After a bit of globe trotting round the Far East, the Middle East, and South Africa, we were back on European soil. The venue was just outside Barcelona, for the Spanish Open. Not that I'm averse to far off tournaments. It's just nice to hop on a plane for a couple of hours to get to your destination. It was also hot. Factor 50 & shades during the day and shorts and flip flops in the evening were the clothes of choice. Awesome. Throw in some lovely Spanish food( we found a hidden gem of a restaurant) and the week couldn't have been better. That was off the course. On the course things were a little bit tougher.
I walked the course on Tuesday and it looked a bit different from the last time we were here in 2011. They had lost over 3000 trees due to a storm in the winter. At one point the tournament was doubtful, such was the devastation. It was also much firmer than before. Throw in a gusty, swirling 25 mph wind, and the stage was set for a tough week.
We had a late tee time for Thursday, 1.40pm, and it was very hot. 35 degrees in fact. This was the toughest part of the day, and anything under par would be a good score. Not showing any signs of rust, Paul played nicely, driving the ball solidly and holing a couple of putts for a two under 70. A solid start. Our early start the next day was more benign, but the Chipster's game wasn't quite as sharp as the day before, and a one over 73 was the result. Normally this would mean a drop down the leaderboard, but as had happened the day before, the wind picked up, and the scores rocketed. Overnight we were sitting in the top 20, handily placed for the weekend.
Saturday was another breezy day. It was also swirling. Lovely.... A caddies nightmare. Sometimes the wind would switch when the ball was in mid air!! Funny to watch if it was someone else's ball airmail the green or stall in the wind and drop into the water, but torture if it was your own man's ball.Unfortunately, Paul struggled with the driver all day, which was unusual, as he had been driving it well. Add that to the tricky conditions, and he did well in the end to shoot 79. Just one of those days which come along now and again. It also meant an early alarm call the next day....5am to be precise... Ouch. Normal service was resumed, as Chippie only missed one fairway and green, but the putter misbehaved and he signed for a 70, when 65 would have been a fairer score. Unfortunately fairness is part of the game, and we had to take it in the chin and head onto the next event with plenty positives to take from the week. We were heading for Wentworth, and the flagship event of the European Tour, the BMW PGA. Back to the UK for pie and beans and a pint... Wehey!!
We'd had a good break since oh last tournament in Dubai in January, and we were both raring to go. Paul was meant to play the week before in Shenzhen, but was ill, so Shanghai for the China Open was our first week back. Shanghai is a fantastic city, and the venue, Tomson golf club, is one of the best courses we play in China. Even better, our hotel was only 10 minutes from the course, so everyone was happy.
We had a casual 9 hole practice on Tuesday morning, followed by lunch and some time on the range and putting green. In the afternoon I headed off to the the famous Chinese markets, where many a bargain was to be had. Fortunately I ran out of money, otherwise I'd have had to buy a new suitcase.
We had an afternoon time for the pro-am on Wednesday, which normally would have taken forever..... Not the case. 3 Hours and 58 minutes for 18 holes(tour golfers take note) .We teed off at 1pm and arrived back in the hotel for 5.15. Result. We had an early start on Thursday morning, 7.10, playing with Gregory Havret and Nick Cullen. The course had firmed up considerably since Tuesday, and the wind was gusty. Anything around par was going to be a decent score. Paul played nicely, birdeing a couple of holes early on. Coming home the wind was picking up, and he dropped a couple of shots on the back nine. He signed for one over 73 which wasn't a bad effort considering the conditions and also the fact that he hadn't played competitive golf since January. Overnight we were lying around 40th, so a good day on Friday would move us up the the leaderboard.
Conditions on Friday were benign to say the least. Hardly a breath of wind, and 25 degrees. Perfect for good scoring. Paul bogeyed two of the first three holes, much to his displeasure(old habits die hard), but then picked up two birdies by the turn to be level par for the day. Both of us had ideas of advancing up the field now, but before we knew it, a double bogey at the tenth stopped us in our tracks. Two more bogeys in the next 3 holes and it was a tough task to make the cut. Unfortunately , a 78 was the result and we were going home. Well, that was the intention. As it happened, flights out of Shanghai were rammed, so Paul had to wait till Saturday evening and I had to wait till Sunday to fly out.( more glamour of the job!!!) Disappointing though it always is to miss the cut, there were still positives to take from the week. For 27 holes you would never have known we'd had such a long break, and it just made Chippie more determined when we start back in Europe in Spain in two weeks time.... Aah. Rioja and tapas :-)))