I arrived in Qatar on Sunday evening, straight from Abu Dhabi. Chippie had a corporate day on the Monday in Abu Dhabi, so he had to stay on. I would then have a have a walk round the course on Monday morning, in preparation for the pro-am on Tuesday. Normally, pro-ams are played on a Wednesday, but this year, the tournament was kicking off a day earlier than the usual Thursday start, so the pro-am was earlier. The tee time was also early as well…7.10 am!!! This meant a 5am alarm call…The day went without incident, and after a bit of practice in the afternoon, we headed back to our hotel for a bit of rest. Incidentally, due to Paul being defending champion, we were afforded the luxury of a complimentary room each at the fantastic St.Regis hotel in Doha. I was given a lovely twin room, which I shared with another caddy, Jeff, who is my regular roommate on tour. Chippie was given a suite, which would probably have housed half the field, it was so big!!! Such are the perks of being a winner…!!
We had a top draw for the opening two rounds….. Current Open Champion Ernie Els, and Ryder Cup teammate, Sergio Garcia, who was playing in his first event of the year, although Chippie was insistent that they had been given the big draw to be paired with the defending champion !!
The weather forecast for the opening round, and indeed the whole week was for warm weather, and hardly any wind, which is almost unheard of in Qatar. I’ve been going there for ten years now, and I’ve never known anything other than blustery conditions. It was going to be a low scoring week. Our first day was a bit of a mixed bag, with a few missed chances along with a couple of errant shots, but the putting was most of the problem, and a level par 72 was the result. We had a bit if work to do to make the halfway cut. Frustrated, Chippie sought out the help of putting guru Phil Kenyon, who is one of the regular coaches on tour. They had a half hour session on Friday morning, and he changed a couple of things about Paul’s alignment and stroke. Hopefully this would do the trick. The start was very encouraging, as three birdies in the first four holes was the perfect start. Chippie’s excellent ball striking continued throughout continued, creating chance after chance, but the deteriorating afternoon greens made the things tough, and very frustrating for Paul. Unfortunately, a double bogey on the 15th put us behind the eight ball, and his birdie putt on the 18th to make the cut slid past the hole. It had been a disappointing day for Paul, due to the start he made and his ball striking being so good, creating so many chances, but these things happen some times. We couldn’t even drown our sorrows with a few beers, as that day was the prophet Mohammed’s birthday, therefore no alcohol was allowed to be sold. Ho Hum !!
I flew to Dubai the next day, where I messed around for a couple of days before catching my flight home to Glasgow, while Paul was doing a company day for his one of his sponsors Pentagon Freight. We now have three weeks off before the WGC Matchplay in Arizona. Back to hopping across the pond to go stateside ……Yeeha!!!
We arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday after our overnight flight from Durban. I was hoping to get some shut eye, but unfortunately, the flight was pretty bumpy, so nobody got much sleep. I ended up watching a couple of films. The cabin was also very warm and uncomfortable. So much so, that Henrik Stenson, whom I was sitting next to, decided to take off his shirt. When he saw the look on my face he said “ Do you think it would be ok to take off my jeans too?” “Eh, not really” I replied, trying not to laugh. Fortunately, he kept them on.
Chippy decided to take the day off, so I did the same. I caught up on some laundry, did a little bit of crisp and sweety shopping for the room, and had a little afternoon siesta. Heaven!!! We did some practice and played a couple of holes on Tuesday, and then had the pro-am and Wednesday afternoon. Pro-ams can be quite long affairs, sometimes over 5 hours, but this one was done in just over four. Our team consisted of HSBC clients, who were pretty enthusiastic, especially one of the caddies. On our tenth hole, when Chippie’s birdie putt stopped just short of the hole, one of our pro-am partners caddie shouted “Hit it man!!!” I nearly hit the deck laughing.. Chippie’s face was a picture.. ”Sorry???” he exclaimed. The caddie was suddenly aware of his outburst “I’m really sorry . I forgot where I was for a minute” It was hilarious. Even more so when the same caddie had asked me for some advice on the 1st tee “Just keep and shut up!!” was my answer. Apparently not…Lol
We had an afternoon draw for Thursday, which was the toughest part of the day, as the wind picked up. Chippie struggled a bit, and a two over 74 was the result. He followed that with a 71 on Friday to make the cut by a shot. On Saturday and Sunday, the weather was perfect for scoring, but Paul struggled a bit with his ball striking, and he finished off with rounds of 71 and 72. It had been an indifferent week, but it was still a week of rounds and a cheque made. The course had played tough all week, with narrower fairways than normal and thick rough(Both Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy missed the cut). It was something to improve on for Qatar the following week. Chippie’s mood had also been good for the second week in a row, although our playing partner on Sunday, Marcel Siem didn’t seem to think so. As we walked down the 13th fairway, Chippie and I were having a laugh about something(probably Scottish Football!!) and Marcel turned round to him and said.” You’re a lunatic. One minute you’re going bananas, then the next, you’re laughing and joking” This was a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black.. Again, Chippie’s face was priceless.. “I’m a lunatic???” “Is he taking the piss Davey?” HawHaw…I have to admit, spending your time around tour professionals can be quite entertaining from time to time….See you in Qatar
Here we go again…… After a very quick 5 week break, we we’re on the road again, this time to Durban, South Africa, for the season opener. 34 players, no cut, and hopefully some warmer weather than what we were getting back home. I was flying from Glasgow to Dubai, then onto Durban. Two flights of over 7 hours, and a total traveling time of 17hours. I worked out, my last flight to a tournament in Europe was back in August , to Switzerland, and my next one would be to Wentworth, in May. Such is the way of the European tour these days. I had my first bit of good luck when I got upgraded on the Dubai to Durban flight, which makes the journey a whole lot sweeter. My mate Dominic, who caddies for Paul Casey, also had the same good fortune. Unfortunately, our 3rd travelling companion, Jeff, who caddies for Gonzalo Fernandez Castano, wasn’t so lucky. The look on his face was priceless as he trailed past us through the business class cabin on his way to economy, as we sipped on our complimentary champagne…. Happy New Year Jeff. Them’s the breaks !!!
Paul wasn’t arriving until Tuesday evening, so I walked the course that day. It was an old fashioned lay out, carved out through the sand dunes and the trees. You would have to be straight off the tee, as there wasn’t much room off the fairway, and if you could shape the ball a bit, even better. I reckoned Chippie would like this course for the season opener. The first round was an all Scottish affair, as we were paired with Colin Montgomerie. Paul got off to a slow start, turning in two over, but turned up the heat on the back nine, coming back in five under. Monty was in fine fettle, as he had just announced his interest in the Ryder Cup captaincy for 2014, although his mood changed when Chippie knocked it 60 yards past him into the wind at the 11th. “Have you gained yardage, or am I just hitting it shorter..!!” cried Monty…”Both” was Chippie’s reply, subtle as a brick!!!
Friday and Saturday were similar affairs, playing nicely, but not holing much on the slightly bumpy, slow greens. We’d had some bad weather overnight a couple of times, and the putting surfaces suffered the most. A pair of two under 70’s took us to 7 under for the tournament going into Sunday. Handily placed in 7th position. The weather on the final day was a bit different. It was hot…very hot. The sun had appeared, and the humidity went through the roof due the previous night’s rain. Not ideal for the boy from Aberdeen. However he acclimatised pretty quickly, playing some lovely stuff, but not quite finishing it off. A strong finish, birdieing two of the last 5 holes put us on 10 under, and a tie for 7th place, creeping out of the log jam of players on 9 under. It was a nice start to the year, and within 30 minutes of leaving the 18th green, we were in a car to airport to catch our 6.45 flight to Dubai, for the following week’s tournament in Abu Dhabi. Chippie had played so well, that he led the field for greens in regulation, so a lot of positives were taken as we headed north to the middle east. For the record, it must be noted that Chippie’s behaviour was exemplary all week. Nae whinging, moaning or greeting !! Welcome to 2013…!!!