THE BRITISH MASTERS @ CLOSE HOUSE
After flying in from Spain on the Monday morning (25 Sep), it was great to spend a bit of time with family and friends before heading up the A1 for my first British Masters.
I arrived at the hotel late that evening, unpacked, ironed a few bits, and got to sleep ready for an early start Tuesday for some practice before my coach Mark arrived to join us for a practice round.
I’d heard the course was quirky from when the Europro played there earlier in the year. I’d also heard from a few players that it wasn’t great…but in May for the Europro it was firm and bouncy!!
But I would guess most of those views are because it’s not your ‘standard’ sort of European Tour course…so on arriving at Close House I was very impressed! Driving in you see the elevation changes straightaway, but with well-defined fairways lined with wispy long US Open grass, I thought on the eye it looked great!!
You then follow the road down to the clubhouse and hotel which felt like a good half a mile…and on arriving at the clubhouse the Geordie welcome was fantastic!
Super friendly, a beautiful clubhouse and I just felt there was so much pride in hosting this event! The staff couldn’t do enough for you!!
As the week went on, the atmosphere started to build. A through road split the 18th green, 1st tee, 4th green, 5th and 12th tee and along the wall there the crowds lined up to watch the golf unfold.
It really was a great viewing area; from there you weren’t far from the 6th tee, 11th green and the driving range, it was hustle and bustle all the time, and the friendliness of the fans spread throughout the crowds!
For me personally it was pretty special too. Only being two hours from home meant plenty of people came up to watch – friends, family, Woodsome and Crosland Heath members, plus many others from Yorkshire and afar who I’ve met along my journey to the European Tour – it was great to see you in the crowd!!
Playing with Poulter on the Saturday, everyone kept shouting his name, but he didn’t know any of them. I knew every time someone shouted my name I had to look as I knew them, and really wanted to say hi too! That was special!!
The week for me started nicely, my preparation had been good and from the games I did in practice I knew my game was in good shape.
First round I ripped it up one, missed my birdie chance but then birdied the next three holes! Apart from a three putt from 55ft on the 8th, I played the first 9 holes perfectly making 6 birdies!
A couple more on the back nine and I happily signed for 6 under!!
Throughout the week I played solid, managed my game really well, and felt very comfortable in my first British Masters!
After a 3 under round two, that put me in a tie for second and brought a TV fixture for day three with Poulter!
You hear mixed rumours from caddies, players, and people in the golf world about Ian, but I’ve always had full admiration for what he’s achieved in the game. The guy is a serial winner and a Ryder Cup legend – who cares if he tweets about his Ferrari collection? He has earned it and it certainly hasn’t just been handed to him!!
I’ve always been fascinated with the insight into his life on Twitter, and also many other players and sportsmen/women, that’s why I love Twitter so much!
Anyway, in typical Hanson fashion, I probed him throughout the round with questions, and certainly learnt from his game how to manage certain situations.
I also felt I had a first-hand example of ‘player power’ when he called the ref for a ruling on the back of 8. A wet, boggy lie on the fringe but no casual water . . .
On the ref arriving, Ian’s words in a stern voice were something along the lines of “Hi Ref, this is GUR isn’t it” and the ref obliged allowing a drop in Ian’s favour.
I had a similar incident in Crans this year where I was in a faded white line, shocking area of grass which we felt should still have been GUR. On politely asking the ref what he thought, I got a firm “NO, just play it how it lies”.
Maybe a sterner presentation from me would have got the desired drop…who knows!?
So, in round three I shot 69 (-1) to stay in the mix and get the three ball pairing of Fitzpatrick and Lowry for Sunday.
Two great guys and very enjoyable company! I started the round hot: birdie birdie out of the blocks and into the lead. I played some good stuff throughout the day but unfortunately dropped a few shots down the back nine which meant I finished the tournament in T11th.
But what a great week, and some very needed Euros on the OOM at such an important time of the year! I was happy, #TeamHanson was happy, and the drive up to Scotland that night was a fun one!!!!
Beep, ting, vibrate, the phone was non-stop and the hundreds of messages of support flooded in as ever. It is truly amazing and extremely overwhelming the support I receive each week!!
So again, thanks from everyone at #TeamHanson, hope you’re enjoying the journey!
Also a huge thanks and congratulations must go to Lee Westwood for hosting the event. I can’t imagine what commitments he must have had throughout the week, and then to play as well as he did just shows what a professional he is!!!!!
ALFRED DUNHILL LINKS @ THE HOME OF GOLF
So straight from Newcastle and three hours up the road to St Andrews for the next event! Laura and the girls flew in to Newcastle on the Thursday morning (28 Sep), and they were with me again for the Dunhill Links, which was great!
We also stayed in the official hotel, which we very rarely do due to the expense, but the crèche was in the hotel this week and not at the course as it usually is (due to there being three courses in play). So it was just really handy to be on site and fantastic for the kids!
It’s a week I was really looking forward to. I had a few family members up too and we were all looking forward to meeting my amateur partner and good friend from last year, Art Moossmann and his wife Jacqueline.
We had both requested to play together and were quietly hopeful we would get to team up again. So on Tuesday night at the ‘draw’ party it was a huge disappointment not to get that privilege…there is never a guarantee you will, but with us both requesting we thought we might.
We wished each other luck, but still planned to meet up throughout the week as much as possible!
So after three days’ preparation around the three courses, I still felt my game was in good shape. We walked St Andrews and Kingbarns with just a wedge and putter to hopefully save some energy and on the Tuesday played Carnoustie, or Carnasty as some people like to call it.
It’s a long week, and the day you play Carnoustie you have to factor in the 6 hour rounds and the hour trip each way around the Dundee estuary.
I got drawn to play St Andrews Thursday; it’s a very special venue but certainly a course I haven’t got to grips with yet.
On arriving at the tee I met my new partner for the week, Nikesh Arora, we got on great throughout the week, but unfortunately for both of us we certainly weren’t firing on all cylinders.
We battled hard but links golf certainly beat us this year!!
And at times it truly did beat me hard! I’m not too sure why, but I seem to find it a lot harder than everyone else, or that’s honestly how it feels.
Firm turf, massive slow greens, huge amounts of run, cold winds and deadly pot bunkers!! I’m not embracing the challenge like I should and for me that’s strange, as put me on every other course and I’m a pretty patient player.
The wind for the week wasn’t the norm and we played the front nine at St Andrews into a very tough wind into and out of the left, I didn’t drive it well, struggled to commit to my lines and got myself out of position too many times!!
We then turned downwind on 9, I drove the green to 20 ft then three putted! Argh!! That summed up the day…
In the end I shot 74 (+2) then followed that up at Carnoustie the following day with a 73 (+1), which then left me a lot of work to do at Kingsbarns, needing 65 (-7) to make the cut!
Sorry to be negative but that probably wasn’t going to happen, but I sure wanted to give it a go!!
I started on 10, missed a good chance there, birdied 11, then bombed a drive down the 12th, a pretty straightforward but spectacular par 5. I went for the green with rescue but found the greenside trap. Up against the lip I had to give it a go – the ball popped up, hit the face, bounced back, then hit my club again…oh dear…a double bogey 7 and all of a sudden the day got a whole lot harder!
In the end, I signed for plenty and hung around near the bottom of the leaderboard; a tough and frustrating week, but as always a learning curve, to play with JB Holmes day one, and then former world number one Martin Kaymer day two, was interesting but then the highlight of the week was to meet and play with Wladimir Klitschko on day three.
What a legend he is, one of the most recognisable sporting champions in the world and possibly one of the nicest guys I’ve met!!! Extremely down to earth, so modest and a pleasure to talk to, and as ever in Hanson fashion I totally interrogated him about his boxing career!!
To learn more about professional sport, yourself and to become a better person/professional, you have to take these opportunities to question the greats in whichever sport they’re from!!
So, another Dunhill Links was over early and I’m sure if I’m back I will be better prepared!!
So it was time to say a tough goodbye to the girls and leave them at Edinburgh airport and head down to Huddersfield to get a Monday flight back out to Italy for the next event – the Rolex Series Italian Open, where I have fond memories from last year!