out to tell us the fault was worse than expected. Result …Flight cancelled….AAAAArrrggghhhh. I had to rechange my flights back to my original booking, and spent Saturday night in Rochester. My roommate Dom nearly fell over when I arrived back at the hotel…”Why are not in the air just now?” Don’t ask, I replied, as I dumped my bags in the corner and headed off the nearest alehouse….Some days are just meant to test us!!!