Post Iberdrola Open
We flew from Barcelona on Sunday night after the Spanish Open to Mallorca, where we stayed in the holiday resort of Cala Millor, which is about fifteen minutes from the golf course. Usually this tournament is in late October, when it is a bit of a ghost town. This year was much busier with tourists (albeit mostly German pensioners), which gave the place a very relaxing holiday atmosphere. In fact, it was so relaxing, that a certain former Open champion was spotted cycling down the main street on a rented bike, bumping into benches, and frightening the life out of the blue rinse brigade. No prizes for guessing who, but it was a sight to behold. We spent most nights in the Sportsman’s bar across from our hotel, which served up fantastic traditional british food, and looked after all the caddies and players very well.
The course at Pula Golf Club has improved tremendously over the last few years, mainly down to some very good design changes by Jose Maria Olazabal, and was in excellent condition. We spent the first two rounds in the company of Colin Montgomerie, who was in very good form socially, but unfortunately Monty’s golf didn’t match up to his patter, and he was heading home early after struggling for two days.
Paul played nicely on Thursday for a two under 68, then struggled on Friday, but made some great par saves to be round in 69, Saturday was a frustrating day, with shots from the rough doing the exact opposite from what we thought, resulting in a 72. Chippie was not a happy camper when he finished, and he stormed off to find solace in a 3 euro a day pushbike!!! As it turned out, we only dropped four spots, as the course was firming up and becoming very tricky. This was also the case on Sunday. Winds gusting to 30mph made scoring so difficult, that only 3 players broke par. Paul played pretty solidly, and birdied two of the last four holes for a level par 70, which moved us up to a tie for 5th spot, and another good week. Darren Clarke won by three shots from Chris Wood, who had a four shot lead going into the last round. He is a very good player, who has time on his side, and will win very soon I’m sure.
We’re off to Spain now for the Volvo World Matchplay, where a very strong field will fight it out for a very handsome prize fund. Lets get those boxing gloves on….
Post Spanish Open
After five weeks off, I was raring to get going again. The weather back home had been pretty good(even in Glasgow), and I had fully celebrated Paul’s victory in Malaga. Now, having watched loads off golf on t.v., it was time to get back on tour, and hopefully pick up where we left off. Fortunately, Paul had played a lot of golf on his weeks off, and apart from an uncharacteristic double bogey, bogey finish to the first round, there was no signs of rustiness, and we finished the week in 5th position, courtesy of a 5 under par final round, which was the second lowest of the day.
The tournament was won by Thomas Aitken, who has been knocking on the door for a couple of years now, and he led from start to finish, which was very impressive. The course we played was a new design by Greg Norman, and was excellent. The emphasis was very much on driving the ball well, with some very strategic bunkering, giving most holes a risk/reward element, and was in fantastic condition. I believe we are returning to the same venue next year, which is great news.
Unfortunately the week was deeply saddened by the passing of Seve Ballesteros in the early hours of Saturday morning. It is a huge loss to the game not only in Europe, but around the world. When I was growing up, Seve was the pioneer for European golf. He conquered America, and led the way for the great success of European golfers from the mid 80’s until now. He also made the Ryder Cup the huge event it is today. Nobody will ever forget his heroics on the golf course, playing the game with his heart on his sleeve, and displaying his awesome talent and imagination. As many people have said, quite simply genius. Hopefully the young players of today, and indeed the future, realise that the vast sums of prize money on offer today, are very much down to Seve. May he rest in peace...
Post Andalucia Open
What a difference a week makes!! When we landed in Malaga from Sicily, after a journey that consisted of two taxis, two bus journeys, and two flights, the only thing on my mind was dinner and sleep. Six days later and Paul had won again on the European Tour for the first time in almost nine years. Amazing!!
I had mentioned last week, that I had a slight hint of expectation going into The Andalucian Open, but I didn’t want to tempt fate too much. I had a pretty good idea that it was going to be a decent week, but you can never tell how good.
Five holes into our opening round on Thursday I had my answer. Four birdies in a row from the Eleventh (our 2nd hole), and we were in contention straight away, and never left the frame throughout the tournament. Paul’s quality ball striking from the previous week had carried on into this week, and much better putting surfaces allowed him to take advantage of his good play. During the first three rounds we only had one bogey, and carried a one shot lead going into the final day. Sunday didn’t start as planned, as we had three bogeys in the first five holes. A swirling, gusting wind was causing havoc with the field. By the time we reached the turn, Paul’s game had settled, and he repeated the feat of Thursday morning. Four birdies in five holes from the tenth took him from two behind to two ahead. It was a devastating run of holes, which literally blew the competition away. From then on, Paul went onto automatic pilot, and closed out the tournament, leaving himself with the luxury of a two shot lead playing the 18th hole. After a lovely greenside bunker shot to four feet, he said to me “I bet even you would fancy your chances to two putt from there.” I replied, “Even my Mum could do that” (Incidentally, my Mum is a very handy eleven handicap) Sorry Mum!!!
Two putts duly ensued and the title was secured. BINGO!!! This win opens up a couple of extra opportunities for the rest of the year. It qualifies Paul for the Volvo World Matchplay at Finca Cortesin, here in Malaga in May, and hopefully gets us into the HSBC World Event in China in November. It is also a huge step towards the Dubai World Championships at the end of the year. It’s a strange feeling at the end of a tournament when you win. By the time you get to the locker room, it’s empty, as everyone else has gone, and you go from a massive high , to a sudden quietness. A really weird feeling , let me tell you!!
Our original schedule was to go to Asia for one or two events, but the addition of the World Matchplay has altered this, so it’s now five weeks off to prepare for what will be a very busy season. Looks like myself and the couch are going to be very good friends over the next few weeks…
Post Sicilian Open
It’s always a little bit of an adventure when the European Tour visits a new destination, and the prospect of going to Sicily was no different. Unfortunately, on this occasion, there wasn’t much to write home about!!! We flew via Gatwick to the south east of Sicily, followed by two hours on a bus, then a taxi, to reach our hotel. 12 hours door to door. We would be quicker going to Dubai!!! There isn’t much to do in Sicily, except eat pasta, pizza, and watch BBC World news on the television, so the week dragged in, with everyone dreaming of steak and chips the following week in Spain!!!
Paul had one of those weeks when he struck the ball very nicely, but, despite rolling the ball well on the somewhat bumpy greens, the putts just wouldn’t drop. We were lying around 20th place on two under par, going into the weekend, but a host of putts that burned the edge of the hole meant we finished just outside the top forty. I lost count of the number of times I said “good try” or “unlucky” to Paul after another one slipped by the hole. “Patience is my middle name this week”” he said, midway through the third round. Two holes later, after another one crept pass the edge of the hole, the patience flew out the window, along with the putter into the golf bag. “Patience my ****!!!” steamed Paul. On this occasion, silence was golden on my part, with no words needed.
Although it was a disappointing week on the greens, it was encouraging that Paul struck the ball so nicely, especially after a five week break Thus we head to Malaga with a little bit of expectation, and a huge craving for a cooked breakfast, a cup of tea, and a Scottish newspaper. The simple things in life eh…