I headed up to St. Andrews on the Sunday morning, which is normally a bit early for a normal event, but there was the small matter of the Ryder Cup to watch on TV and where better to view it than the home of golf! It also gave me the opportunity to look at Kingsbarns and the Old Course on Monday before Paul arrived on Tuesday. We played at Carnoustie on Tuesday morning, then Paul drove back home to watch Aberdeen draw with St. Mirren(we all have our cross to bear) On Wednesday morning we drove out to the far end of the Old Course and played a few holes while it was quiet, hit some balls, then drove up to Kingsbarns to play the front nine. It was ideal preparation, with Paul doing a little bit more than he normally would, but with courses, it’s important to get a feel for how each one is playing. Some players go overboard, and play 18 holes on each course before the tournament even starts, then wonder why they’re tired by the weekend,
We started our tournament at Kingsbarns , playing with Scott Jamieson (again). He weather was kind, and Paul played lovely, but unfortunately 3 putted the last two greens for a 3 under 69. It was still a decent effort, and a steady start to the week. On Friday we played the Old course, which is always fantastic. Paul didn’t play as well as the previous day, and struggled to gain any momentum. The weather wasn’t great, as we had a bit of rain and a stiff breeze. A level par 72 was the result, and although we were still inside the cut mark, we had Carnoustie to negotiate on Saturday. During the drive over, it wasn’t looking very pleasant. It was pouring down. I was doubtful we would even play, as it had rained heavily overnight. When I arrived, there was already a one hour delay , which turned out to be a bonus for us. Paul warmed up in the net in the pro shop, and by the time we got to the first tee, the rain had almost stopped. By the time we reached the third, it was gone for the day. Result!! Paul took full advantage, playing near flawless golf, cruising round in 68(-4) and comfortably making the cut.
Our amateur partner for the week, as always, was Martin Gilbert of Aberdeen Asset Management. From previous experience, I have to say Martin has struggled during this tournament, but this time round , he was on fire. He had a steely determination about him, and he was fully focused on making the cut. It was the best I have seen him play, and he missed out on qualifying on Sunday by a countback. Only 20 amateurs out of 168 make the cut, so it was a great effort.
Sunday at the Old Course always give you a special feeling when you walk onto the first tee. It was fairly breezy but the sun was out, so we couldn’t have asked for more. Paul played decent , but wasn’t quite scoring the way he’d want to. Frustration was almost starting to get the better of him, until a slight stroke of luck on the 14th. He pulled his tee shot, and it was heading straight for the coffin bunkers. This would mean a chip out sideways, and another 2 shots to get to the green. When we got to the ball, it was on the bank of the bunker. Chippie had a shot…”****** , I’ve got lucky for a change” were his only words. He knocked it down the fairway, popped a 7 iron onto the green, holed the putt for birdie, then birdied the next two holes as well. Two pars to finish with and a 3 under 69 put us into the top 20. All of a sudden it had been a decent week and we were on an upward spiral. I raced home, had a quick shower, then was straight back out to the Hydro concert venue in Glasgow to watch the stage show of the TV programme “Still Game” which had been performing all week. As Jack and Victor would say……Smashing!!
After the mad rush of getting back from St. Andrews, going out to a show, then getting packed the next morning, I was at the airport by 11.30am on Monday to catch my flight to Faro, via London. Paul wasn’t arriving until Tuesday afternoon, so I had time to have a walk round the course. The Victoria course at Vilamoura is one of the courses that doesn’t change from year to year. The scoring is generally good, and this year would be no exception. The rough was minimal and the greens were soft, and everyone knew the scoring would be good because of this(unless your name is John Huggan, the Scotsman’s golf correspondent, who put it all down the ball going too far!!!LOL)
Our Pro-am team this week were very good. I always thought the beer Superbock was South African, until we played with the guys who owned it. It’s Portuguese. Did you know they export 120 million litres of the stuff to Angola per year? It’s amazing what you can find out about beer when you meet the people who make it. It’s a family owned business, and we had the chief owner and his nephew Pedro, who provided the entertainment for the day with his individual long game and his one handed chipping(He gets a bit harum scarum with a wedge in his hands). They were great fun, and were cheered on by Paul’s friends, Alan, Val, Brian, Audrey and of course Marian, who were walking round. I’m glad they did, as it was the only bit of sunshine they saw for the rest of the week.
We had a nice draw for the opening two rounds, playing with Shane Lowry and Pablo Larrazabal. Neither of them are afraid to show their emotions on the golf course, so it wasn’t going to be boring. A few holes into our back nine, everything was going along swimmingly, and for I don’t just mean the golf. It was raining…..a lot! It started on the first tee, and only seemed to stop in between shots. In 8 years at this tournament, I had never hoisted a brolly once. I think I put it up 40 times in the first round. By the time we stood on the 4th tee(our 13th) Paul and Shane were both 3 under , and Pablo was 4 under. By the time we finished, Pablo had dropped back to 2 under and Paul and Shane were both level par. As you can imagine, the air was a lighter shade of blue, even with the constant rain darkening the skies. Not a good day at the office. To make matters worse, it cleared up in the afternoon, and the scoring became silly. Nicolas Colsaerts almost shot 59, and 64’s and 65’s were commonplace. The rain returned the following day, but it was so heavy, that play was halted several times. In the end, we didn’t get to start our afternoon round, and had to return on Saturday to play our second round. The tournament was also officially cut to 3 rounds. We knew the cut was going to be at least 3 under, so a good round was required. The forecast wasn’t great, and it was doubtful if we would play, but the weather held up for most of the day, until we got to the 17th. Paul was 3 under, and then the heavens opened again. We had a two hour delay, before we returned to finish the round. Knowing that two pars would be good enough to make the cut, Paul easily parred the 17th and then unfortunately bogeyed the last. It had been a sore end to a long day. As it turned out, Sunday was also a washout, and the leader after 36 holes, Alex Levy of France was declared the winner. The week and the weather pretty much summed our season. A bit stop start with some good stuff inbetween!
We now have a fair bit of time off before our next tournament, during which I’ll be trying to get fitter and in decent shape, and Paul will be hitting more balls than he has before , to be ready and firing on all cylinders for next season. I’m sure all of you reading this will be doing the same……….
I had restful weekend after I arrived home from Holland, and drove down to Wales early on Tuesday morning. I left at 5.30 am, with my intention being to get to Celtic Manor by 11am. I couldn’t have timed it better. I walked into the clubhouse at 11.05, to be met by Paul, pulling his suitcase, fresh off his flight from Aberdeen. We had a good practice session on the range, trying out a new 3 wood, and we’re ready for the pro-am the next morning at 10am.
Due to the dry spell around the UK, the course was very firm. Downwind the greens were almost impossible to hold, and it looked like scoring was going to be tough. Our partners for the first two rounds were Scott Jamieson and Simon Khan, which was a good draw, as we all knew each other well. For the first time in a while, we had a late tee time for Thursday, which I like. Having missed the first two fairways, Paul did well to get his approaches on the green and make par. On the 3rd hole, a par 3 downwind over water, it appeared to require a very good shot to hold the green without taking the water on. Paul’s 7 iron pitched in the perfect place, 7 or 8 yards short of the flag, and spun back 2 feet!!!!! They had watered the greens on the downwind holes. The course had now completely changed. It took a few holes to have the courage to pitch the approach shots at the pin, in case the ball went bounding past the hole. Paul played solidly all day, and was 1 under playing the 18th, but a misjudged approach to the green came up just short and rolled back into the water. A double bogey seven was the result. Not best pleased, he headed straight to the range to get it out his system. Undeterred, we returned the following morning, ready for battle. There had been a huge downpour overnight, so now the greens were like puddings. Even 5 and six irons were spinning back. Paul didn’t drive the ball great, but was recovering well. We reckoned the cut was going to be +1. With 3 holes to go, we were +2. Paul rolled in a lovely birdie putt and parred our final two holes. We thought we were safely through to the weekend, but the cut hovered around level and plus one all day, and I spent the afternoon glued to the European Tour website. We squeezed in by the skin of our teeth.
Saturday was a similar day to Friday, struggling off the tee, but managing to keep a score going. Unfortunately , the 18th was our undoing again, and a 3 over 74 was the result. This meant we were first off on Sunday , playing with fellow scot Jamie Mcleary, who plays quicker than Paul!!!! A quick 3 hour round, a 1 under 70, and we were heading back up the road, Paul by plane and me by car. Paul was home for 3pm, and I was an hour behind him, just in time to see Joost Luiten play the 18th and hole the winning putt. It had been a strange week, but another step in the right direction, as Paul had holed out well and hit some lovely iron shots. We now have a week off before the Dunhill Links. There is also the small matter of the Ryder Cup to watch on tv……Aaaah, memories.