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.
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.
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