Tournaments on home ground always carry a little bit of extra spice, especially when you are caddying for a Scotsman. On this occasion, we were in Paul’s home town of Aberdeen. It was what we call the “Fifth Major”. This is the case on tour when players play in their national open, and for Paul, playing at home, there was that little bit extra pressure. I walked the course on the Monday. I had played it around 15 years ago, but had no recollection at all of the course. Walking round it I was very impressed. The back nine was played into a strong wind that day. It looked like being a tough week. Paul had played the course the week before, so we played a few holes on Tuesday, followed by the pro-am on Wednesday. Our playing partners for the opening two rounds were Ernie Els & Jonas Blixt of Sweden. On Thursday, we had a strong wind into on the first 9, making scoring difficult. The back nine was howling straight down wind, which was just as difficult, as the greens on the back nine are designed to played into the prevailing wind. Stopping the ball was tricky. Paul parred the first 15, bogeyed the 16th, then had the unluckiest break of the year so far. His eight iron approach to the par 3 17th landed just 10 yards on the green, bt took a huge bounce of a downslope, and careered over the green into a bush. A triple bogey six was the result. Dusting himself down, Paul birdied the 18th to make Fridays task a little easier. Friday morning was a bit calmer, but a different wind direction, so the course played very different. On Thursday, the 14th had been a driver and a flick from 80 yards. Today we were hitting in a six iron for our approach. Paul played solidly, and as the wind picked up, we guessed +1 would be the cut. As our luck would have it, A bogey at the last meant we finished on +2.Ernie Els did the same thing, and as we walked off the 18th green I said to his caddie “How you going to spend the weekend?” “Probably going to Hoylake early” he said.
I had a quick bite to eat, went back to my digs, packed up the car, and headed down the road. Not very quickly, I might add, as the traffic getting out of Aberdeen was horrific!! I stopped at Forfar for a KFC, and checked my phone. I’d had a text from chippie “ Don’t go home yet. Its blowing hard at the course” I checked the scores and sure enough, +2 had a chance of making the cut. I only had to wait another 30 minutes or so, and we were in. Bingo !!! Back to Aberdeen and an unlikely, but very welcome weekend of work ahead. A frustrating level par 71 on Saturday moved us up a few spots, and then paul decide to change putters for the final round, to his new Caledonian Viper. It did the trick, as he cruised round in 66, and could have been better(I’m beginning to sound like the man himself !!!) This moved us up into 27th place, and a nice cheque, which seemed a world away when I was driving down the road on Friday night. It also put us in good form for the Open at Hoylake the following week. It had been a fantastic week at Royal Aberdeen, and was enjoyed by Players and caddies alike, not to mention the spectators who were fortunate enough to watch a world class field battle it out. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back here in the not too distant future
I drove home from Aberdeen on Sunday evening, getting back around 6pm. It was a quick repack of the suitcase, an early bed, and up and away at 9am the next morning for the drive to Royal Liverpool Golf Club, aka Hoylake, venue for this years’ Open Championship. I had Stephen Gallacher’s caddie, Damien , for company, so the four hour drive passed very easily. We dropped off our case at the house we had rented for the week, and went straight to the course to have a look. It was in very good condition, with lots of bunkers strategically placed in the fairway at between 260 and 300 yards. There wasn’t going to be many drivers hit this week. The course was very fair. No trickery , and everything was in front of you. The golden rule was keep out of the fairway bunkers. Paul played a few holes with marc Warren and Scott Jamieson on Tuesday afternoon, followed by 18 holes early on Wednesday with Stephen Gallacher, British Amateur champion Bradley Neil, and tartan tour pro Paul Mckechnie, so it was a very Scottish affair. We also had Andrew Coltart walking round, so he was the in-round entertainment , so to speak.
We seemed to have gotten the right side of the draw, playing early on Thursday at 7.42, then at 12.43 on Friday. This appeared to have the most favourable conditions. We had former Open Champions Ben Curtis and Justin Leonard as our playing partners. Nice guys, and was thinking there might be a little bit of chit chat on the way round. How wrong I was. For the first time ever, from the opening tee shot, to the last putt, there wasn’t one bit of talking between the players. Not one syllable passed anyone’s lips other than good shot or nice putt. Talk about eerie…It didn’t do Chippies golf any good either, as he struggled off the tee most of the day, signing for a 79. A quick bite, then straight to the range, where we spent over two hours, with Paul working hard trying to rectify matters. We guessed a five under round was required to make the cut. Not impossible, but a tall order. Paul felt much better about his game after the work he’d done the previous day after the round. Indeed he played much better, returning a 3 over 75, which would have been much better except for few errant putts. There was no chance of the wind getting up this time to help our cause to make the cut. I was intending jumping in the car and driving up the road, but when I got back to the house, I sat down and fell asleep. I was knackered. I woke up feeling very drowsy. No driving home for me, so I stayed the night and drove home in the morning. We now have three weeks off to recharge the batteries before a good run of tournaments, where we’ll play five out of six weeks, starting in Denmark. Is that where they make Carlsberg???
I’d had two weeks off after Sweden, and was raring to go by the time I arrived in Ireland. I flew into Cork, which is a short distance from the Fota Island Golf Resort, the venue for this year’s tournaments. I was staying in a place called Cobh (pronounced “cove”) which is a beautiful spot on the water. It is most famous for being the last place the Titanic sailed from before it famously crashed into an iceberg, before plunging to the seabed below. Maybe I should have realised it may have been an omen for the week to come. It had been a long time since the Irish Open was last here, so I had a quick scout round the course on Tuesday morning, before Paul arrived in the afternoon. It was in great condition, and the rough was juicy. You would have to play this course from the fairway if you wanted to do well.
For the first two rounds, Paul was playing with Tommy Fleetwood, whom we played with in Sweden two weeks previous, and 19 year old Matthew Fitzpatrick, who was playing in his first event as a professional, after a highly successful amateur career. Paul struggled off the tee on Thursday, which wasn’t like him. He battled away though, and returned a one over par 72, which kept us in the hunt for making the cut. One of the highlights of the week, was the fact that the World Cup was being played in Brazil. This gave us all some entertainment in the evening, which was great for passing time. The fact that we were in Ireland, and the Guinness tasted better than anywhere else in the world was a lucky coincidence. There’s not many players or caddies who don’t enjoy the Irish Open. The crowds are always fantastic & the hospitality is excellent. Unfortunately, usually the weather is poor, but this year, the weather was just sublime. I had packed extra clothes, waterproof trainers, and even brought a woolly hat. There was no need. Shorts and shades were the order of the week. It couldn’t be any better.
On Friday afternoon, Paul’s game was a bit up and down, but he managed to get under par for the tournament with 5 holes to go. Unfortunately, a double bogey at the 13th made it an uphill task to make the cut. Chippie had a couple of chances to repair the damage , but the putts slipped by. As he walked off the 17th tee, chuntering away to himself in his best Aberdonian accent, I turned to young Matthew and said “If you’re not careful, you could end up like Chippie in 25 years time,” he could see the funny side of it, and is a lovely lad, with a very bright future. Alas, Paul birdied the 18th, but we still missed the cut by a shot. Normally I would fly home, but as we were playing in Cologne the following week, my flights had been booked out of Ireland to Germany. A new flight or change would have cost a fortune, so I stayed put on Cobh, watching the football, and enjoying the nice weather. Hopefully the week after in Cologne would bring the sweet smell of success…….
After the Irish Open, I took the train to Dublin on the Sunday afternoon, and then flew from there on Monday to Dusseldorf. The ‘BMW’ as it is known, alternates between Munich and Cologne from year to year. We stayed in Dusseldorf , as it is not from the course. I had the fortune to be sharing with Dominic for the week, whose boss , David Horsey is a past winner. This meant that Dom had been given a free room for the week…..Bingo!! I had my usual scout round the course on Tuesday, and it was in the best condition I’d seen it. The greens were pure, and the rough was properly graded at uniform lengths. On Wednesday it was a 5.30 alarm for an early pro-am tee time. Our team were all German, but spoke perfect English, so we had a good day. It was also good preparation for our tee time on Thursday. It was to be a 4.30 am alarm on Thursday for a 7.20am tee time. And guess who we were playing ….? Yep, none other than Robert Karlsson. That is now SIX times this year we’ve played with him. Paul has only played 8 tournaments!!! Fortunately Robert is a good guy, and his caddie and I get on well, so it’s always a good draw. Our third was Paul Casey, which always adds a bit of spice to any draw!!
Chippie played nicely on Thursday, but, as has been the story lately, struggled to score , returning a level par 72. The conditions were near perfect , so scoring was very good. After the first days play, the halfway cut was already at 2 under par. This meant the projected cut would be 4 under on Friday. It left us with a bit of work to do. Again the weather was perfect, although thunderstorms had been forecast for the late afternoon. On the Thursday afternoon after the round, Paul had experimented with a split handed putting grip. On Friday he decided to use it. On the 1st hole he had an eight footer for birdie…Bang, in it went. 2nd hole, 10 footer for par…Bang, in again. I was a fan of the new grip (strangely enough!!) By the time we got to the 18th tee, Paul was 3 under for the day and the tournament. We knew the cut was going to be 4 under, so a birdie was required. Overhead, the clouds had been gathering, and we had been told on the 17th, that play would stop in around 40 minutes, so we had some time up our sleeve. Paul found the fairway, and we had a perfect 8 iron yardage to a tight pin, with the water left of the green. The ball was dispatched to 18 feet right of the pin, leaving an uphill, right to left putt…Perfect. The clouds darkened as we approached the green. Robert Karlsson putted first, missed his birdie attempt, then tapped in. Chippie was next. He eyed up the putt, took his stance, started his backswing, and just as he was beginning his downswing into the ball……HONKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!! The hooter was blown to stop play. I couldn’t believe it. The ref who blew the horn, was back in the fairway, and could see us on the green. That didn’t deter them from honking on Chippie’s backswing. Needless to say, The putt was missed, and with it, the cut. To rub salt into the wounds, we couldn’t finish out, because when play is stopped for a lightning threat, you’re not allowed to play another shot, so Paul had to mark his ball, and come back an hour later to tap in. It pretty much summed up the way things have been going lately, but that’s golf. Onwards and upwards….. Next stop, Aberdeen!!!