We had two weeks off after our trip to the far east, and I was raring to go for our flagship event of the year at Wentworth. I drove down on Sunday, which allowed me to have a look at the course on Monday before Paul arrived. Tuesday was one of those frustrating days you have at this tournament. Paul was wanting to spend the day on the range putting in some good practice, but at Wentworth, this is very difficult, as the range is always packed with managers, coaches, physios, psychologists, manufacturers reps,and a few players and caddies. Every five minutes, somebody wants something signed, or an interview, or a chat. Chippie, being the ultimate PR machine he is, obliged to every request. As each intruder went on their way, happy with their piece of Paul, it was like playing a broken record....." I cannae get five minutes to myself to hit a few balls. Is it too much to ask? Really?" Apparently so, as we managed about two baskets of balls, and an hours' chipping and putting over a five hour period.
We had to leave the course a bit earlier, as we had the Players Awards Dinner that evening. This is normally reserved for players and partners/guests, but his year, all the caddies from the Ryder Cup were invited. Not known to turn down a free meal, we turned up en masse, tuxedos, aftershave, the lot!! it didn't finish until after 11pm, so it was straight to bed, as I had a 5.30 alarm call for the morning pro-am the next day.
Pro-ams can often be a tedious affair, but this one was good fun, as we had Alan Hansen, Tim Henman and Paul Davies, executive producer of the BBC for company. For the whole 18 holes, Henman took the mickey out of Hansen, who took it surprisingly well. Onto Thursday, and the serious business began. We were playing with Rory Mcilroy and Graeme McDowell,who seemed very pleased at being given such a high profile draw, playing with Chippie. Paul struggled with his driving in round one, which wasn't like him. After 13 holes, we were five over par, 7 shots behind Rory and 6 behind McDowell. By the time we walked off he 18th green, they were only one shot ahead of Paul. They had both crumbled on the closing holes, while Paul managed a couple of birdies to finish 3 over, giving us a chance of making the cut. On Friday afternoon, the weather was horrible. It was cold,wet and a 25-30mph wind made scoring very tough. Paul battled all day, birding the 18th for a level par 72 to finish +3 overall.We thought this would make the cut, but in the end it missed by a shot.,it was disappointing, as we definitely had the worst of weather, and Paul had fought back well from a poor start on Thursday. But that's golf. Normally I would have gone home before flying to Sweden for our next event, but I stayed down in London, as Paul was playing in a charity event in Chiswick on the Monday for his Foundation. It was just one of those weeks which goes against you, so we'll be hoping for a change of fortune next week in the Scandinavian Masters, where we'll playing the longest course on tour. Bro Hof Slott on the outskirts of Stockholm can stretch to 8000 yards.....Gulp!!!!
I arrived in Tianjin, venue for the China Open,on the Monday after Korea. We had been here last year for the same tournament. Until then I had never heard of the place. It has a population of 13 million people!!! That's more than double the population of Scotland. We were staying away from the city centre, not far from the golf course, and our hotel had a little oasis next door....An Irish bar!!! When you're thousands of miles from home, it's the simple things that make all the difference. A pint of Guinness and cottage pie and chips.. Sheer bliss. It even had a pool table. On Monday Chippie and myself took on Thomas Bjorn and Marc Warren. Nae bother to us. A 4-3 drubbing on the last ball was convincing enough for me!!
Our pro-am partners on Wednesday were very illustrious. The owner of the golf course(one of his many apparently), and a Chinese movie star. The actor was supposed to be China's answer to Bruce Willis, and was mobbed by people all day. To me he seemed more like Bruce Forsyth, but he definitely put everyone in the shade in the popularity stakes. He even blanked the Chipmeister when he tried to talk to him. He answered an abrupt "no" and walked to the other side of the fairway.... Chippie wasn't best pleased..." Does he ken who I am?" Actually, Chippie didn't say that, but I was half expecting it....lol
Onto the serious stuff, and Paul opened with a 3 under 69 in the toughest part of the day. Lying in 5th place overnight, it was a good start. On Friday, a level par 72 dropped us a few spots, but it was tightly bunched, and all to play for. We had a good draw on Saturday, playing with Branden Grace. He and Paul get on well, and I'm friendly with his caddie,Zac, so we had a very social day. Chippie played nicely, shooting 2 under, to leave us in 10th place with a round to go. His putting had been gradually getting better, and it had been very steady all week. On Tuesday, we were looking for a putting aid , to help Paul keep the putter on line. We found it in the shape of a 4x2 block of wood. Who says golf is too high tech these days? Chippie used it every day, and was starting to reap the rewards. On Sunday he played his best golf of the week, but the putter misbehaved on this occasion, and a level par 72 dropped us back into 14th place. Chippie was so disappointed, as his putting has been gradually improving all week, but it can't be great all the time.
After the round, it was straight back to the hotel, a quick shower and then off to the airport for the midnight flight home. It had been a long two weeks. We have two weeks off now before the flagship event of the season, the BMW PGA Chamionship from Wentworth.
I arrived in South Korea after two 8 hour flights, 45 minutes in a taxi, and a two hour bus journey. I was knackered! It was straight to bed and up early the next day for our Tuesday practice session. I had been to South Korea before, but not this venue. After Chippie had hit some balls and chipped and putted, I went for a stroll round the course. It was hilly....very hilly. Throw in the fact that we are staying an hour from the course, and it was going to be a tiring week.
The pro-am on Wednesday was better than normal. We zipped round in less than 4 hours 30 minutes, allowing us to get back to the hotel early to rest before the tournament started. Thursday wasnt the best of days. Still a bit jet lagged, Chippie struggled to a 3 over 75, leaving us with a bit of a work to do. However, just like at the US Masters, the Chipster rallied on Friday, firing a 5 under 67 which put us right back in the hunt. The cut was level par, and 7 under was leading, so it was anyone's tournament. On Saturday we were drawn with K T Kim, one of Korea's leading players. This meant a large following gallery, most of whom were still a bit raw on golf etiquette . There wasn't much crowd control, so getting from the greens to the next tee was a bit of a struggle. It was starting to get to Chippie, especially when walking to the 16th tee, a spectator walked right in front of the by now cranky Scotsman...." C'mon pal, will ye get oot ma way!!" strangely enough, the poor chap didn't understand Don's speak, and promptly slowed down, making things worse. " Is it me or am I just ******* invisible?... I didn't answer
Paul played nicely on Saturday, getting to within two shots of the lead at one point, but dropped a few shots coming home, shooting 1 over, maintaining our position. It was still very bunched, and a good round on Sunday would move us up the leader board. Chippie was dressed for the occasion. He walked into the hotel foyer on Sunday morning, resplendent in his red tartan breeks. We got to the course early to do some putting, and the lad was in his element, enjoying the comments about his trousers, strutting about like Erchie!!! By the time we had finished the round( which, incidentally took almost five hours and 30 mins)he wasn't a happy chappie. He had played nicely, but the putts weren't dropping. Combined with the slow play, his patience had just about run dry. He had done some good work with the putter, but this day they just weren't dropping. C'est la vie!! He's on the right track though, and with more tournament play things will keep getting better. After the round, it was another two hour bus journey to the airport, where I stayed overnight for my flight to China the next day. Thankfully the course is only 20 minutes away this time.More time to catch up on some zzz's !!