The incredible SA Open!

I don’t know why but the trip out to South Africa this time felt really long, but it wasn’t any different from past trips!

Two 7-hour flights and a 4-hour stop-over in Dubai broke it up…I managed to sleep on most of the second flight, so on landing I headed straight to the golf course to get some practice done.

The plan was to meet Steve in the airport, get to the course, have lunch, then work out some yardages, check the altitude and send some swing footage to my coach Mark back home!

But the plan slightly altered – for Steve anyway…he’s possibly got deeper pockets and shorter arms than me and in trying to save a few quid he had booked a four-flight journey to get to SA!

Manchester > Amsterdam > Abu Dhabi > Doha > Joburg

Quite some journey, but then he was told in Doha that his flight has been ‘over sold’ (this surprisingly happens quite a bit) and the only option he had, if he wanted to arrive Monday, was to fly to Namibia and then onto Joburg!!!

So five flights and pretty much 40 hours’ of travel, he finally made it to the course and not surprisingly was as happy as ever and not fazed by his marathon journey in the slightest!

He is probably the only person I know in this current day and age who could sit by himself for 40 hours with no wifi, no phone and not talk to anyone!! No one enjoys their own company more, and that’s a fantastic trait/skill to have as a player or caddy when constantly on the move around the world!!

It would be amazing to actually know how many hours we’ve both spent sitting in airports or on flights trying to pass time.

Back to the golf…

This week I was selected to play in the pro-am, and that worked perfectly for me to use it as my practice round but also to be able to have some competitive practice and try make some birdies!

I had a great team too, three brothers, all members at Glendower, all very competitive and fantastic company!

We shot -10 on the day, but more importantly had a really fun time and I managed to get some good constructive practice done.

And then me and Steve even managed an invite Friday evening to join their family for dinner at the local Italian, which was brilliant!

So, a little bit of light practice and physio after the pro-am and we headed back to our accommodation for the week!

Me and Steve have some great friends out in South Africa – Waleed and his family have once again put us up for the week; they live on the estate at the course so location is perfect, and this week they were actually on holiday till the Saturday, so for them to leave us their house keys and car is an amazing gesture, we really can’t thank them enough!

Glendower and BMW put on a great event here at The SA OPEN, the grandstands around 18 are outstanding, the hospitality is first class…but this year it was slightly different, there was a different feel to the event…

It’s Wednesday and the crowds are lining the fairways, you can hear cheers on the course like it’s a Sunday afternoon, and there is hustle and bustle everywhere…

…even players are stopping to watch a certain someone!!

Rory is in town!

We don’t think he’s on appearance money this week, the story that he’s playing in return for Ernie playing in the Irish Open last year seems pretty legit…

But I can tell you now…if you were here you would soon realise why the top guys in the world get paid big appearance money!

They drag in the crowds, and drag them in by the thousands…this week parents have taken their children out of school to see Rory as they may never see him again in SA, that’s how big a deal it has been.

That’s the sheer pulling power of McIlroy, and I would say only Tiger would draw a bigger crowd!

So after three days’ preparation I was ready for another challenge. I really liked the course, the rough is that horrible Kikuyu grass – so you must avoid it – and the fairways are really tight too!!! You get rewarded if you drive it well as there are plenty of chances from the fairways with the greens being so pure and very receptive!

I got off to a nice start in round one playing some really steady stuff, I was -4 through 13 holes and cruising along, but I hit a poor shot into the 5th and deserved to make bogey, so that was fine, but then to find the water with my approach shot on the 9th, my last hole, and make double was very disappointing!!!!

So a sour taste to my round but overall a great start to the year and nice to post the first sub-par round of the year, especially when I’ve not really been on grass for four weeks, and I’ve only played twice…

Round 2, I knew the scoring would be similar so I had to go out and post a number, the cut was going to be level at worst and in the end fell at -1…but I was there to press up the leaderboard, make a charge and really compete this week!

Again a pretty solid all round performance, a couple of poor bogeys, maybe a little bit of winter rust or a few bad decisions, but that will only improve with playing more! After 15 holes we got called off the course for thunder and had to resume the following morning, and looking back for me that may have been a good thing… after a shocking three putt bogey on 15 my head needed clearing to play the last three.

On the return I started with a bogey but made a great birdie up 18 to feel a lot happier about my round and pretty content with 69 (-3).

We had just under two hours’ turn around and went back out to start round three. I played lovely and to post a 66 (-6) with no bogeys in my first tournament back just shows there is not much winter rust to dust off! That score boosted me up the leaderboard into 16th and set up for a great last round.

It would have been nice to keep up the under par rounds for the year but a disappointing 74 (+2) to finish the week meant I fell back into 26th place.

Am I happy….? Yes and no… I played some great stuff throughout the week, but I guess as a professional you always want more! And that’s how it should be, you always want to get better, score better and finish higher, and that poor last round has given me another kick up the butt to keep working harder, as did the missed cut in Hong Kong!

My week in numbers!

My week in numbers!

Having a look back through my scores and thinking about how the course played, I really didn’t make the most of the par 5’s throughout the week, I played the 4 par fives in -6 for the week, with three of those holes reachable with irons and the other reachable depending on the wind, so that is realistically 16 very good birdie/eagle chances.

You’ve only got to look at Rory and Jordan Smith’s cards to see they both played them in -13, and in round 4 Jeff Winther made 3 eagles on the par 5’s.

But another good week overall and something to keep building on going forward over the next three weeks in the Desert Swing!

I’m not sure I ever thought I would be teeing it up in the Dubai Desert Classic and playing the Desert Swing events, so they are three events I’m very excited to get stuck into, especially now Tiger has committed to playing the Classic!

Back on the road – 2017!

This may sound like a crazy thing to say, but sometimes missing a cut can be a good thing, or perhaps just a blessing in disguise…

After a solid start to the season in South Africa, the following week in Hong Kong could of course have gone better, and if it had, for example, and I’d cruised through to the weekend and picked up a nice cheque, I may well have come home for winter and rested on my laurels, felt everything was tip top and just ticked over waiting for the SA Open to start!!

So, missing the cut, and missing it comfortably, gave me the kick up the a**e I needed to work harder than ever over the Christmas period and also make sure I’ve improved as a player for 2017!!

On returning from Hong Kong I got stuck straight back into my fitness training and let the clubs take the back seat for a few days so that I could enjoy some much-needed family time…and then the next step before I got practising again was to sit down with my coach Mark!

We had a great season de-brief, planned out the next four weeks and set some targets for this period of development time.

So, to get me back into it, the first test of my game and the ‘biggest’ game of the year, was the Woodsome Hall Christmas Texas Scramble! John Eyre had asked me to team up with him and Adam from the shop months back, and what I thought was going to be a leisurely stroll round, ended up being a super-competitive 9-hole competition where our team had the support from 20 members walking round hoping to enjoy some good golf!!

It was a great day out, really good fun and was followed up with some great banter, many Christmas pints, and a few hours chatting golf with lots of the fantastic members!!

As a team, we posted -7 for nine holes, and somehow I felt we got pretty lucky with the handicap system and only had to give back +0.4 shots to the field…but that cost us and we were taken down by the three bandits in the picture below – well played guys!!

Maybe next year!!

Quite a bit of my time in these four weeks has been taken up with some very thorough club testing. I’ve felt for a while that I wanted to try a new shaft and even a new head combination in my irons, and really wanted to find a set up that launch higher and fly stronger.

I can safely say I found that – I have really settled well into my new Srixon irons and cannot wait to get them into competition. You can check them out in John’s shop at Woodsome too, he stocks the same set!

I decided to go for the combo set where they go from a forged cavity to a slightly bigger forged cavity from 6 iron up to 4 iron, and then into a driving club in the 3 iron. The irons really do look great; they feel like a soft forged blade and with the new shaft option they perform great!!

MY IRON SPECS

Shaft: KBS C-TAPER X LITE

Grips: GOLF PRIDE, TOUR VELVET ROUND, 3 LAYERS TAPE

Irons: FORGED Z 765 (PW-7 iron) FORGED Z 565 (6-4 iron) Z U65 3/2 iron)

Some of you may wonder where and how can I do so much thorough club testing in the UK at this time of year, as the weather is so poor and ground conditions are not ideal for testing either.

But it’s a pretty simple answer – I head across to Wigan to my good friends Nick and Nicola Hibbs at TOUR X, and to put it simply they are the best in the business and they offer what no one else can with regards to club fitting, club building and giving everybody the same Tour player service regardless of handicap!

With two Trackman fitting bays, a putting studio, two Tour approved workshops over 15,000 different club variations in demo heads and shafts, you can’t possibly leave with the wrong set of clubs suited to you!!

I promise you will be blown away as you walk through the door into Nick’s golfing playground, and I know my pictures won’t do it justice, you just have to take a visit yourself if you’re serious about your golf!

As you know, as well as practising at Woodsome, when home I do try to spend a day each week at Oulton with my swing coach Mark Pearson and fitness coach Rachael Tibbs, so to get four visits in with both of them over the Christmas period was great; we made some huge steps with my game and it’s great to see the improvements in both the technical and physical aspects we have been aiming for!!

I was also fortunate enough whilst over there one day to spend some time with the elite players of their junior FUEL GOLF programme; they run an unbelievable training programme for the kids and it was fantastic to answer some questions and hit some shots for the next Rory or Chris Hansons of the game!!

Latest interview with Golfing World @ Woodsome Hall

Latest interview with Golfing World @ Woodsome Hall about how Chris gained his European Tour card at the 2015 Qualifying School and then went on to retain his playing rights for the 2017 season after finishing 108 on the 2016 OOM.

For more videos and interviews please follow the ‘media’ link above

Over and out for 2016!

It was a bit of a mammoth journey to get to Hong Kong and with the few hours extra delays we eventually arrived at the hotel around 1am Tuesday morning!

But with a sleep on the 1st flight, and then a battle to stay awake on the 2nd flight, that set me up for a good sleep in the hotel!

And I woke up feeling pretty good, just not sure what day it was! I polished off a decent breakfast and a really good gym session and was ready for the 10.30am bus to the course which was 30 minutes away!

I had heard the course was decent, a bit old school, tight, very tree lined and you don’t need to hit driver much.

They were right…

And after completing my practice round, I soon decided it’s one of my fave course layouts of the year!! The condition was fantastic, the definition was first class and the way it’s cut out through the trees was fantastic!

The whole set up of the event felt great!

We actually played it as a ‘hybrid’ course, meaning they mix in some holes off the other course to make the tournament course, and what a good job they have done, you really couldn’t tell!!

It was nice to have my Wednesday practice day back this week, as I always have my check list of tasks to complete, and with the greens being very different to last week due to the grain, I pencilled in a bit more time on the short stuff!

So all was set for another week and the second event of the year!

GOLF ROUND UP

There wasn’t much to ’round up’ this week, I only played two rounds and I played both of them pretty poorly!

Off the tee I was solid, my stats had me in position to take advantage of a shorter course…but I didn’t come close to taking much advantage of my good play from the tee.

My proximity from the hole on 2nd shots was below average and from long distance on greens you really couldn’t get to grips, which made it tough!!

From probably my best week on the greens in SA to one of my worst in HK this week, it just shows the difference in the conditions and how I’m really not used to playing in Asia on grainy greens!!

I guess it’s just something you learn more about the more you play, it’s definitely a challenge I’m ready to tackle head on!!

There is one thing I know for certain, the poor result didn’t come from lack of effort; I put some hard work in this week and teeing it up Thursday I felt I had done everything to be ready!!

But a three putt on the first from 18ft didn’t get me off to the best start and straight away rattled my confidence with the pace of the greens.

Until anyone plays on very grainy greens it’s tricky to explain exactly how it changes putting…all I can say is, it’s very different!

Thankfully after my early exit this week I managed to get my flight changed and get in the air Friday night, which then got me home Saturday morning which was fantastic!!

So home sweet home, and the last flight of the year done!

It wasn’t the end to 2016 I wanted on the golf course, but I can’t let that overshadow the fantastic year I have had and the achievement of keeping my card for 2017!

It’s now time for some quality family time, and to enjoy what’s going to be a crazy Christmas now that Olivia too is expecting that man in the red suit to arrive!

Golf wise, I’m sure the weather will not be too conducive to good practice, but I will keep working away at my game in Woodsome’s fantastic indoor facilities and down on the range!

I have some club testing to do, the new Titleist Pro V1 to try, and also I need to send my clubs off for an MOT!!

It’s also great to have this 4-week period over Christmas to keep up my strength and conditioning gains and start the 2017 in South Africa stronger than ever!

What an exciting year ahead…

UP & COMING…

South African Open

HSBC Abu Dhabi

Qatar Masters

Dubai Desert Classic

…I can’t wait to share the journey with you all again!!!

Leopard Creek 2017 – 1 event down!!

So after my last check-in at Manchester airport, and the way they emptied my wallet over excess baggage, I was pretty tense in Dubai airport whilst checking in at 1am Monday!

But somehow I managed to get my luggage onto the plane and not get charged excess at all! Luckily this time I didn’t have my hand luggage weighed; it only looks like a normal rucksack but I’m travelling with at least 20kg in there as the Trackman I recently invested in weighs around 10kg on its own!!

On top of not being charged I managed to change my seat to an extra leg room seat, and at the time that felt like such a result!! 8 hours to Joburg with unlimited leg room!

So getting on the plane I made myself comfy, closed my eyes, only to wake up just after take-off to see the plane pretty much empty and to find out I had missed the opportunity of sleeping across 4 seats as most people were!

Anyway, I think I got 5 hours sleep in the early part of the flight, so on landing I didn’t feel too bad!

With the time difference it was around 11.30am when I left the airport, to then be greeted by Steve my caddy and Oli Briggs (Daniel Im’s caddy) and from there we headed off on a four-hour drive up to Leopard Creek!

Some players fly from Joburg to a town an hour away, but that makes getting away SUNDAY night tricky as the timings are very tight!!

On stepping out of the car at the golf club we were hit by the heat!!!

Over the course of the week it reached 41 degrees at times and with not much wind that felt like an oven, and made Dubai feel like a cold winter’s day at home!

I pretty much left straight away for the accommodation in a courtesy car and left Steve up there to talk golf with the caddies and head back to his B&B in his own time!

I was back at Kambaku Lodge; we stayed there last year, it is incredible, it’s on Crocodile River, which sits inside the Kruger National Park – the view is just amazing! And Leanne the owner looks after us like we were her own!

Tuesday was Pro-Am day, and for the first time I was 1st reserve ‘on site’, which meant I had to be around from first tee off until the last group had played nine holes.

If anyone withdrew before or mid round I was there to stand in…not ideal, as it changed my preparation plans and also meant I missed out on the par 3 tournament on the new course where you were playing for £10k 1st prize and top 30 players also getting paid!!

I did get €300 for the inconvenience which I guess covered my excess baggage problems but in an ideal world I would have played 9 holes on the Tour course, the par 3 tournament which would then have freed me up to only play 9 holes Wednesday, and stay out of the heat the day before the event.

But it then meant Tuesday was my constructive practice day where I went through my list of areas which needed some attention and plenty visits to the players’ lounge to enjoy the air conditioning – I did get everything done!!

Wednesday I was up early and played 18 holes; last year I probably didn’t give the course the credit it was due and I was probably distracted by the wildlife and the Kruger Park!

This year the course has grown on me tremendously or maybe I’ve just been more open to it! It’s fantastic, there are so many great holes out there, and the condition is out of this world!! I couldn’t wait to get out there Thursday in the event and play it again!!

But after witnessing the storm Wednesday night I was sure we wouldn’t be playing Thursday, but we did and with no preferred lies! The course held up amazingly, and then to have a repeat storm Thursday evening with hail stones the size of large marbles, it was again unbelievable how Friday was not affected!

Marble??

Marble??

Round 1 for me went nicely, I played really solid, and most importantly stayed very patient!

It’s hard not to get frustrated when you’re giving yourself plenty opportunities but sometimes in golf that’s just the way it goes, putting especially is such fine margins!!

In the end I shot 69 (-3) which was a nice start to the 2017 season and one I could hopefully build on!

Round 2…

I certainly did build on it in round 2… starting on the first I missed a really good chance for birdie, but I didn’t have to wait long to open my birdie account, I hit my best three wood of the year down the second onto the par 5 which set up a straightforward two putt birdie.

Three more birdies on 3, 6 and 9 and I turned in -4 and was cruising along nicely.

I played 10 and 11 perfectly and made two more birdies, then holed an 18ft putt on 14 to get to -7 for the round.

My game was pretty solid, and my focus was really good. I then got a little bit unlucky on 15 when my drive was slightly out of position and held on the bank of the bunker, a couple of poor shots later I found the water and made a great up and down from 100 yards for bogey!!

Sometimes bogeys feel like birdies and that one did, keeping my momentum.

An interesting and very unorthodox par down 17 but I followed that by a nice birdie to finish on the island green 18!!

Walking off the course and signing for my European Tour career low score was nice, and I think the lowest score of the day. It moved me up to T2nd and set me up for a fun weekend!!

Saturday was a mixed bag, but a birdie birdie finish was great! I also made it into the top 5 shots of the day with a 9 iron on the 17th to a foot!

Then I played the last really sensibly as a three shot hole to the dangerous flag position and made a great birdie, whilst watching George Coetzee make 9, as it showed with the pin position that disaster was lurking!!

So 68 (-4) to keep me in the mix at T2nd three back from the leader Brandon Stone.

So last round, last group, and it was great to be back in this position; a main aim this year is to keep putting myself in contention and knocking on the door, and then look forward to walking through it!!

This week it wasn’t to be; it was a little trickier with the wind and pin positions, but after a lost ball down the 2nd, and then a poor tee shot down the 4th I was soon on the back foot!

I played some good stuff in and amongst it and made three good birdies on the back nine, but with three bogeys and a poor one down 18 I signed for +4 and fell back to T11th.

  • I just realised I birdied the 10th everyday – always nice to have a full house!!

So putting aside the last round, it’s been a great start to the year, my game has shown so many signs of promise, and maybe the no ‘real’ golf for 4 weeks before SA took its toll in round 4….

Who knows, but I know where my focus is for this week in Hong Kong, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge in another new country!!!!

  • I must say a huge congrats to Brandon for the win, he controlled his game and emotions fantastically well all day and to collect his second title of 2016 and only at the age of 23 is pretty special!

On a totally different and very sad note, I mentioned a while back about the many caddies out on tour, the characters, the stories, the nicknames and for the first time this week I met ‘pin high Pedro’ – we shared a courtesy car back on Tuesday evening. He told some great stories on \Angel Cabrera and his life on Tour and seemed a really\s\ genuine bloke.

So to then see a text after I had played Thursday that he was found dead in his hotel room Wednesday evening after suffering a heart attack was nearly impossible to believe!!

My thoughts go to his family!! RIP

RIP - Pin high Pedro!

RIP – Pin high Pedro!

My ‘mini boot camp’ in Dubai!

My 2-day ‘Boot Camp’ has been fantastic and exactly what the doctor ordered!

The most important thing was that I kept it really constructive, and I can safely say I didn’t waste a minute.

On arriving in Dubai Friday night around 8pm, by the time I had got through customs, collected my luggage and hailed a taxi to get me to the hotel, it was 10.30pm and I was pretty much getting straight to bed!!

I just wanted to get some decent food in the system first.

Since Portugal I’ve made a huge effort to eat better, and I’m constantly questioning myself if what I’m eating is beneficial to my game!!

Laura will vouch for me when I say I’ve been pretty disciplined at home for three weeks with my food and it’s been tough…planning meals, packing lunches, watching my carb and protein intake, and staying off the sweet stuff!

Sugar is the devil!!!

Basically I’ve eaten lots of chicken, avocado, spinach, sweet potato, nuts, and salads and so on!

Sorry to go off on one about food, but that really is an area that’s tricky when travelling.

How many decent airport meals can you get when in transit…and how good is the plane food, etc etc etc!

I know some of you are still thinking, there’s nothing wrong with a good old Maccy D’s!!

So at the airport Costa coffee I tried my best…a granola natural yoghurt, a tub of fruit, a chicken wrap and a bottle of water…that was my best bet!!

And better than my normal choice of a panini, muffin and a large flavoured latte! Yummy, though!

So since my coach and fitness trainer gave me a little nudge on my diet a few months back I really have tried to plan ahead, and to combat the ‘crap’ food when travelling I pre-packed my own food for daily snacking and on course!!

But that kind of backfired when Emirates charged me £390 excess baggage for the amount of MaxProtein bars, nuts and on course energy gels I had tucked away in my case.

Ouch!!

All that airport stuff was soon forgotten when my 6.30am alarm went off and got me up to head to Jumeirah Golf Estates to start my 2-day ‘Boot Camp’.

And what a two days I had in store!

The range and the turf are fantastic, a great chipping green, two great pitching greens where you can hit up to 180 yards, and three putting greens to choose from.

And then there is the Earth Course where the Race to Dubai final was held.

And as I mentioned in my last blog, the use of this whole facility through the European Tour is free!!

I spent the morning on my own working through my practice check list and trying to set myself some competitive games to test where my game is at.

Then at 12pm myself and Lasse Jensen took on Bernd Ritthammer and Sebastian Heisele for 9 holes – and in the process lost €25 to them!!

But it was great to test the game under a little pressure, and from there we all went to the short game area to touch up on that area of our rusty games!!

It gets dark early in the UAE so on finishing my practice I headed to the on-site gym, which is Olympic standard, to go through my latest Dynamic Golf workout from Rachael Tibbs.

ETPI Gym

ETPI Gym

And that was day 1 complete, some healthy room service, sleep and back up to the course first thing Sunday to make the most of the facilities again and my last day!

Here’s my day 2 plan of action, skills tests, and check list of what needs to be completed.

Day 2 plan of action!

Day 2 plan of action!

Range

Range

It was again great to get to do some more media work off the back of keeping my card. Worldwide Golf magazine wanted to do a piece for their magazine and an instructional piece for the web, which was fun!

Hopefully I will have the link for it soon…

After lunch I set myself some ‘completion’ drills to try and add some pressure to my practice; for example, hole X number of putts in a row to move on, hole 6/8 three times from 10ft.

There are so many variations, but knowing you can’t leave until they’re complete adds pressure, especially when you know it comes dark at 5.30pm!

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t get to complete one of the games!!

So one last gym session, showered, changed, and packed up by 8pm.

I now had till 4.40am before my 8-hour flight onto Johannesburg.

I was starving after the gym so headed to the clubhouse to see what they had to offer, and to find somewhere comfy to get some laptop jobs done before heading off to the airport.

So to walk in and find they had an ‘all-you-can-eat’ Sunday carvery was music to my ears, a reformed golfing ‘athlete’s’ paradise!!!!

FullSizeRender 3

That was the end of my Jumeirah Golf Estates ‘boot camp’ and what a great idea it was to head out here first; I did more constructive practice in two days than I could in a week at home!!

After being kicked out of the clubhouse at closing time, I set off to the airport super early, which was not a bad thing in the end after spending half an hour on the middle of a 6-lane Dubai motorway!!

Quite a scary experience, but a great time to start writing this Blog as I’m no help changing a wheel!

But they do always say being a professional golfer is ‘life on the road’.

PS – I managed to blag my luggage through the flight desk which was a huge result!!

2017 starts now… NEW BLOG!

It’s been fantastic to spend some quality time at home with the family, walking Jess to school, picking her up, going out with the family for dinner, and not missing Olivia’s 2nd birthday!

But from a golfing perspective, it’s been a rather strange feeling!!

Having missed out on the event in Turkey by 5 places, which was part of the ‘final series’, that meant the end of my season.

But normally this time of the year I’m heading to Spain, either to start stage 2 or compete at final stage of Qualifying school.

So this year to be at home wishing I was playing the final series -but thankful I wasn’t at Tour School – was very different!

But I really can take a lot of inspiration from the position I find myself in, as again I’ve made a progression in my career, this time probably the largest!

As you know, I’ve improved my category on the European Tour for 2017, so I’m very excited to be looking forward and planning the year ahead!

And that starts with a trip back to Leopard Creek (South Africa), followed by a new event for me in Hong Kong the following week!

But my plan is to stop for two days in Dubai before I fly to SA! It’s a great opportunity to get a couple of quality days’ practice, which I will call my own mini ‘boot camp’.

Jumeirah Golf Estates, I hear, is one of the best practice facilities in the world, and an added perk of having a Tour Card is that you get free access to this facility!

Jumeriah Golf Estates

Jumeriah Golf Estates

The weather at home has been mixed, as you know, but we’ve not had much wind so it has been mild enough to practice…but you just don’t get chance to get on good surfaces on and around the greens!

So that’s my main focus for two days, along with playing as many holes as possible!

So what have I been up to in ‘sunny’ Huddersfield before heading out to the Middle East?

With only having a 3-4 week period to develop my game and keep my swing playable for the start of the season, it’s tricky to find the practice balance…but what I do know is I’ve worked hard!!

To get together with Rachael from Dynamic Golf and make some strength progress in this short period has been fantastic; I’m really excited to see the gains in my golf game throughout the coming year!!

With Jake Hamilton at Pure Fitness

With Jake Hamilton at Pure Fitness

Click here for some tips from Dynamic Golf!!

With Mark, my coach, we set out a plan for the 3-4 weeks, starting with some biomechanics; we wanted to find out how well and how efficient my golf swing is.

It highlighted areas we knew were weak, and we planned over the weeks to see an improvement in how my lower body works in the swing!!

We also set out a few technical changes for the ‘short stick’ – my path with the putter is good, but we feel there is room for improvement with how I rotate the club face!

Holing putts is down to face control, so I’ve upped the intensity with my practice but all the time making sure what I do has a purpose!

Following on from keeping my card, I’ve had a couple of fun media commitments which are great to do…this time I had ‘GOLFING WORLD’ up to Woodsome for an interview and to film some instructional pieces.

Hopefully you can catch these on Tuesday night on Sky Sports 4 and get to see them online very soon!

I also got together with Stromberg to shoot the new range for 2017; we did the shoot up at Fixby on a ‘nice’ cold day!

Not really so nice to be in a T-shirt and have Rick squirting water at you, testing the new fabrics of the trousers!! But, as ever, we always have a great laugh on the shoot and I can’t thank them enough for their continued support!

As many of you may know, I spent 4 years at Myerscough College and every year I go back to speak to the students about life on Tour, my experiences and about my 4 years at the college.

This year was no different – other than I had a lot more stories and much more inspiration for them, proving that you can play on Tour from studying at the college!!

It really has been a busy spell, so to catch up with Sponsors in person has been fantastic (DPPublicity, Abzorb) and also to create some new relationships which I mentioned in a previous blog!

A huge thank must go to Steve and Kelly at Selbie Opticians for their support and eye care, such an important aspect as a professional golfer; it’s been fun finally seeing the ball land – even if it’s not always where I would like it to!

Selbie Opticians

Selbie Opticians

SO WHATS NEXT?

A few weeks to start the season, a nice Christmas break and then a good run of events to start the new year – I look forward to sharing the journey with you all!!

1st Dec – South Africa

8th Dec – Hong Kong

12th Jan – South Africa

19th Jan – Abu Dhabi

26th Jan – Qatar

2nd Feb – Dubai

My 2016 round up!!

It’s time for my final blog of the 2016 season … and it’s a fairly mixed blog to finish the year on which hopefully sums up my amazing rookie year, my emotions, the highlights, the low points, explains more of how the Tour works, and includes plenty of fun facts and stats from the year!

So from gaining my ‘card’ back at Tour School in November 2015 for the 2016 R2D season, the biggest misconception for many people was that I would get to play any event I wanted…

For example, the PGA Championship at Wentworth, The Dubai Desert Classic, Abu Dhabi, The Irish Open … the list goes on!

And I remember back at my celebratory evening at Woodsome following Tour School, where one of the members kindly stood up and gave his congratulations and in that speech spoke about how I would be mixing with Rory week in week out…

But how wrong could that have been … I soon learned that having gained your ‘card’ at Tour School you then start at the bottom of the European Tour ladder and in the category behind the Challenge Tour graduates from 2015.

This means you play all the smaller prize fund events (eg Thailand, Fiji, Prague), many of them being last minute call ups! The only difference in my category was a ‘re-rank’ around June where the 28 players got shuffled into the order they sat on the OOM.

And that was a ruling which, thankfully, I made good use of! From gaining the 28th and last card at Q-School, I then re-ranked following the Lyoness Open to 9th in the list!

That move in itself got me into the three week stretch of Germany, France and Scotland, all of which were very large prize funds.

So, in the end I only played in one event that Rory did and that was only because of the re-rank! (French Open).

For some players the re-rank didn’t go to plan, they fell down the list, didn’t have much money on the OOM, and then had to make the decision to drop back to the CT in fear of losing status on both Tours…

Here is an example of Ben Evan’s events this year who finished the 2015 season 110 keeping his card for the 2016 season compared to my season from the Q-School category showing the difference in the events and prize funds  throughout the year.

MY HIGHLIGHTS

  • leading the Trophée Hassan II after 3 rounds following a course record 67 (-5)
  • Climbing to the top of the leaderboard in round 1 of the French Open around a notoriously difficult course
  • Top 10 in Austria (Lyoness Open)
  • Top 10 in Holland (KLM Open) – which then got me into the following week for the Italian Open
  • Leading the Italian Open
  • Final round 66 (-5) in the Portugal Masters to feel I had given myself a chance of keeping my card for 2017

TOUGH TIMES

  • travelling to Perth to be 1st reserve and then see two players withdraw after 1 round
  • to not get into the event in India when normally they struggle to fill the field – another event I had paid for flights and visas
  • to miss out on the Omega Masters at Crans Montana, an event people speak so highly about
  • the frustration of seeing players from my category receiving invites into events I couldn’t play
  • to not play in either of the English events

Despite these ‘lows’ which, looking back, now sound so trivial, I really hope you can tell from my blogs how pleased I have been with my rookie year, and the great thing about all those ‘lows’ is that with my new improved Category none of those will now be relevant for 2017!

It really can be a year of planning my schedule and a season where so many new opportunities will be presented to me!!! It’s such an exciting prospect and what a truly amazing experience it’s going to be!

MY PLAYING STATS

  • Events played: 22
  • Cuts made: 17
  • Best finish: 5th
  • Top tens: 3

Trophée Hassan II, Morocco

Lyoness Open, Austria

KLM Open, Holland

  • Lowest round: -6 Italian Open
  • OOM position: 109
  • Highest OWGR: 338

TRAVEL STATS

  • Air miles: 137,000
  • Time in the air: 193 hours
  • Flights taken: 41
  • Countries visited: 17
My 2016 flight diary!

My 2016 flight diary!

THANKS

As always, a huge thank you has to go to my main sponsors, DPPublicity, Abzorb, BetOptima, AZ Intec and Stromberg, as without their support this dream would not have been possible!

And as well as my main sponsors, without the support and sponsorship from so many other local companies, friends, members from Woodsome Hall and Crosland Heath, I wouldn’t be able to compete at this level with the travelling costs of being on the road more than half the year!

And I really have the most amazing team of people around me too!

So thank you Mark Pearson (Coach), Steven Tooby (Caddy), Lee Crombleholme (Mental), Rachael Tibbs (Fitness) and of course Duncan Maxim (Manager).

Without these people I would struggle to get from A to B, carry my bag, hit it straight, think straight and stand tall!!

Only kidding, they do so much more than just that, and most importantly they are all great friends!

I truly have a great team, but the closest team members are my family and close friends. They deal with the ups and downs week in week out, they are always on the other end of a phone and at times I’m sure it’s tougher for them!

They constantly remind me how hard it is watching live scoring … still not sure it’s tougher than playing though – ha ha!

YOUR QUERIES…

I always get asked about INVITES, and how they work.

Honestly, I don’t know! It was tough at times seeing players from my category and behind me in the list playing events off invites when I wasn’t playing, but that’s what happens to everyone at some point.

Some people know the promoters, sponsors, some management companies run events, invites are sometimes swapped between countries…

But all I do know is that if you play well it takes care of everything and you don’t need invites!

I also heard many players from my category say the Q-School category is a waste of time this year, events have been limited and you may as well not bother…

But I’m so pleased to say myself and 8 others from my category retained our cards for the following season and proved the ‘critics’ wrong!

And it is pleasing to know I played the least number of events out of the 9 of us and still finished inside the bubble…

Very pleasing stats from 2016!!

Very pleasing stats from 2016!!

THE BEST EVENTS

The French Open was everything I expected, after hearing so much about the course, and it didn’t disappoint!

Sweden was great, I had the family with me and the crèche, players’ hospitality and the set up was first class, the course was really fun too with a fantastic stadium finish to it!

I’ve played Denmark twice now and the effort that goes into the event is unbelievable, no stone goes unturned and the atmosphere is world class around ‘Himmerland Hill!’

The Dunhill Links was a really cool event to play, at the ‘home of golf’ around three world class courses, with so many family and friends up to watch – and to meet my amateur partner Art Moossmann and his wife Jacqueline was really special!

BEST PLAYER

I’ve played with plenty of household names this year: Howell, Harrington, Larrazabal, Willett, Hatton, Wattel, and Ramsay.

But the two stand out players for me were Bernd Wiesberger and Richard Bland. I think Bland goes so underrated purely for the fact he is yet to win, he seems all round a very solid player!

And Wiesberger was a very impressive ball striker, you only have to check out his results to see that … like Blandy, another top ten machine!!

So that’s another year of blogging, and it’s great to know next year’s blogs will again be from the European Tour!!

I really hope you’ve all enjoyed my journey around the world and if you ever have any ideas of what you would like to see on my blogs from ‘behind the scenes’, please do say!

The 2017 season actually starts in 4 weeks in 2016 … so it’s back to Leopard Creek for me in South Africa, followed by the Hong Kong Open, so there should be plenty of fun things to blog about then!!

Thanks as ever, Chris!!!!!

Present from David (DPP) printed exactly when it was confirmed!

Present from David (DPP) The OOM printed exactly when it was confirmed!

Wow #109 on the Race 2 Dubai – NEW BLOG!

It’s a funny time of year on the European Tour for many people and for so many different reasons…

A handful of players are trying to win the OOM, some players are on the bubble to qualify for the final series of events (top 75), and many people like myself are fighting to keep their playing rights for another year.

That number is 110 on the OOM but could potentially fall lower if some players do not fill their playing criteria (it ended up as 111).

I’m sure everyone is feeling different about being on the bubble of 110:

  • some players have been out here for ten years and to lose their card would be a huge change in their career, I think some would not find it easy going back to the Challenge Tour and I suppose many won’t do it!
  • some guys are back and forth between the two Tours each year and a visit to Q-School or another year on the Challenge Tour is not something they fear but probably frustrates them more…
  • some players are coming to the end of their careers or reducing their playing schedules and for them also it may not be a huge issue… they may just play a few selected invites, play on a past winners’ category etc, etc, etc…

But for me it’s an amazing position to be in!!

Twelve months ago, and pretty much to the day of writing this, I was looking at job options, thinking what on earth could I do with myself, I only knew golf!

I’d had ten great years playing this game but financially it was make or break time, it had caught up with me and I was struggling to afford to get myself on the plane to China for one of the last few Challenge Tour events and even enter European Tour Q-school.

But thanks to many of my amazing sponsors, they helped get me to these events and the rest is history!

From gaining the last card at Q-School to finding myself inside the top 110 with one event to go is pretty special and it’s been an incredible journey to date!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the blogs along the way…?

Whatever was to happen in Portugal, and wherever I was destined to finish, I will always be grateful for the support I received from sponsors, friends, family and my coach Mark Pearson for pushing me that bit further and believing in me!!

Sometimes in this game you feel so far away from your goals but at the same time you are so, so close!!!

So after being invited as a guest to Woodsome Hall’s annual dinner, which was again a great honour, I apologised and fled the evening early, as a 4.30am taxi to the airport on a Sunday morning was not ideal!

But it made perfect sense to be out in Portugal early, to get some really good practice in and not be rushing around flying in on a Tuesday!

Some nicer weather, some great greens/facilities and the luxury of staying at my good friend Bob Whiteley’s villa were also pretty good selling points.

Once again a huge thank you to Mark Pearson my coach, who made the trip out on the Tuesday to keep a watchful eye on my preparation, I can’t fault his commitment!!

So after 4 solid days’ of practice there was nothing else to tick off my to-do-list, I was ready for another challenge!

The draw this week was clearly ‘fixed’ as players on the ‘bubble’ were paired together, for example I was with Oliver Fisher and Jason Scrivener, both guys outside the bubble who went on to gain their 2017 cards! “Bravo lads”.

Another ‘bubble’ group was good friend Daniel Im playing with Eddie Pepperell and Craig Lee…

…it’s a hell of a sport and to hear Im’s caddy tell the story of how Pepperell hit it OB on the last and Craig Lee 3 putted the last to both miss the cut by 1 and pretty much forfeit the chance of keeping their card was tough to hear…

It is tough, the standard is high, especially with the cut falling at -4!!

I played solid for two days (-6) on what can only honestly be described as an easy and unfairly set up course… soft greens and virtually NO rough to be found on the course anywhere!!

A bomber’s paradise, with maybe only 3 holes where you have to really hit a ‘proper’ tee shot! (7th, 14th, and 18th).

Not my cup of tea, as you don’t get the reward for driving well… but for once I got my head around that and dug in making enough birdies to see me through to the weekend!!

That was the first challenge, it’s been a tough month mentally… I could not go a day without someone asking “have you done enough to keep your card…?”

Or “is that 2017 wrapped up…?” I really had no idea!!

It was also a pretty much 50/50 split of people thinking and saying I had already done enough with the other half saying one more cut and you’re safe!!

So after missing the cut comfortably in Germany and Scotland it felt as though Portugal was my last hope to hang on…

An interesting mindset to deal with, and one that was totally new to me!! Hence me turning off all social media and contact with the world this week until Sunday afternoon!

Except my wife of course!! Ha ha!!

I spent a whole week like many others watching the scores from the British Masters and counting pennies of who could pass me and what people needed to do… I was number mad and it was driving me and my family crazy!

This week I shut off from it all – no leaderboards, no scoreboard watching, and no talking about what I needed to do!

As I all needed to do was control myself, what everyone else did was out of my control!!

So good golf from me was my only hope!

For two days our group played some great stuff, both Oli and Jason played some fantastic stuff, we really pushed each other along and had a laugh out there! Surprisingly it felt pretty relaxed!

I don’t know what then changed for me but Saturday sure didn’t feel the same… after a good start my game went backwards, I totally lost the pace on the greens, hit some poor shots, got frustrated and after shooting +3 I pretty much hit the bottom of the leaderboard in 75th position!

I NEVER GIVE IN!! And round 4 the only thing I knew was every single Euro may make a difference to the OOM, playing with Daniel I knew I had to stay ahead of him in the OOM… but again I could not control his score or anyone else’s, so I didn’t want to mentally get into a match play with him!

Getting set!!

Getting set!!

ROUND 4….

To ‘smoke’ my drive off the first and walk off with bogey wasn’t the start I was after!

But from then on I probably played the most positive round of golf of the year…

I holed out for birdie from 15ft on 2 and 4…

A two putt birdie on the par 5 5th followed by a 20ft birdie on the 6th! I’d bounced back from my start, got the pace of the greens and the bit between my teeth!

Two solid birdies on 11/12th and I got to -5….

I got out of position on 14 and compounded my error from the fairway bunker making double – I mentally took it amazingly well – and then made three great birdies in a row to stand on the last 6 under! #bounceback

Have any of you played the 18th?

It’s a horror! Off the back tee it’s 460 yards, we played it Sunday in a strong cross wind off the water down the left side…

The fairway banks off to the water, and then miss the fairway right you can find some of the only rough on the course and a couple of big bunkers!

Really, if you miss the fairway you’re not making par as you’re then playing over the water to the green!

I blazed it miles right into a trap (it wasn’t going left) and was pretty happy to chop it down the last and make 5!!

If you did watch the coverage you would have seen how that hole can get you… Graeme Storm made bogey down there to lose his card by €101… a very harsh ending to his valiant fight back over the last few events!

I walked off the course really pleased with how I produced a score under what was a totally new pressure for me…

I then had the 5 hour wait to see how the scores panned out… and three of those hours were sat in front of the TV watching it unfold!

I’m not going to lie… the first hour I was pretty chilled, I’d played good, was pretty happy thinking I had a chance… but then I think it sunk in… it may or may not happen now… and after the amazing year I didn’t want to see it not happen and be back to Q-School….

I wanted another crack at it in 2017!!

I sat in the caddies’ lounge with Steve, it was pretty quiet but everyone was doing the arithmetic, and I can honestly say I felt my heart pounding in my chest… I’ve never had that on the course never mind off the course, but it sunk home how much I wanted this and it felt like it was possibly going to be taken away from me…

“What if Hansen wins… or Lawrie… will that knock me out…?” There were so many scenarios!

I ended up leaving the course for the airport with a few hours of play to go… it probably helped getting away from it… and then finally I got the confirmation from my caddy Steve as I walked through security at the airport!

A huge feeling off relief sank in… but it never hits home until I speak to Laura and the emotions then flow out of us both!!

It’s been an incredible year – to share it with her, my children, my close family and friends has been truly amazing!!!

And then to write these blogs and get the unbelievable response to my ‘life on Tour’ makes it even more worthwhile!

There really are too many people to thank, and I would be scared to miss people out! But you all know who you are and what part you have played, it’s been a #teamhanson effort and without family, friends, coaches and sponsors the dream wouldn’t be remotely possible!!!!!

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I started out was…

“surround yourself with good people who believe in you and who you believe in”

And I’ve done just that!!!!

A HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!!! 

PS – thanks to all the Crosland Heath members, Woodsome Hall members, friends from the Yorkshire area and new friends from this week who walked the course supporting me, to have you cheering me on all the way was fantastic!

And again a huge thank you to my good friend Bob Whiteley for letting us use his amazing villa at Pinheiros Altos, it sure helped keep me and Steve relaxed!

  • My 2016 ‘End of season’ blog to follow…..

*COMPETITION TIME*

To win the amazing prize below… all you have to do is answer the following question and email your answer to hansonprogolf@googlemail.com

Q: How many birdies/eagles did I make in the 2016 Portugal Masters….?

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 13.45.11

 

To read more about the prize follow this link – click here…