I had spent a fair bit of my week off after China in the gym, and it was just as well, for I was about to have my greediest week of the year!!! It started with a Sunday night flight to Antalya , which lies on the south coast of Turkey. I had booked it a few months in advance, getting a good price. Departing from Glasgow, the majority of Scottish players and caddies going to the tournament were on this flight. As we boarded, it seemed a lot quieter than the normal holiday flight. That's because there were only 30 people on the plane, and it was a 757. Yeehaa.... It was like a private jet, everyone had six seats to themselves. Having enjoyed the perfect flight, I arrived at my hotel in Turkey around 4am. I had a few hours sleep, then went to the course for a look round. The layout was good, with several big humps on the greens( it was after all, a Colin Montgomerie design!!) That evening, I took full advantage of the all inclusive deal at my hotel, as did all the caddies( the hotel must have lost money on us). I'm afraid we took advantage every night, three courses, all of which weren't small, washed down with the odd beer, red wine, baileys etc, etc.
Onto the golf, and our first round was delayed by three hours,thanks to an overnight storm. Due to sunset falling at around 5pm, very few would finish the round. We were fortunate to have an early tee time, and managed to get the round finished. Paul struggled with his long game, and shot a two over 74, which was about right. Scoring was low, due to calm conditions, and it we had an uphill battle to make the top 15 finish required to get us into the Dubai World Championship the following week. Things improved on Friday, with Paul going round in 70. Back to level par for the tournament, our task was simple. A pair of 66's over the weekend would get us to Dubai, and Chippie duly delivered on Saturday with..... a 66!! This gave us a fighting chance. It was a strange scenario, as I couldn't book any flights until we knew our fate. Would it be the tour charter to Dubai on Sunday night, or the Thomas Cook to Manchester Monday morning, then the train home? It turned out to be the latter. Paul gave it his best, shooting 69 for a 9 under total. In the end, we missed out by a couple of spots on the order of merit. As it turned out, there would be only 56 players from the top 60 playing in Dubai, but they don't go down the list to get a full field, which is something they should maybe think about for the future. Our season had come to an end, and it was time to head home. We now have a few weeks off to recharge the batteries, before playing in the Royal Trophy in China in December , which is a team event between Europe and Asia. After that we'll have another little break, then our season will start in Abu Dhabi in mid January. By that time we'll be raring to go, and hopefully a few pounds lighter :))) (Me, not Paul, by the way)
The first event of the final series, and China was our venue again. We had played at Lake Malaren last year, and on that occasion I stayed at the hotel on the course. This year I stayed at a different hotel, about 15 minutes walk from the course, just to try and break up the week. Sometimes finding food to my liking can be a problem in China( and I'm not that fussy) so I came prepared, with a suitcase full of pot noodles, pasta pots, food bars and cup a soups. I used the lot, as there wasn't a great deal I fancied on the local restaurant menus. We even popped down to the supermarket to see if there was anything to tempt me. All we found there was a few tanks full of live fish. You picked the one you wanted, and they smacked it over the head, wrapped it up and away you went.... Not for me, strangely enough. I had probably the quietest week of the year so far, as I didn't leave the room for three nights in a row(unheard of for a social animal like my good self)
Onto the golf, and the forecast for the first couple of days was a stiff northerly breeze. This would normally suit Chippie, but unusually he struggled with his ball striking the first couple of days, and relied on the putter to keep things going. He followed an opening 74 with a 73 to be 3 over par at the hallway stage. This put us in the middle of the pack. Luke Guthrie on the other hand, seemed to be playing a different golf course, opening with a 65 in a strong wind. Also impressive was John Daly's 68. It had been his first competitive round for 4 months following an injury.
Another talking point from the opening day was Joost Luiten teeing off the first, then withdrawing. He had a shoulder injury and couldn't play, but in order to play in the season ending Dubai World Championship, he had to play in two of the three events leading up to it. Starting, then withdrawing counted as one tournament played, so he had no option. Everyone felt sorry for the first reserve, Justin Walters, who could only watch as Luiten picked up his teepeg, then shook hands with his playing partners before heading back to the clubhouse. I think there may be a change in the rules for next year.
Onto the weekend, and the wind had lessened, and the scoring improved. Chippie also improved his scoring, by a shot, with a level par 72. This kept us in the mid thirties, and needing something low on Sunday to climb the leaderboard. Another strange thing happened on Sunday. After the first rounds, there was a redraw every day. Our first round playing partners were Shane Lowry and Mikko Ilonen. On the first tee on Sunday, we were all reunited. Weird. Paul played much better on Sunday, creating plenty chances, but not converting. After missed chance at the 13th, he pulled his tee shot on the 14th..."I'm going to break something!!!" He shouted " let's hope it's 70" I muttered under my breath. He ended up signing off with a 71. So he had improved by a shot every day... 74,73,72,71, and 34th place was the result. It made a decent cheque, but we were overtaken in the Race to Dubai standings, meaning we require a good finish in Turkey to secure our place in the season ending finale. After the round, I had a shower, then cheered on Gonzalo Fernandez Castano to victory. My roommate for the week is Gonzo's caddy, if you win the tournament, you pay room roommates hotel bill... Yeehaa!!
Then it was an hour in a taxi to the airport and straight to the Burger King to stuff my face...Fandabbydosy!!! I had lost a couple of pounds during the week, and was feeling good. Unfortunately, I ate for the whole journey home. At Shanghai airport, on the plane, at Dubai airport, and on the plane again, followed by more munchies when I got home, from Sunday morning to Tuesday morning, I had put on half a stone....Aaargh. I guess I'll be spending my week off in the gym!!!