As with the previous year, this year’s tournament started on the Wednesday, therefore I flew out of Abu Dhabi on the Sunday night to Qatar. Paul was doing a company day in Abu Dhabi. So I went up to the course on Monday for a walk round. I didn’t get very far….It was blowing a gale. There were only 4 idiots, sorry, I meant golfers, on the range, and the course was empty. I organised a couple of new clubs for Paul to try out, and headed back to the hotel. We were playing in the pro-am the following day, so I could get a look at the course then. Unfortunately it was a rather early tee-time….6.30am , which meant a 4.15 alarm. Ouch!!! Every cloud has a silver lining though, and we were done by 11.30. A quick bite to eat, some time on the range, and I was back in the hotel for 2pm…bliss
Onto the opening round and no prizes for guessing who one of our playing partners was –Yep, none other than big Robert “ Bobby “ Karlsson. I call him Bobby now as we’ve seen so much of him. Our third was Alvaro Quiros , who was suffering from nose bleeds for two days, so there wasn’t much chat from him. Paul played nicely, opening with a 5 under 67. A couple of putts dropped during the day and all was well. The second round didn’t run quite so smoothly. After birdeing the first hole of the day, a double bogey followed at the next. The rest of the day was a bit frustrating, as the weather was kind and Paul was keen to take advantage. A 73 was the end result, and we slipped down the field a bit, but with the forecast good for the weekend, there was ground to be made up.
As he had scored the same as us for the first two rounds, we were paired again with Alvaro Quiros, whose nose now resembled a mini swiss roll as it was packed up with so much cotton wool and bandaging. He still managed to chat though. Chippie wasn’t in the mood for much chatting, as another frustrating day on the greens caught up with him. An errant tee shot on the 16th meant a double bogey and another 73 was signed for. The mercury was rising!!!! Saturday was a fairly sombre affair. We played with Ross Fisher, who goes about his own business, so it was ideal. Paul played fairly similar to the previous two days, and birdied 2 of the last 3 holes for a 71. I thought it might raise a bit of a smile from the Chipster, but not today. A shake of the hands, a huff and a puff, sign the card, pack the bag, and we were off. Airport bound again for the 6pm flight to Dubai, which was to be the last event of our trip. Traditionally Paul’s record there isn’t great. Let’s see if we coyuld finish the trip in style…..
As the tournament in Qatar the previous week had finished on the Saturday, I had a couple of days to kill before getting back to work on Tuesday. Myself and Henrik Stenson’s caddie, Lordy , had arranged to play golf on Monday at Arabian Ranches golf course, which is about 20 minutes from the centre of Dubai. We arranged to meet at midday for lunch, then play at 1pm. We were joined for lunch by Robert Karlsson( I can’t avoid him these days), who was staying at the Ranches for the week. Lordy used to caddie for Robert so it was a very friendly affair. We had a couple of refreshments with lunch, and the conversation was good, so the golf was put back till 2pm, then 3pm, then it was 9 holes at 4pm. By 5pm we called it a friendly half, and called for the bill. As he tends to do, Lordy paid the bill. He is generous to a fault and due to caddying for Robert at his peak, and the last couple of years with Stenson, he’s not short of a bob or two(He lives in Monaco and drives a Ferrari!!)
So not a ball was struck, but the patter was good, and the beer was cold, so a good time was still had by all. It was back to work on Tuesday, and we spent most of the morning practising, trying a couple of new clubs, and then played a few holes with Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson. Wednesday’s pro-am was a fun day, playing with 3 local businessmen who had put their own team in. They weren’t the best golfers, but were fantastic company, and everyone enjoyed themselves, including Chippie!!!
Our first round draw was Pablo Larrazabal & Mikko Ilonen. A good draw again. We had been fortunate the whole draw, getting good playing partners. Not that it should make any difference, but it does make for a more enjoyable week if you get drawn with decent playing partners. Paul played nicely the first day clipping it round in 69(-3). We had our favoured late/early draw again, so we were up early on Friday, hoping to take advantage of the pure greens. Chippy struggled a bit with his game, but returned a 71, and we were safely through to the weekend. Saturday was a very good day. We were partnered by the French duo of Alex Levy and Gregory Bourdy, and although their English is very good. , there wasn’t much chat. Chippie got the head down, and after a frustrating front nine of 1 under par, he reeled of 4 birdies in a row from the 11th, and closed with another on the 18th. 66 was the tally, and it moved us within striking distance of a top ten. The weather was a bit breezier on Sunday, and we played with the two biggest hitters of the week, Nicolas Colsaerts and An Byeong Hun, an exciting new prospect from South Korea. After 13 holes, Paul was cruising along at 2 under for the day, and hoping to pick up a couple more birdies before the end. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Bogeys at 14, 16 & 17 put paid to that, and the Chipsters head duly exploded with frustration. A 73 was the result and we ended the week just inside the top 30. All of a sudden, it was time to go home. I was up at 4am the next morning for a 7.30 flight home and landed at 11.30 in Glasgow . Bliss!!! We now have a few weeks off to get ready for what will be a very busy season from April onwards. See you soon folks…..