Normally I meet Paul on a Tuesday at most tournaments, but this week we were both at the course on Monday. Driving to work rather than flying is such a joy, and as Gullane isn't too far from home for both of us, it was nice to be on the range on Monday afternoon. I had played the course back in April, and I was very impressed by how much it had come on since then. The tented village had a great atmosphere, and the course was set up perfectly. After a light practice session on Monday, we played the back nine early on Tuesday morning. We had intended starting on the first, but there were loads of players waiting to tee off. Fortunately, playing in your home Open holds a little bit of kudos, and the tournament director arranged for us to be driven out to the 10th tee. Perfect. Not a soul in front or behind us. We had some more practice after lunch, then it was time to rest before the pro-am the following day.
Usually Paul plays in the early morning pro-am, but being an ambassador for the sponsor, Aberdeen Asset Management, we were playing in the afternoon pro-am. It was a bit windy , and the course was playing tough for the amateurs, so it took us a while to go round. Once we were done it was straight back to the room to rest, as we were playing at 7.50 the next morning. Our playing partners were Ryan Palmer from the USA and Joost Luiten from Holland . Ryan is the most laid back player I've ever seen, and Joost had just come off a good showing at the US Open, so it was a good group. The weather was fair, and Paul played nicely, opening with a 3 under 67. A good start. Normally if you are off early on Thursday, you have a late tee time on Friday. However, as it was a one tee start, our "late" time was 12.40. Chippie got off to a flyer, birdieing 3 of the first 5 holes. Normally this would lead to a 5 or six under par round, but a bogey at the 7th halted our progress, and he would end up repeating the first day's 67. We were still handily placed going into Saturday, where Paul played his best golf of the week. He was hardly outside 15 ft all day, but simply couldn't buy a putt. It didn't help that our playing partner for the 3rd day running, Joost Luiten, was holing everything he looked at. A 69 was the result, which was just outside the top ten. On Sunday Paul didn't quite have his A game, but he battled away, shooting level par, to finish in a tie for 17th spot. It was a very solid week, and definitely a case of what might have been. On a lighter note, one of my housemates for the week, Martin Gray, who now caddies for Robert Karlsson, had an funny altercation with a marshall during the pro-am. Martin was walking the course (inside the ropes, as caddies are allowed) when a course Marshall stopped him in his tracks.." You can't walk just now, there's a player on the tee", Martin, who was only 50 yards off the tee and only just inside the ropes, politely showed his caddy credentials, and kept walking." You caddies are all the same, you're all ****** " shouted the marshall. Martin's reply was quick and priceless " I might be a *****, but at least I haven't got a big nose" as he walked away, the marshall had his phone out, hastily looking at his reflection, measuring his nose and shouting back " it's not that big you**** " Definitely one up to the caddies !!!
By the time I arrived home on Sunday evening from the Scottish Open, I only had time for dinner and a quick shower, before repacking the suitcase and trying to get some sleep. I had a dental appointment first thing Monday morning, then it was straight to St. Andrews. My plan was to check into my accomodation, then walk the course in the afternoon. This went completely pear shaped when I opened the door to my digs for the week. All I'll say was, it was usually inhabited by students through the winter, and I don't think they had done their summer clean. I couldn't stay here. The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to find somewhere to stay for the week. Not ideal prep for the biggest tournament of the year. I managed a night on someone's couch on Monday, and then on Tuesday, one of the caddies had an unexpected spare room in their flat. Thank goodness. Panic over. I met Paul on Tuesday morning, and we spent most of the day practicing, and played a couple of holes at the end of the day. On Wednesday morning we were up with the larks. We jumped onto the third tee before anyone was there and raced round the course in jig time. Perfect. We now had plenty time for a leisurely afternoon to practice. With our prep work all done, we were ready to go at 9.40am on Thursday morning. Our playing partners were Ryan Palmer(again) and Kevin Kisner, both from the USA. It was a good draw for us, as both guys could play, and we're very good company. It showed in Paul's play, as he zipped round The Old Course in 66(-6) The support from the fans was tremendous all day. It was a great start to the week. Our tee time on Friday was meant to be 2.45, but due to heavy rain the the morning, play had been delayed, and we were now playing at 6pm. We managed to get 13 holes in before darkness set in. Paul was -2 for the round at that point, and still doing well. I got back to my room at 10.15, and was back up at 4.30am the next morning for the 7am restart. Ouch!! Unfortunately we only managed 1 hole before high winds caused another delay. It was 6pm before we resumed play. I couldn't believe how many spectators were still around. And to be honest, it sounded like most of them were drunk. It created a great atmosphere for our remaining four holes, which Paul played in level par. He signed for a 70, which put us in 3rd spot, and only two off the lead. I got back to my room at 8.15. 15 hours after I had left it, and to play only 4 holes. Thankfully our tee time of 2.50 for Sunday gave me a long lie.
Our playing partner for Sunday's third round was Marc Warren. Two jocks together!!!! Marc's caddy, Ken and I are good friends, and Marc and I have been friends for 20 years. It actually seemed a bit surreal standing in the 1st tee waiting to tee off, as I remembered back to 1999 when Paul won the Open at Carnoustie. Marc and I had watched it in the clubhouse at East Kilbride Golf Club. 16 years later and we're all standing on the 1st tee at the Old Course in the 2nd last group in the Open. Bizarre. It had been hoped that the two Scots would spur each other on to a good day, but after a nice start from both players, it wasn't to be, with Marc finishing the day on -7, and Paul on -6. It had dropped us out of contention, but a good final day would cap of an amazing week. Paul played nicely on the front nine, but the putts wouldn't drop. As we turned for home, the wind picked up in our faces, accompanied by some horrible rain, making the last few holes very tough. We finished the week on -5. The Chipster was bitterly disappointed with the result, but there were many huge positives to take from the week. Coming down the final stretch on Sunday, he wasn't in the best of moods. On the 16th tee a spectator shouted " You're my hero Paul" I turned to Chippie and said " He must've led a sheltered life" He looked at me and smiled behind gritted teeth " That's quite funny for you. I bet that's in your blog!!" I couldn't let him down now, could I........
My three weeks off after the Irish Open seemed to whizz by in a flash. All of a sudden it was the early airport alarm call and I was on my way to Munich. Eichenried Golf Course on the outskirts of the city has been on the European Tour schedule for as long as I can remember. I can't think of anyone involved with the tour who doesn't enjoy the tournaments we have in Germany. As you would expect, the organisation is excellent, the courses are always good, and everyone enjoys the schnitzels, washed down by the odd beer or two.
Paul arrIved on Monday evening, which was ideal, as it gave us all day Tuesday to practice. We spent the day hitting balls on the range, chipping and putting. It was excellent preparation after our break, and something we hadn't done on a Tuesday for a while. The pro-am was a fairly long affair. At least it felt that way as I hadn't done 18 holes for a while. However the weather was good, and the course was in excellent order. Our playing partners for the first two days were Peter Hanson and Tyrrell Hatton( no Robert Karlsson) Paul knows Peter very well, having played with him many times, but neither of us knew much about Tyrrell. His caddy, Roachy, is a very good friend of mine, so I was looking forward to getting started. On Thursday we started on the tenth tee. Chippie got of to a nice start, birdeing our second hole of the day and adding another three more, without any dropped shots for a flawless 4 under par 68. It was our best start to a tournament for some time. On Friday, Paul's start wasn't quite so polished.A bogey at the first put us on the back foot a little bit, but he grinded away, finishing with a one under 70. With regard to young Mr Hatton, we were pleasantly surprised. First of all, he played quick. Really quick. No messing about with this lad. Get the yardage, pick your club then hit the shot. It was so refreshing to see a young player playing the game the way it should be played. And he was pretty good at it too. On Friday he birdied the first five holes, and ended up making the cut easily after an indifferent Thursday.
The weather forecast for Saturday wasn't too good, with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon. Ivor Robson informed us that they were expected any time after 2pm. I calculated we would be off the course by 2.30!!! Thankfully, the weather held up, as did Chippie's game. A 3 under 69 moved us just outside the top ten going into Sunday. For the final day we were drawn with Thorbjorn Olesen, another player who doesn't mess around. Ideal. Also ideal was the fact that his caddy Dominic is one of my best mates on tour, so we were all looking forward to a good day. Unfortunately it wasn't to be the day either players had hoped for, both of them shooting 73's dropping them back to just inside the top 30. It had been one of those days for both of them, where nothing really happened. On a positive note for Paul, he played really nicely for the whole week, and showed no signs of rustiness after a little lay off. I, on the other hand didn't fare so well. Checking the scales on Monday morning when I got back home, I had gained more than a couple of pounds. Back on the diet again. Who says that caddying keeps you in trim.......???