A quick turnaround at home, but so worth it to watch Jess walk into school, and to be there to pick her up after and then hear about her day!
I walked through the door at 10.45pm Sunday night, and walked back out the door 4am Tuesday morning to head to Italy via a quick stop off in Brussels!
And it was a quick stop in Brussels, it wasn’t the scheduled 1hr stop after a delay taking off from Manchester, it ended up being a sprint through Brussels airport to catch the next flight by a whisker!!
Again, it was great that my coach Mark Pearson joined me for the first three days! Even better that he picked me up en route to the airport! Thanks coach, top taxi work too!
As you may have read in my last blog, I ‘top tenned’ it in Holland to get the exemption to play in Italy, if that hadn’t have been the case I would have been 1st reserve as I boarded the plane Tuesday…
That would again have been a very frustrating position to be in, now I knew I could board the plane and know I was preparing for the event!!
As first reserve on site Tuesday afternoon there is always that 50/50 chance you may get to play, two players withdrew from last week’s event on the Wednesday so it does happen…
But if you flashback to Perth in Feb, it didn’t happen for me that week!!
You just never know…
And the painful thing for the guy who was 1st reserve in Italy was that if I had finished 11th in the KLM then he would have been playing and not me!!
(He did get to play in the end, but with only 20 minutes’ warning as Patrick Sjoland withdrew with a bad back).
Last minute problems…
The only frustration about getting into an event late is the planning. I had booked into the ‘caddy’ hotel months ago but when it looked like I would not be playing I cancelled it before the cancellation policy could kick in!!
It was perfect too – €55 a night with breakfast and a bus to the course each day!! So straight away I tried to get back in that hotel Sunday night!!
It wasn’t happening! But I had a back-up plan – Stu Manley was 3rd reserve and travelling so he had the room booked too and if he did not get into the event by Wednesday I would take it on…
So the next problem was finding some suitable ‘digs’ in a good location and at a decent price! That was the tricky bit!!
In the end I got ripped off, €240 for two nights to stay in a really average hotel… Stu Manley ended up staying another night due to the delays so I had to move again…
This time €95 and the hotel was worse!
So I checked out again Thursday morning and then finally got in to the caddy hotel for the last two nights! It was lovely!!!!!! And trumped both the previous hotels for only €55!!
ABOUT THE ITALIAN OPEN…
There always seems something a little bit extra special playing an ‘Open’. I think playing for a country’s national title means a lot, so for Joost to win last week in Holland and to do it in such a fashion must have been incredible, and around his home course too!!
I’d heard great things about the Italian Open before the week – the cars, the quality of the food, the hugely increased prize fund (€3m), a top quality field and a great old school kind of course!!
And it didn’t disappoint, it was very different to anything we have played all year! It’s very narrow in parts, trees that must be well over 100 years old lining every fairway! But unfortunately that didn’t help the course, no light to greens, combined with rain, isn’t great for growth, so the greens’ surfaces weren’t fantastic and the surrounds were very patchy in places.
But there is that good old saying as many of you will know “it’s the same for everyone”, so I planned to just get on with it as I heard too many players already complaining about it!!!!
Practice went well again – having Mark with me really helps, as he keeps it extremely constructive but most importantly it’s always relevant to the conditions and the challenge that is set out for us each week!
Just for example… there is no point practising 50ft putts (which were needed in Holland) when in Italy the average green is only 25yards long!!
For me personally too, the work I can do on Trackman is fantastic, to be able to put a swing or a feeling to the numbers on the screen is a huge help and for me a great learning tool!!
The more I write and talk about a Trackman the more I want one!!!!! Argh!!!
So I was all set for round 1 at 2.00pm and after seeing the forecast we were set for a day with lots of rain!!
ROUND 1… or should I say DAY 1?
There was not much to say about Thursday… we waited, waited and waited!! It rained for most of the day with scattered thunder showers!
I got to warm up around 5.30pm and ended up going out for two holes making par on both!
So straight back to the hotel, some room service and bed, ready for a 5am alarm to get up to the course for a 7.30am restart!!
We managed to get out and complete our 1st round, I played really solid too… I opened my account with an eagle on the 14th my 4th hole… and in the end went on to shoot 66 (-5) and make a charge at the leader board!!
Then after a 40 minute turnaround we were back on the course to start round 2!
We managed 12 holes before the hooter went again…
But it was a nice start, a birdie down the 1st, followed by another on the 3rd after holing from 25ft!!
One blemish on the card but followed that up with a great 5 iron to 4ft on the next and it was cancelled out straight away!!
Solid birdie down 9 after finding the green with 3 wood and then pars around to the 13th tee where thankfully we got called off for a torrential down poor and electricity in the air!!
So everyone was now off the course and the second wave of players were getting ready to start, for us waiting to return to play the tour have a time limit where they don’t have to allow us a warm up!
So, while tucking into my cake and biscuits we then got the surprising call that we had 15 minutes to get into position!
I hadn’t hit a ball for nearly an hour and we had a ten minute walk at least!! No one was ready! But they had to try and get us out playing if there was any hope of a 72-hole tournament!
As we were about to tee off, the hooter went again and we were back in without hitting a shot!!
Another hour passed, which felt like three, and we were sent out to warm up this time!! Then as we were loading up the buggies to head back out, John Paramor announced there will be no more play and we had to resume at 7.30am the following day!!
For me that felt like the best decision!!!
I then checked into my third hotel of the week… the ‘caddy’ hotel! It was spot on!! And what a different environment to a ‘players’ hotel, just so nice and relaxed, they all know each other so well, so many characters, some quality nicknames and so many stories to go with them; many of these guys travel week in week out living together in each other’s pockets and have done for years!
Players tend to have their own rooms and more often than not in luxury, and it’s not quite that for caddies!
For example my caddy Steve was in a hostel sharing with total strangers, but at £60 for the week he’s then making the most of his wage!!
Well, it started Saturday afternoon but it sure didn’t finish, for me it was a 5.10pm tee off and we played till it was dark!!
With the wet forecast predicted through the night and most of the next day, no one knew what was in store for us!!
After a couple of pull hooks down the first, a nice break back onto the fairway helped, and I made par… I then played pretty steady for nine holes making a great birdie 2 on the 3rd and then a great chip and run on to the 9th to set up a 10ft birdie putt!
I converted that in the dark – I guess the hours in the dark as a kid putting at Crosland Heath finally helped!! Ha ha!!
So 9/9 greens in regulation and two birdies meant a solid nine holes in 2 under!!
Back again Sunday morning first thing to hopefully get some more golf played!!!!!
Three pars to start, and steady enough, then after a great tee shot down 13 I hit probably my worst iron shot of the week, short siding myself in the bunker!!
A bogey there, and a couple more down the closing 5 holes, I ended the day +1 and fell out of contention!!
We had an hour turn around and were straight back out to play again…
My last round was with David Lipsky and Romain Wattel, both great guys, good company and solid players!!
I played scrappy through the first 4 holes… but made another birdie down 5 and got some momentum back!
Plenty pars, a stress free birdie on 14 which surely was the easiest hole of the week, and one more at 17 to get to -3 for the day!
That score felt better than how my game felt! A sloppy drive to finish down 18 and a bogey to leave a sour taste in the mouth to what had been a great week!
But to get in contention, play in the last group in round 3 was great and to then post another top 20 in an event I had to qualify for is a huge bonus!!
Let’s just say the Italian Open was an extremely fun but tiring week, and to get 72 holes in was amazing with the conditions we had to battle – the European Tour sure know how to run events!!!
For me I now fly to Germany for the Porsche Open and a course I’ve visited on Challenge Tour numerous times!
It’s head down, work hard and I’ll give it my best shot again!