Caddies on Tour – Austria Blog!

Another week, another country and another golf course…there is no hiding from the fact that things aren’t currently going to plan! But it’s not for the lack of trying…can you try too hard?

Golf is a very frustrating game, it’s very fine margins…one shot here, one shot there, you can lose momentum so quickly and sometimes it’s tough to get it back.

But last week in Austria I did feel like I had turned a corner; my practice Tuesday had gone really well, I felt I was starting to hit some better shots, and the videos I had been sending to my coach looked a lot better.

Also, I was requested to play the pro-am, and that was perfect timing, it was a chance to test my swing in a semi pressured environment.

I drove the ball well, hit some good irons and felt to roll it nicely. I have fond memories of the Diamond Club, finishing top ten last year, so felt I knew my way round quite well.

The only difference this year was that the course dried out fast and got firmer and firmer…fast running fairways and bouncy greens, a combination which meant you had to play well and control your ball.

Round one I was pretty solid, I got off to a nice start and was a couple under after 4 holes, then it all fell apart on the tricky 7th…my tee shot found the fairway trap and from there I hit two into the water short of the green; in the end, I made a decent up and down for an 8 (+4).

Have I mentioned momentum at all? It had well and truly gone!!

A good birdie on 9 kept me upbeat and in the end I finished +1 which, with an 8, was respectable and around the cut mark.

So, after some practice, I headed back to the hotel and out for tea for one of my favourite meals – good old-fashioned Schnitzel, potatoes and cranberry sauce!

This week I was staying just out of town in a hotel recommended by the caddies. It’s quite a refreshing change staying where the caddies stay and normally nice and cheap. I would say I have a good balance with what I do, sometimes in the players’ hotel, sometimes on my own, and whenever possible with the family.

But it’s great to go out with the caddies – you hear some fantastic stories about some of the game’s greats, some hilarious stories about their own journeys around the world, but also you hear their perspective on the game and what they think of many players from a caddie’s point of view.

Who’s disliked, who to avoid, who pays good, who pays bad, who they think are great players etc etc….

Like my coach Mark talks about, caddies also see things with ‘hindsight’…and they don’t have the emotion attached to shots that players have…if they don’t know the player well they just see the shot as the shot.

“It’s 158 yards, hit it at that tree” – simple…or so it should be but as players you are wired slightly differently and see danger in a different light to them.

Finding a good caddy is tough (don’t worry Steve, you’re in the good bracket) and some players really struggle. It’s very easy for a caddie to get the blame and normally they are the first one to get the bullet.

I know one player who has had at least 10 caddies this year; that can’t be good for your game but maybe he’s looking for that ‘super caddie’ to transform his game.

Caddies lose jobs every week, and there seem to be little milestones throughout the year when there is a big shuffle, such as around Wentworth, and definitely in the next few weeks before the big money Rolex events start.

Nobody wants to miss out on playing these events and of course that’s understandable, but I’m sure there will be texts flying around all over the place offering their caddy services to certain players.

Caddies are a huge part of the Tour, they are mandatory, they aren’t allowed to use trolleys (bag weighs 20/30kg), and from a player’s perspective they make life a lot easier, though some would disagree I’m sure!!

My only gripe for them is that sometimes they seem to be ‘mistreated’ or don’t get enough respect for what they bring to the tournament – like I said, they are mandatory and a key part of the event each week. Players ALWAYS get full hospitality, food, drinks, comfort all week, it’s fantastic…but for caddies this sometimes is a privilege, some weeks they get nothing or just food on tournament days.

I know this is down to the sponsors/promotors, as it’s an expense for them, but if something was to change I think it would be great for them to get the same privileges as the players, families, managers etc.

Luckiest caddy on Tour... best boss and gets paid a fortune ;-)

Luckiest caddy on Tour… best boss and gets paid a fortune ;-)

SOME FLASH BACK PHOTOS FROM MY JOURNEY WITH STEVE!!!!

So back to my golf…

Round 2 the wind was up, easily a two-club wind and it had dried the course out, it was tough! I felt it was one of the toughest tests of the year, there were a lot of demanding shots and you had to get your ball in position to stand any chance of making birdies.

After 18 holes I made none, and signed for an 80!

My worst score of the year and it didn’t actually feel I had played that bad, it just got away from me very quickly!!

I actually joked to Steve on the last that I had to make birdie to break 80 or someone was getting sacked – his reply was priceless…

“But I really like working for you and don’t want to have to sack you”.

So, another early bath, but this time it wasn’t a weekend on ‘misery hill’, I was flying back to Manchester for a day’s practice at Woodsome, and then the following morning in Leeds with my coach before flying back to Spain to see the girls!!

Onto the next one we go…

Germany, France, Ireland, Scotland!

The Nordea Masters

So, the week started early due, sadly, to missing the cut at Wentworth, but I stayed around to practise on Saturday and then headed down to Walton Heath Sunday to see the course prior to US Open Qualifying Monday morning.

With it being 36 holes Monday I didn’t want to do too much Sunday, so I walked the Old Course with a wedge and putter, and then after lunch set out to walk the New Course.

After three holes, a rain storm brought us in and we called it a day, deciding to play the New Course ‘blind’ the following day.

I had decent tee times in the second to last group, so no need to set that ‘killer’ alarm clock! “Phew”

The courses were great – heathland, loads of heather like Crosland Heath, and decent greens, it was going to be fun!

Starting on the New course I missed two chances early on, made a poor bogey on the 3rd and battled around, finally pulling the shot back along with another getting to -1!

A crap bogey around the turn but a perfect eagle on 14 saw me finish -2 for round one!

It’s pretty much all or nothing in these events, and especially with the heavy rain Sunday night it made the course a lot easier, so we expected the qualifying score to be at the least -8!

I think through 9 holes I was level par, and the clouds were getting darker, I joked to my playing partner “if it rains are we going in?”

And from that moment I went birdie, birdie, eagle and all of a sudden, I was -6… the challenge was still on!

We got on to 16 and didn’t even realise it was a par five… I hit driver, 7 iron onto the green, and walked off with birdie to get to -7….

Birdie, birdie finish maybe?? Sorry, not this time sports fans, as a bogey on the tough 17th soon stopped the dream!

But over all a positive day, the best I had driven the ball all year, I just didn’t get my share on the greens or that’s how it felt!

So, a long day Monday, time for the third hotel in three nights and back up to Heathrow airport to get some sleep before that ‘killer’ alarm I mentioned and a 6.30am flight to Copenhagen!

It was Sweden (Malmo) this week for the Nordea Masters but we actually flew to Copenhagen in Denmark and had courtesy cars across the bridge and straight to the course, again a fantastic service from the Tour and Promoter!

A bit of practice, then out on the course for a practice round… 7700+ yards this week, so a long battle and after some rain and strong winds it soon became longer and longer!

It’s a great track, mostly through the woods, but then out to sea for 4 holes down the coast!!

Rooming with Sam Walker and Marcus Armitage in an apartment this week, we headed out for dinner then got back and hit the pillow.

Wednesday was planned to be the normal preparation day, but after shocking winds all day and being bitterly cold, there wasn’t much practice anyone could do.

I got a nice surprise Tuesday, though, Laura’s mum and dad are out with the family in Spain and suggested that she came out to Sweden to watch, so she did, her parents looked after the children and Laura flew into Malmo Wednesday afternoon.

So back on the 1st tee again Thursday afternoon, and after 8 holes it wasn’t the start I was after (+3). It was playing pretty tricky for everyone; the scoring wasn’t great and I stuck at it… I then made 4 birdies in five holes and got to -1, which also moved me inside the top 20.

I had some momentum and some confidence back, but as most of you know as golfers, that’s when this game bites you in the a**e the most!

Double bogey, bogey, par, bogey, par finish to fall straight back to plus 3 and back down the leaderboard to where I was after nine holes!

All that bloody hard work and let it go, very frustrating!

Day two I played much better overall but couldn’t buy a birdie! I shot 74 (+1) to miss the cut by three shots!

Again, a tough week to take – the only saving grace was that after a full day of practice Saturday to put a few things right over videos with Mark, we then managed to fly back to Spain to see the children!

Now that felt good, I’ve not seen them for nearly three weeks and I wasn’t supposed to be going back for another week, so it was a big surprise for them when they woke up Sunday morning and daddy was home for two days before flying back out to Austria!!!!!!

I can’t wait!!

It is the dream job, and I’m very lucky to do what I do, but I’m looking forward to being a dad for at least 36 hours and forgetting where the clubs are!

The BMW PGA Championship!

My first BMW PGA Championship…

So, Wentworth over the last 12 months has been redesigned, and it’s cost £21m to do so!! All the greens have been re-laid, six have been redesigned and all the bunkers improved and many shallowed out, especially on the fairways.

It cost £7m alone to add the ‘sub air’ system to the greens, which they also have at Augusta; this system allows them to dry the greens out as much as they want to be able to control the bounce of the ball all week.

Having punishing rough and firm greens makes a great set up in my eyes, it rewards players who drive the ball well, but then you still have to control your ball flight into the greens and manage your game well, judging the bounce each hole.

The greens really were incredible, and I guess they had to be for that money, but it had been the greens over the years that had kept so many good players away from Wentworth, and this year not one player had anything negative to say about the set-up of the European Tour flagship event.

As per usual, the service and hospitality from BMW was world class, the courtesy cars provided are not even on sale yet, brand new models and they chauffeur you around whenever and wherever you want to go.

The players’ lounge is five star, it’s pretty much like being in a top-class restaurant every day; the breakfast laid out is fantastic and then the lunch selection takes it to another level, mostly freshly cooked in front of your eyes!

As a player or a guest, you truly are spoilt – I know my guests throughout the week were very appreciative of the hospitality they received.

It was my first European Tour event in England bar the Open, but that of course is run by the R&A, so things are a little different – in fact, very different! The European Tour are trying so many different things, pushing the boundaries of traditional golf and trying to make it not only better for the players but more interactive and exciting for the fans.

For example, announcements on the first tee, including bio’s, videos, and music on the driving range – they tried it in Abu Dhabi this year and from a player’s point of view it worked, it totally changes the atmosphere, and at Wentworth the players’ playlist was on the big screen, as we had to select a song of our choice for when we were practising!

My prep for the week had gone well, I loved the course layout, the condition and everything about it! My coach Mark was down to help me prepare for the event, too, and teeing it up Thursday I felt ready.

 

ROUND UP

I actually played ok, it’s a tough but rewarding golf course… I found myself out of position a few times and then compounded those errors making two big numbers on 9 and 15! I made a few birdies but in the end signed for 77 (+5).

Obviously not the start I was after, lying in around 130th place, but it just about kept me in with a chance of making the cut.

I was out second from last on Friday, and after a morning of strong swirling winds I was pretty sure it would bring the cut line up to +2.

I played the first two holes perfectly, missing birdies from inside 15ft on both holes, then played the next two holes pretty perfectly too, and made two birdies. Back to +3 already and within touching distance of the cut line with plenty of holes to go!

I handed one back on the next, but played round to the 11th tee, missing a couple of good chances.

Then out of position on 11 off the tee I made bogey, didn’t make birdie down the ‘easy’ 12th, and then it was time to try press to make some birdies coming in…

I played solid but it didn’t happen, I gave it 110% and in the end my level par was probably one of the better rounds of the day in the conditions but not enough to make the weekend.

 

Again, disappointing in such a big event and the first event of the Rolex series, but it’s all part of golf and now I have to look ahead to the next events and keep working harder – I have a great plan/process in place!!

A huge thanks to all the friendly faces that were down to support me during the week: my Mum, Ben Johnson, Eddy Brown, Phil Coombes, Mark Pearson, Gerry Taylor (TPS) and, as ever, the top work from Steve on the bag, ever the professional!

So, a Saturday practice at Wentworth on #MiseryHill, then down to Walton Heath for a day walking both the New and Old course in preparation for 36 holes Monday in the US Open Qualifying!

— Again a huge thanks to all the European Tour players for supporting the #CharityBall we are hosting on 4th August, if you are still interested in the evening or would like more information please do get in touch… it would be fantastic to see so many of you there —

Pink Friday flags for the #CharityBall silent auction!

Pink Friday flags for the #CharityBall silent auction!

Charityball

The Rocco Forte Open

So we did it… We made the move!

And as anyone who has moved house knows, it’s never plain sailing. For us everything nearly went to plan, and after a week we were settled; the kids are into an amazing school and we have enjoyed some quality family time together!

Our location is great – Saturday evening I strolled 100 yards from my doorstep to the par 3 course, played a loop, then wandered down to the short game area to do some more practice….

It felt right, I’m so excited and really looking forward to what practice and structured preparation I can do in these ideal surroundings!

During the week my coach Mark Pearson also came out for the day, we did some work on the range then headed out on a buggy to the course with Trackman and transferred those feelings from the range to actual swings – a great exercise and something we have never had the time or chance to do!

So, as a family we are settled and everything feels great, the downside…I had to leave them there!

With the move coming sooner than expected, the travel plans for the family changed and I now have four weeks on the road by myself!

Sicily – Rocco Forte Open

Wentworth – BMW PGA Championship

Walton Heath – US Open Qual (1 day)

Sweden – Nordea Masters

Austria – Lyoness Open

This will be my longest time away from them; I’ve never done four weeks, so it will be a tough stretch but hopefully it will work out ok!

So Sicily bound via Stansted from Malaga, and a new little adventure for me from the start…

How to get to Malaga airport? The best route ended up being a taxi to the bus station in Marbella, then a direct bus to the airport…pretty easy really and cheap enough!

That meant a long travel day Monday for a European event but I won’t have to do that too often and after a good sleep I was buzzing to get to the course and see what it had in store…I’d heard good things!

The resort was spectacular, the views amazing but with no wind it was very, very scoreable!

And the scores in the first two rounds proved just that! The greens were soft and slow and there was no rough to be seen anywhere.

Guys were shooting 9 and 10 under for fun!! I didn’t quite see that and shot 70 (-1) in the first round…way off the pace and needing a low round to make the weekend!

My stats showed I was playing decent, two bad swings cost me in round one, so a patient day in round two and I knew I could post a number!

But, again, no real wind or elements to protect the course, so another day of everyone making birdies.

I played decent though, and stats showed that, but relative to the field I didn’t make anywhere near enough of my chances to compete near the top this week!!

And in the end I made a shocking bogey down my last hole, the tenth, to miss the cut by ONE!!!!!

Shooting -4 for two days and going home certainly reflects on the standard of the golf but also the set-up of the course.

A hugely disappointing feeling and then to top it off I had my first internet ‘troll’ abuse on twitter, not a nice feeling, but one to learn how to ignore as I’m sure the better you get the more haters you also seem to get!!

You’ve only got to ask Poulter about that…

So, how do you turn this negative into a positive, as there is no point dwelling on it… it’s golf, stuff happens, worse things have happened, and the reality of it is that it probably happens more often than not.

So here goes…

  • I’ve got an extra two days to prepare for Wentworth
  • Some good practice Saturday in Sicily
  • I didn’t have to play in the 30mph winds on Saturday and lose my swing feelings
  • I got to Wentworth early feeling fresh and managed to play 12 holes Sunday afternoon before the circus of the PGA Championship starts

How exciting… My first BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour, the flagship event and the first of the new Rolex series!

This is stuff that dreams are made of. I came down to this event on my way to a Challenge Tour event three years ago thinking ‘wow, this is incredible!’ So to now see my name on the entry list makes everything over the years feel very worthwhile!!

Let’s have a fun week!!!!

A disappointing Shenzhen Open!!

Another cracker of a course last week! I don’t think I’ve actually played a bad course in China, they just seem to know what they are doing…

From the locker rooms to the course, everything is 1st class; I guess they just have the money to throw at it like in Dubai!

Compared to the course the previous week, it was very different; this week the exam off the tee was nowhere near as strong!

On the eye it was a lot easier and if you missed the bunkers it was just the semi rough you had to tackle and not 50ft Moroccan trees!

But again another week of different grass, so you just need a little extra time to get used to chipping and putting, how the ball comes off the face, and how it reacts on the greens!

Putting practice!

Putting practice!

I didn’t get much sleep that Monday night, time zones are a tough one to crack and with a seven hour difference I found it hard to get to sleep, then when the alarm gets you up you certainly don’t want to move!

I played my practice round Tuesday with Robert Karlsson, a super nice guy and extremely helpful…nearly too helpful as I think he wanted Steve’s job! It was like having a second caddy for most of the day; we got the full run down of the course from ALL his past experience…nearly in as much detail as which blade of grass to aim for!

After 18 holes we were pretty much wiped out, so headed back to the hotel, had a gym session and tried to eat late.

I got back to my room for 10.30pm with the hope of getting a good night’s sleep…No chance…4.30am I was still awake – it’s so frustrating and I even resorted to counting sheep at one point, my head was spinning, thinking of everything, my body was still telling me it’s early evening!

Jet lag is a nightmare, and there is not much you can do about it!

Power nap!

Power nap!

With the heat, the jet lag, and just general exhaustion from the travel, Wednesday was a ‘light’ practice day.

I did what I had to do, got the swing in a better place, did some good short game practice and got out of there!

A chilled out evening and I even surprised myself by getting a good meal down me…it was steak and veg though!

It’s the only part of the world where I struggle with the food; some players have no problem but I’m not a fan out there, so the strict diet takes a bit more of a back seat and you eat what you like and make sure you’re not going to bed hungry!

Once I find a meal, I stick to it, it’s a safe bet then.

I was actually dreading going to bed, another night like the previous night could ruin me…if I didn’t get to sleep again till 4.30am with a 5am alarm I don’t think a 30 minute power nap would get me through the day playing 18 holes in the heat!

I felt my eyes going at ten…that was it, let them go and see what happens!

I had a great sleep and felt pretty good waking up at 5am – I even had chance to ring Laura as I woke up, it was only 10pm at home!

Time zones really are incredible!!!!

Round 1 was steady away, a couple of really good par saves, and just one three putt bogey from long range!

With the grain, you get some uphill putts that are just so slow! I was saying to myself…

“Come on Chris, smack it up there, give it a chance” then see it pull up 6ft short again!!!! Argh!

Then you got a super quick one downhill, down grain, and had no idea how hard to hit it!!

Grain is as incredible and as mind baffling as time zones!!!

In the end I signed for 70 (-2).

I managed another decent sleep that night and was set for an afternoon of golf, storms and more expected delays!

We played four holes in a mix of torrential rain and strong winds and then the klaxon went…I was 1 over at the time and felt the delay probably wasn’t a bad thing for me.

So, looking for a fresh start Saturday morning – even with a 4am alarm call.

The day didn’t go to plan; I hit some OK shots but never capitalised on them, then missed a couple of greens and struggled with the rough around the greens leaving my chips way short…

The grass looks and feels so thin, and you expect to club to comfortably get through the grass, but it doesn’t and you soon lose the desired club speed and in turn lose the strike!!

I didn’t make a birdie in the second round, let a few shots go, but battled all the way; I gave myself a great chance with three to play but missed from 7ft.

I followed that up with a world class up and down from the sand on 8, and then proceeded to play one of my worst holes of the year to miss the cut by one!

It wouldn’t surprise me if the 9th hole played the easiest all week – a straightforward drive sets you up for a 240ish approach to the par 5.

I had a 5 wood off the down slope and hit one of the worst shots of the year out right and out of position; I left myself in a tricky spot but shouldn’t have taken 4 to get down from there!!!!!

What a mess, what a huge disappointment and such a sour feeling to follow such a fantastic week in Morocco!

Golf sure isn’t easy at times, even if sometimes it does feel that way, but it certainly has the habit of knocking you straight back down to ground level if you get ahead of yourself at all!

I’m not sure I did, but I certainly got frustrated with how the two days panned out!

But like life, golf is very similar in that you learn from your mistakes if you allow yourself to, so let’s hope I do!!

So a mammoth journey home…

  • Three-hour drive to Hong Kong,
  • 14 hours in a hotel
  • Three-hour flight to Bangkok
  • Three-hour connection
  • 12 hours to Heathrow
  • 4-hour drive home

I now have three weeks before my next event in Sicily, which is the start of a four week run, including my first BMW PGA Championship and the first event in the new Rolex series!!

Exciting stuff!

Morocco take 2! Trophee Hassan ll

After four weeks off, some life changing decisions made, and the privilege of watching an amazing display of golf at Augusta in The Masters from Garcia and Rose, I was ready to get going myself – full of plenty added motivation!!

The next three weeks looked like Morocco for the Tropheé Hassan ll, followed by two weeks in China for the Shenzhen Open and The Volvo China Open.

But as it stands I’m currently 17th reserve for the 2nd week in China – a bit of a shock, as I was pretty sure I would be into that event straight away. So, it’s a waiting game or I play my way into the event through a top 5 at the Shenzhen Open – now that would be nice!

With Morocco scheduled a lot earlier this year, and out of the holiday season, flights were limited, so my best bet was to take the charter flight from Gatwick airport that the European Tour arrange for players.

After weighing up the options for getting to Gatwick for 6pm Monday (drop off? taxi? one way hire car?), the winning option came out as train – at least I could get some laptop jobs done and have some food en route, surely more relaxed.

I paid a bit more for 1st class, £86 to travel from Huddersfield > Wakefield > London King’s Cross, a quick walk to London St Pancras > Gatwick airport.

It sounded simple, it should have been simple; straight to Wakefield no problems, then a slight delay for my connection but I soon got into an empty 1st class carriage, ordered my breakfast and was set up for a two-hour journey down to Gatwick…or so I thought!!!

20 minutes in, we stopped; thinking nothing of it and pretty hungry, the announcement arrived….

“This train is terminated, please make your way to platform 4.”

Dragging a case and golf clubs as fast as you can, down two flights of stairs and back up two flights of stairs in a herd of people is not easy, to then queue and cram yourself onto the carriage and sit on your suitcase like a sardine, next to the toilet for two hours, was not how I envisaged my first 1st class train experience would be…

I then stumbled off the train minus my ticket (lost) and made my way to the next station, blagged my way through and jumped on the next train for an hour to Gatwick, this time it went ok!!

In the end it wasn’t too bad, even if it does sound like I made a massive drama of it! I got to Gatwick four hours prior to flying, checked in for the charter plane and headed to the airport lounge to chill and feed!

The flight out was interesting. I ended up sitting next to one of the old-school caddies – if he hadn’t done it, it wasn’t worth doing…

To be fair, his CV was pretty good, and he had some great stories about Seve, Faldo, Sandy Lyle and many more of the greats!! But after watching him take down two bottles of red wine, he was getting a bit much and extremely loud after four hours!!!

We got to the hotel 10pm ish and I was certainly ready to see my bed!!

Steve (caddy) had got to the course 24 hours before me; he walked the course as he always does, checked out the new changes, the extended bunkers and nine new bunkers, and was raring to go when I arrived 8am Tuesday morning – he may have missed me after four weeks…?

I had some good driver work to do first on the range; we have named it the #DD (driver development, if you were wondering…) and it’s just a few tests under more pressure than normal, as you read a lot about making your practice as hard as possible so it becomes a lot easier on the course.

You can’t be afraid to fail these tests but then you reap the benefits when you complete them as its pushing you a lot more, and the satisfaction you then get is way better than massaging your ego completing easy tests all the time!

Again, I loved the course, the changes felt to have made it harder, but it was firmer too; off the tee it’s still very demanding and you need to be in play to score!

After two days’ of practice I felt ready for the challenge, and I felt no one had been more productive in the build up to Thursday – that’s certainly something myself and my team pride ourselves on!

Day 1 (74 +1)

We had the afternoon wind and it was tricky. I battled hard, still didn’t drive it great, so was pretty happy to post +1 in the end even though I was a few under early on, but again like in India you just had to keep reminding yourself it’s tough for everyone.

Day 2 (70 -3)

Just a solid round of golf, and exactly what I needed – still not great off the tee but my coach Mark was soon quick to remind me how tough a driving exam it is and that I was being too harsh on myself. He came to this event last year so could appreciate some of the tee shots you have to hit.

BBC Sport

BBC Sport – Day 2

Day 3 (72 -1)

Playing with Victor Dubuisson was always going to be interesting; previously No 14 in the world and Ryder Cup hero, it’s always nice to see where your game is at in comparison.

A super-quiet guy but, like normal, the Hanson-Tooby interrogation of our playing partner got him to speak and he seemed a great guy. I enjoyed his company! But you had to laugh when the silent assassin had a ‘head off’ or a meltdown, as it seemed to come out of nowhere and we did see a few clubs flying around and a couple of good bag smashes!!

He was already minus a 9 iron from a fall out with it on the Thursday!

I played pretty good, I holed a nice 35ft birdie on 4, and then a monster 55ft putt on the 7th and with another birdie on 8 I got round to the 17th tee 3 under and bogey free…

17 is a strong hole, big bunker right and water running from the left edge surrounding the back of the green. I carved a 4 iron out right and made a bogey – not the end of the world but a shame to make my first bogey!

18 is a chance but you have to hit the perfect tee shot…I didn’t and my bad one crept back in for at least the 4th time that day. “FORE” – I heard it pinballing around the trees and it took me two to get out of them!

A really poor finish – to compound that bogey with a double was shocking, but it was all down to the drive. Dubuisson went on to make birdie on the last to my double and we were tied on -1 (-3 total) and set to play again together – lucky him!!!

Day 4 (71 -2)

I got the ball rolling on the 4th with the most perfect chip in! I’ve been working hard with my mind coach (Iain Highfield) on visualisation, landing spots and self talk and this was text book. I talked it through with Steve, how I saw the flight, where it would land, and how it would roll into the hole…and no surprise it did, after I struck it perfectly!

I gave that shot back on the 6th, a tough hole, then missed a short putt on 7 to fall to one over…I didn’t feel like I had done much wrong but was over the card!!

Momentum is key in this game, and on 11 I kept it, I had a twenty-yard bunker shot off a down slope which I played perfectly to 8ft, then rolled that in for a great par save.

All of a sudden you feel so much better about your game on the next tee. I smashed driver down there, hit 4 iron to 10ft and rolled the eagle putt in!!!!

Momentum was with me!

I parred the next three, and then down 16 just missed the fairway by a foot, and this is where Tour courses are different to back home; you get punished, not a bad drive and at home would have been sat up nicely in the semi rough – here it was a hack somewhere up by the green.

I found the green side bunker and left myself a smelly shot which I splashed out to 45ft…

If you watched the coverage on Sky you will have seen a rare fist pump from me when I saw it drop!! What a bonus, and what a great feeling to walk onto 17, saving par there.

So, a solid par on 17 and then me and the 18th had some making up to do after the third round shocker!

I’m not going to lie, I was thinking about how far right I hit it into the trees the day before, it’s hard not too, especially when you need to hit the perfect drive up the funnel of trees!

Self talk, that’s what I could hear Iain saying on my shoulder like a little angel, talk it through, Chris…

  • “big inside up feeling, rip it high and split the silver birch”

And I did, I don’t think anyone else would have hit 5 iron into 18 that day; I just left it on the fringe short left and played the most perfect chip and run 9 iron to 6 inches and tapped in for a birdie and a 71!

Now if you thought the day was over and I could now relax you were wrong!

We had a flight at 6.05pm, and had just walked off the 18th green at 4.55pm…was it possible? We soon found out…

We had a car waiting for us at the back entrance to the course, loaded with our luggage. Steve set off to load the clubs on, I handed my card in and probably sprinted half a mile to find Steve. The courtesy car driver then flipped his hazard lights on, popped it into sport mode and got us to the airport in 25 minutes!

Thankfully, it’s a small airport and we were the only flight leaving; we pretty much bypassed security and were sitting on the plane at 5.45pm!

We can’t thank AirFrance and the organisers at The Tropheé Hassan enough for their help getting us on that plane in time – everyone had bet against us not making it!

It was then RABAT(2hr) > PARIS (9hr) > BEIJING (3hr) > SHENZHEN arriving Monday night!

Another thank you this week must go to the team on the Fitness bus; the service they provide is first class and this week I had treatment on three of the days for a sore lower back and left hip problem!

After four weeks of trying to improve my driving and applying more stress on a different part of my leg, it’s certainly taken its toll and a Tiger Woods style limp down the last three holes of round two wasn’t nice.

BUS PICS

So, a quick round up of the week…

  • Birdies made = 14
  • Eagles made = 1
  • My 2nd highest finish on The European Tour = T6th
  • My highest world ranking = 288th
OWGR = 288

OWGR = 288

NEW BLOG: Dreams do come true!

Development window….

Four weeks at home has probably been my longest stretch in quite some time, so keeping it productive and not wasting a minute has been the key!

As I’ve said before, you very rarely get a window to try and develop your game; when away, it’s a lot of work to keep happy and playable… but when home, and especially with four weeks, you need to push the boundaries and get better!!

I didn’t feel to drive it great in South Africa or India and felt that held me back from some really good finishes… my iron play has been fantastic, so getting into position off the tee sets me up well to capitalise!!

I didn’t do that, so I’ve spent a lot of time getter my driver back to where it needs to be, and hopefully keeping a good balance with the rest of my game!

It’s been hard, my coach will tell you that! I’ve had a few sessions hitting it everywhere and calling Mark to try and fix things over the phone, feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere, at times it felt impossible…

But after leaving Oulton last Monday, I felt very happy, knowing that I’m on track to a great week with the driver soon – let’s just hope the rest of the game is still ok….

It sure is a juggling act!!!!!

“EXCITING NEWS”

Golf is like many jobs or businesses; you set goals, things you want to achieve, targets and dream big!

I have goals that I want to achieve within the game, but also personal goals, life goals and we have family goals too!

I sat down with Iain Highfield (Mental Coach) a few years back and we discussed these, I really tried to open up!

So I was delighted last year when I ticked quite a few off my list…

  • invest in a Trackman ✅
  • trip to New York ✅
  • family holiday ✅

I want to be the best golfer I can be, I want to push into the top 50 in the world, compete in all the Majors, and call myself a European Tour winner…

And with goals like that I’m sure you will agree you have to give yourself the best possible opportunity! Two years ago I never even thought we would be in a position to contemplate this, but now it feels like the right thing to do!

Team Hanson are moving to Spain! While you can practise in the winter, and Woodsome do have some of the best facilities around, you’re limited to what you can do… poor weather and winter conditions, that’s just the UK for you.

At times I feel I’m standing still, not improving as much as I could, and in turn giving players who practise off perfect greens and fairways – and in warmer climates day in day out – an advantage.

They don’t have to readjust when going back out to tournaments.

Going from 0 degrees to 30 degrees in South Africa at altitude is certainly tricky!

As a family, we have always wanted to live in Spain; we trialled it for a month in 2015 and 2016 but I thought this move may be something we would do down the line…

So having the opportunity to take my game to the next level now is very exciting!!

We can’t wait!!

The #CharityBall

A huge thank you must go to all the people who have committed to a table at the #CharityBall we are hosting in August!

The planning is going really well with many exciting ‘extras’ lined up for the evening!

If you are still interested in the evening, please do act as soon as possible, as table preference is on a first come first served basis.

Email functionsbytlc@gmail.com or myself to book your place ASAP!

Also, a huge thanks for the donations that have been coming in to our JustGiving page!

If you can’t attend the evening but would still like to support the charities, please follow the link below…

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/thecharityball

Charityball

The #CharityBall team!

The #CharityBall team!

What’s next?

I’ve now got a three week stretch on the road – Morocco for the Trophée Hassan II, followed by two weeks in China.

Volvo China Open

Shenzhen Open

It’s going to be great to get back to Morocco; it was this course last year where I led going into the final round, so it will be fun to go back to a familiar course.

What didn’t happen in India….

I.N.D.I.A – “I’ll never do it again!”

That’s what the general feeling is from the players…you go, you get Delhi belly, you don’t enjoy it, and never go again.

For me, it was my second time to India; the first visit was my first ever event on the Challenge Tour (Ahmadabad), and I’m not going to lie – it was an eye opener!

I’ve now travelled round the world and visited 59 countries and I’d never seen sights like what I saw in India.

Thousands – and I mean thousands – of people sleeping on the roads; driving through the night from the airport you see families on the streets, children playing in the roads at 3am….these people don’t have homes, and this was on a massive scale!

I’d never seen rubbish like it. India must have the biggest divide between wealth and poverty – with nothing in between!!

We are very lucky in England, and very lucky to have the choice of where we live!

But even after hearing what other players had to say, it sure didn’t put me off playing a golf tournament there; my motto… “have clubs will travel” and that’s what I’ve always done – and many, many times at the drop of a hat!!

It was another fantastic opportunity on the European Tour and an event I didn’t get to play on my first year on Tour!

So, a night flight from SA to Delhi via Dubai, as that seems to be my central hub at present, and I arrived at the hotel around 5pm after the most hell raising 45-minute journey!

It really is a life experience driving around India – there are not many other words to explain it other than carnage! It’s a pure free for all; if you don’t keep driving you won’t get there; don’t brake, just keep nudging the accelerator until someone else stops!

We saw cows, pigs, goats, horses and dogs all wandering freely down roads and motorways! We saw cars performing U turns into oncoming traffic on the motorway, and people going the wrong way around roundabouts!

And I thought Dubai was bad for undertaking, in Delhi that is all they do!!!!

How we didn’t see a crash, I don’t know!!!!

So, curry for tea, fast asleep by 9.30pm, and up nice and early, ready to see what DLF Golf club had to offer!

First, another drive through slums to get there, but to then drive through the gates to find luxury, and probably one of the first golf courses I’ve ever described as WOW!

But this ‘wow’ can certainly be taken two ways; visually it was incredible – the bunker design is unique, the rock layout is impressive, the green designs are out of this world, the setting makes you feel you could be anywhere but India…

But ‘wow’ also means, this is one crazy, crazy golf course!!!!

I don’t think there was a tee shot on the course that gave you a breather… just a shot where you can feel to relax a little and just nudge it down there…

You just couldn’t – every hole has ‘hell’ at both sides, long grass/bushes or massive bunkers, all with riveted faces!!!

Then even when you got into position off the tee you were then faced with some of the craziest greens I’ve ever seen, and they were firm too!!!!

The best way to describe it is: on TV, it will look amazing but the players will look stupid at times…But I guess that’s what some people want to see…professionals struggling!!!

My personal opinion is that it was just a bit too unfair; good golf shots didn’t get enough of a reward at times!

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer it when it’s tough and scoring isn’t great, so for me to say the above takes some doing!!

So, heading back Tuesday to the hotel in the courtesy car, after what felt like the longest practice round in history (touching nearly 6 hours), we were ready for another driving exhibition…but we weren’t quite ready for this…

I was with Steve Tiley, and 1/2 mile from the hotel the driver had what we thought was an epileptic fit at the wheel – he had leaned into the back of the car looking at the roof and was shaking like mad.

The car was still going forward, Steve tried to pull the hand brake but in the BMW it’s the button, so he couldn’t stop it…we ended up crashing at probably 15mph into a mud banking!

The driver continued to shake, then whilst unconscious he started to vomit; we were surrounded quickly by 50 local Indian guys who started to pull him out of the car, shake him and pour water on him.

After ten minutes, he kind of came round but ended up walking off like a zombie into the middle of the road, out of control.

Scary!!!

Thankfully, someone got him to hospital, and from what we heard he was ok. We managed to get a lift back to the hotel and I guess I was lucky to walk away with only a bruised knee.

The way folks drive, it could have been a lot worse – thankfully no one else was involved!

So, after a good practice day on Wednesday, I was ready for what was set to be one of the toughest physical and mental challenges we will have all year!!

First round I battled and battled and was up and down all day, and after a storm delay and coming back to finish round one Friday morning, I shot +4.

That wasn’t out of it at all, but it sure felt like it was! And if it wasn’t for the attitude and the constant reminders every shot/hole from my caddy Steve, it would have been so easy to throw the towel in.

Even I said one hole: “Steve, I just want to throw this club in the ****** water!”

It felt very much like the scoring at Valderrama last year, and after Steve said he wasn’t going to let us bow out early like we did there, he probably worked harder than I did those first two days!

Day 2, we played decent and missed three great chances on the last three holes to shoot level!

In the end, we comfortably made the cut, and the next 12 hours I watched my name creep up the leaderboard 48 places from where I started the day!!

That in itself was a huge confidence booster for the weekend. It was just confirmation that I wasn’t playing as bad as it felt, and everyone was struggling!!

The weekend was a mixed bag of scoring. I played great on Saturday and shot 69 (-3), then Sunday I was in a great position to move up the board. I actually played a lot better than my score and in the end 76 (+4) didn’t move me down the leaderboard much!

T22nd with rounds of 76, 72, 69, 76 was pretty pleasing after what felt like such a long week, and certainly one of the toughest mental tests ever!

Mid-way in round one I was only thinking of the quickest way home, so to be on my scheduled Sunday night flight home with extra money on the OOM is great!

It’s now four weeks at home with the family before another three week stretch on the road.

MOROCCO – CHINA – CHINA

Please, please, please don’t ask me if I want to go out for a curry this week…

The Tshwane Open!

I never actually knew that Pretoria is the capital of SA; like most people I just presumed it was Johannesburg…the airport’s there, and everyone talks about the place like it’s the capital!

But once you drive around Pretoria you can see a difference – more money, bigger houses and even we were made to feel more important…police escorts back and forth from the course to the hotel every day!!

It was like wacky races; the Metro police on motorbikes think they’re in a Hollywood movie – we went through every red light, and went round every bit of traffic regardless of which side of the road it was on!!

The police turned the roads into chaos as no one else on the road expects a Toyota mini bus to be hell raising through the streets!

The Pretoria Country Club was a pretty nice set up too, it felt a bit old school, surrounded by mansions, it also had a bowling club, squash club and a super tight tree lined course in perfect condition!

They have money!!!

The range...

The range…

Putting green, looking down 18...

Putting green, looking down 18…

But it’s not often you play a course where you only hit between 5/6 drivers a round, and even stranger that you can’t hit driver on the practice ground prior to playing!

The range was too short, so a few 3 irons off some high pegs to get the feeling and then you were off!!

You soon get round to the 4th hole…

512 yards, trees all down the left, water all the way down the right, the fairway is 15 yards wide and lined with rough… and that’s not the first driver you really want to hit in a round!

I played pretty solid in round 1, shot 68 (-3) with the help of an eagle down the 9th…and that put me in a good position for round two, where a bit of a battle down the stretch saw me home in level par and safely through to the weekend in T28th position.

It wouldn’t have been a normal week in SA if we didn’t have a thunder storm….as we approached the first tee in round two, the klaxon went and we were off for an hour before starting our round!

In the end, they rushed us back out to make sure we finished in daylight and I made the cut safely and was in a perfect position to make a charge on moving day!

I certainly didn’t do that, and honestly I probably let myself down throwing shots away and starting to feel more and more frustrated!!

I birdied the last three – what felt like out of nowhere – to salvage some pride and make it feel respectable, but then tried to do exactly the same in round 4…only to eagle the last and again shoot 72 (+1).

So tied 62nd is not how I felt the week was going to go; my game felt good in the build up!

It’s tough to stay patient but that’s the plan, keep working through my process each week and the results will come.

It’s important that you believe in what you’re doing and I sure do so hang in, folks – a big result is around the corner!!

The Joburg Open 2017!!

My 11 days at home went pretty quickly and I was soon back on that Emirates plane heading to South Africa via a quick layover in Dubai!

In my time at home I managed to get two lessons in with Mark, a training session with Rachael, plenty of gym sessions at PureGym, and even got to play some holes at Woodsome, which was great!!

But mixed weather made it tough to get done exactly what I wanted, as you cancel more plans than you make, but having the indoor facilities at Woodsome sure helped!

So, back to South Africa for two weeks and then onto India for a week…. that’s the plan!

JOBURG OPEN

TSHWANE OPEN

INDIAN OPEN

In Joburg I was again fortunate enough to spend the week at my friend Wally’s house; I’ve said this before but he looks after me and Steve like we are part of the family!!

We’re very lucky!

The Joburg Open is a big field, approximately 210 players and it’s played over two courses – the East and the West!

It’s a big event on the Sunshine Tour, so as ever there is a super strong turn out from the South Africans all wanting to claim one of their major trophies!

It’s a great set up and so it was such a shame to see the forecast for the week, and for the first two days it was correct!

We teed off Monday morning in heavy rain, but then somehow got really lucky to play the last 15 holes in no rain and then walk off the course and sit having lunch watching the biggest downpour of rain we had seen in a long time!!

Tuesday was nearly a total wash out, the pro-am was cancelled, and we just nipped in and out of the rain doing bits of practice when we could!

I’d played this event last year, so had played both the courses before, and Wednesday I just played 9 holes and then did some light practice.

Any man will know how hard it is to practise when you’re full of man flu! ;-)

Rest was also key when a long week, bad weather, and very heavy under foot conditions prevailed, so staying off your feet was never a bad thing!

Round one, I was last out of the morning groups, playing with fellow Yorkshireman Marcus Armitage.

We started in showers, then through nine it turned into a pretty constant downpour! After holing out for par on 18 and a pleasing 68 (-4) we headed straight for shelter to then hear the klaxon go and play be suspended for the rest of the day!

For me that was pretty good, I didn’t have to come back the following morning at 6am to complete a few holes and then hang around till late lunch to start round 2.

But I guess it’s swings and roundabouts as I didn’t get to finish round two on Friday, so an early start Saturday beckoned anyway!

It was a 4.15am alarm, a quick breakfast and up to the club to warm up and get ready to be in position at 7am to start my back nine of round 2 on -2 and -6 total!

As it’s such a big field the depth in scoring is always better and a cut of -4 was certain… maybe even -5!

I played solid for 8 holes bar two really poor approach shots which cost me two bogeys, and that had me back at -4 and on the cut mark.

The 18th is always a good chance once you get the drive away, it’s a very reachable par 5.

So with that in mind it wasn’t great to blast it out right into the trees… luckily I got a decent line out and could hit 9 iron within 110 yards of the green.

A gap wedge to 30ft was ok… but to then roll it in down the hill was great and I knew I had safely made the cut and had one last round of the 54-hole tournament to improve on my position!

So after the cut was made, which fell at -4, I had a couple hours before I was back out for the final round.

A solid birdie down the first, and everything felt good… I then went bogey, bogey, bogey and this sounds wrong and like a typical golfer but I only really hit one bad shot!!

The klaxon went again for thunder, I was two over and down the leaderboard in the eighties!!

We got off the course dry, but then witnessed one of the worst downpours of rain ever, the whole place flooded and play again got called off for the day!

That meant one thing…another 4.15am alarm to complete the round the following day!

So up early and at the course, it was 6.30am and I’d nearly finished my warm up for a 7am re-start, the weather was perfect, everyone was pretty happy knowing we were going to get finished…. so then to hear a ref announce that the course was not ready and we had another two hour delay was deflating for everyone.

But at 9am we finally got going, and got finished!

I started birdie, birdie and went on to shoot -2 which was positive and again three rounds under par!

An ok and solid week with the flu (T50th), so hopefully a good rest before the Tshwane Open starts this week in Pretoria!

A huge thanks must go to the greens staff this week who are the true heroes! I cannot imagine the time they must have put into the course this week, the greens were amazing, and the frustrations they must have had seeing bunkers being washed away, then fixing them to only see them washed back away!

IMG_5588

  • JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…..

The response to our Charity Ball this August has been incredible and tickets go on sale March 17th….

More info will follow soon, but thanks to everyone for showing such support and interest in the evening already!