We only had six days at home after our two week trip to China , and it was time to jump on a plane again back to the far east. This time Hong Kong was our destination. It’s one of the busiest cities in the world, and always an enjoyable week. The course is an old school design… Fairly short, Tree lined, and just enough rough to make things tricky. There was also a little treat in store for us this week. Due to Paul’s great form this season, and his contribution to the victorious Ryder Cup team, Chippie and I were looked after brilliantly by the tournament sponsors, UBS. Air tickets, a room each in a 5 star hotel, and a courtesy car at Master Lawrie’s disposal, 24-7 … Beautiful!!! It was fantastic to be looked after , and one could very easily get used to that sort of treatment. Chippie wasn’t slow in reminding me of how fortunate I was…” You better not slag me off in your blog with any of your pish after the way you’ve been lifted and laid this week” Hawhaw…And to be fair, he didn’t really give me much ammunition to fire at him with.
For the first two days, we had a gusty, swirling wind, and Chippie opened with a pair of one under 69’s, which was a decent effort, especially as he had a poor finish to both rounds. He was making plenty birdies, but dropping some loose shots which wasn’t like him. It would have been very easy to get frustrated, as he had done in China two weeks previous, but this week he kept the heid , and kept his spirits up. He wasn’t struggling as much with jet lag, as he had to stay awake longer in the evenings, due his commitments to the sponsors with a couple of exhibition shows. That and taking his caddie out for a steak dinner one night too (it was awfy good, especially when the boss is paying, although I did offer to pay). On Saturday, he actually played his worst golf of the week, but his chipping and putting was razor sharp, and a 67 was the result. This put us in 13th place going into Sunday, and a top ten finish was well within his reach, although there was the slight chance that if he could post a low score in the clubhouse, it might put some pressure on the leaders. A birdie at the first was the perfect start, and he was looking to capitalise. Another birdie at the 4th kept the momentum, but bogeys at the 5th and 8th, both par 3’s slowed the charge. Still, he stuck to his guns, and picked up a few more birdies , narrowly missing birdie putts on the 17th and 18th. A 68 was the final days score, and lifted us into 10th place. A solid week and good preparation for the season ending Dubai World Championship the following week. For some other players, there was a different agenda going on. Andrew Dodt played the last nine holes in 3 under par, to secure his card by a few hundred euros, while Gary Boyd and Rhys Davies both lost out by a similar figure. Richard finch had to wait hours on the results coming in from the South African Open to find out if he had qualified for Dubai, which he did, by a few thousand euros..
After the round, we jumped in the courtesy car back to the hotel for a shower and a little relax, before heading off to the airport for the midnight flight to Dubai. They even gave us a car each this time…Woohoo..!! My car was behind Chippie’s, but his driver was a bit slow, so I texted him to tell his man to put the foot down, as I didn’t like being held up…lololol… All good banter and it was just great to be treated so well. Many thanks again to UBS for their hospitality. When I got to the airport, I even managed to get upgraded to business class using my air miles, meaning I could get a sleep on my reclining flat bed seat on the overnight flight…Bliss.. Where did it all go wrong???
Generally , If you’re here for this tournament , you’ve had a pretty decent year , and the names in the field suggested so. Sixteen players from the historic battle at Medinah, current Open Champion Ernie Els , Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, and a host of players from inside the world’s top fifty. The HSBC is now an integral part of the world tour, and it had a field deserving of its status. The previous week in Shanghai had been a long affair, due to jet lag, and staying on site , which limited evening activities. This week was a bit more liberal. I was staying at a brand new hotel twenty minutes from the golf course , in a little town called Guanlan. In the Crowne Plaza at the course the previous week , they were charging £5.50 for a small bottle of beer. This week , at a little local Chinese bar round the corner…it was 60 pence for a 600ml bottle of Tsing Tao Chinese beer- Result!!!
The golf course even had a little surprise for us…An onsite Starbucks!! This was our little meeting place every morning , with latte’s and cheesecake the favourite ,and already everyone felt a little bit better about our Chinese adventure. Due to the hilly nature of the course, buggies were required for the pro-am, so we breezed round on Wednesday afternoon, looking forward to the opening round the next day. Chippie had struggled a bit the previous week , and felt he had a score to settle. Our first round draw was perfect – America’s Nick Watney , who is one of the nicest guys in professional golf and our Ryder Cup team mate, Ian Poulter. It was a perfect mix , and on the first day Chippie birdied two of the last three holes for a 3 under 69. A nice start , and good platform to build on for the week ahead. Friday got off to a better start, with Paul 4 under after 10 holes and Poulter 6 under. However , they dragged each other down on the back nine, and each dropped 3 shots coming home. Chippie wasn’t best pleased with his back nine efforts…”it’s just pish!!! I should be shot!” I made sure there were no security guards around wielding guns!!
On Saturday there was hardly a breath of wind, and scoring conditions were perfect. Chippie played steady, two under with four to go, and looking to birdie the par 5 14th. Unfortunately a bogey took the wind out our sails, and 72 was the end result. By now the frustration was really building, and the Chipmeister was livid. It was hot, he was tired, and it had been a long two weeks – “ my foots lowpin’, my backs aching and my heid’s bursting” Roll on Sunday and the long flight home..!
The scoring had been strange all week. You had to shoot 4 under or better to advance up the leader board, but level par only dropped a few spots. Therefore on Sunday, it was simple… all out attack. Chippie was ready for a final day onslaught, and had the bit between his teeth. This was evident on the third hole, after a bit of bad luck with his second shot, and a chip to 12 feet. Not happy with his efforts, he turned to me and said- “ Do me a favour, don’t fold your arms. It makes you look pissed off at me! “ LOLOLOL. Message understood… He was not in a mood to be messed with. He played lovely from then on, reaching the 15th in 5 under for the day. However this hole hadn’t been kind to us all week , and it jumped up and bit us on the bum again. A double bogey followed by the same at the sixteenth pretty much summed up the week…Lot’s of nice play without much reward. It was just one of those weeks. As it turned, we held our position, as the final day was a bit windier, and even if we had finished 4 or 5 shots better, we would only have climbed a few spots. After packing the bag, I was hotfooting off to the Chinese border, where I crossed into Hong Kong by foot, then grabbed a taxi to the airport. I arrived home on Monday Lunchtime…. Bliss. We have a week to recharge the batteries before a big final push for the season. Hong Kong, Dubai, and Sun City beckons…. Watch this space..
After a well deserved 2 week break, we were off on the long haul travels again to China. The Ryder Cup had taken it’s toll at the Dunhill Links, and we were now rested and ready to go again. The tournament was being played at Lake Malaren, a new course, about 45 minutes from Shanghai. This was one of our Carlsberg tournaments….. 76 players, no cut, and a $7million prize fund…. Lovely!!! The tournament sponsors, BMW, had even provided all the Ryder Cup players and caddies with a free hotel room for the week on site at the Crowne Plaza….Happy days.The heroics of the Ryder Cup were still on everyone’s lips, and this was reflected in the draw, as we were playing with Martin Kaymer, and Francesco Molinari for the first round. As you can imagine, Medinah was pretty much the topic of conversation all day, and all three players played nicely. Paul shot a 3 under 69, Kaymer 68, and Molinari a flawless 66. This was eclipsed by Jamie Donaldson, who returned an amazing 10 under 62. The second day was a pretty similar day for Chippie , shooting 69 again, which was a great effort , as he was 2 over after 8 holes, but he showed some fighting spirit on the back nine to save the day. Nicely placed at the halfway stage, lying in 15th spot, it was all to play for. Unfortunately, Chippie had been struggling with jet lag all week, and he wasn’t the only one. By 9 o’clock every night I was sound asleep, right through till the next morning, but Chippie wasn’t so lucky. Sleeping from 7 pm till 3am, then staying awake till breakfast meant that by the afternoon he was absolutely puggled!!! It caught with him on the weekend, shooting 72 on Saturday, and 73 on Sunday. Some indifferent ball striking with the irons made for a bit of a struggle, although Chippie tried to pass on some of the blame to his playing partner on Sunday, Lee Westwood. After 10 holes, we were 4 over for the day , and walking down the 11th fairway. Paul said to Lee “ I always play pish when I play with you!!. When I play with Bjorn or Clarke, I flush it, but with you, I hit it rubbish!!” The look on Westwood’s face said it all “That’s the first time I’ve ever been blamed by my playing partner for the state of their game”… Chippie’s reply - “Well it cannae be my fault” Lol….The mindset of a tour professional!! After this exchange of banter, Chippie got his finger out, playing the remaining holes in 3 under, and retrieving some pride .
We ended the week in 35th place, which still received a nice cheque, and we were already looking forward to the following week to the HSBC Champions tournament, which was being staged at the Mission Hills resort down on Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. China is becoming a bigger part of our schedule every year. It’s a booming economy, and golf is high on their sporting agenda. Let’s hope the jet lag has worn off and we don’t play with Lee Westwood!!!