The DLF exam!

I think I’ve told you this before but Richard Finch tells everyone I.N.D.I.A stands for….

“I’ll never do it again!”

That rule doesn’t really apply to me as there probably isn’t anywhere I won’t travel to…my motto, as I’ve also told you, is:

“Have clubs will travel!”

The only place I struggle to visit is China, and I’m going back there again next month, so I can’t be that bothered!

So, this year it was back to New Delhi and the DLF golf course; last year the Tour made a re-visit to the redesigned course and it received mixed views!

It’s a Gary Player designed course, but many of us weren’t too sure if Gary Player himself had actually stepped foot in New Delhi . . .

If he did he must have been a few sheets to the wind, or really didn’t want the Indian golfers to enjoy our beautiful game!

For Joe public this golf course could well be one of the most brutal tests out there. I was thinking about it whilst trying to count sheep on my night flight and failing to nod off – there really isn’t an easy hole, and many of the holes have punishment both sides of the fairway too!!

Then if you do manage to navigate the fairway, the greens are pretty damn tricky to find, and then once you’re on them ‘Gary’ decided to make them undulating!

By the way, I’m not complaining, that’s just my view, I was there and ready to embrace the challenge!!!!

Aside from the above, though, the condition is world class, and on the eye some of the holes are breathtaking!

17 sure stands out, but the 2nd shot on 18, if you’re going for the green in two, looks simply stunning!!

That, Gary, you did a good job with!

 

So, a nasty night flight as I mentioned, 5 hours into Istanbul, then five hours into New Delhi, then with a time difference I made it to the hotel for 6am ish.

Which is pretty much 2am in the morning, so shower, changed and up to the course for what felt like night golf! (On my time zone!)

The key is to stay awake, not go to sleep too early, hopefully then when you do hit the pillow you are so tired you sleep through your original time zone and magically wake up on Indian time feeling fresh as a daisy!! Sounds easy . . .

But what normally happens is you wake up through the night as your body doesn’t know what’s going on!

I had two solid days of practice Monday/Tuesday but very quiet, I’ll explain why soon!

My aim was to keep my intensity up from the prep I did in Qatar, make it hard, get myself frustrated with failing my tests and really try to switch on to competition mode!

I was also testing some new irons which I felt were going to offer more to my game than the current irons I was using!

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I hit a lot of ‘knock down’ shots and like to fade the ball with my irons, or at least try to fade it…that’s my swing feeling! So, having irons which have no offset (hence traditional blades) should make that a lot easier!

After two days’ of practice and then playing the pro-am, I settled into the new Callaway APEX MB irons very well!! In fact, I love them!

Three days of prep completed and around six curries consumed, I was ready for round one!

Pretty good draw too, Robert Rock and Daniel Im, both great guys, good on course attitudes and with fun caddies too – it would make for a fun few rounds!

You still wondering why I had two quiet days?

It was quite funny in the end, as thankfully it worked out ok, but me and my coach had joked for a few weeks that after receiving a Facebook msg from an Indian local caddy that Steve would be getting the sack and I would be taking the local caddy Gourav for the week.

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So, when Steve arrived at Manchester airport on Sunday to have his visa rejected and be told he couldn’t fly, Gourav was all of a sudden on standby!

However, my quiet two days came to an end Tuesday afternoon when I heard Tooby strutting his way across the putting green! He had made it!!!

How did the golf go?

Let’s wrap it up pretty quickly, as the result wasn’t what I hoped for!!

Over the 36 holes I actually played quite nicely, I hit 4 bad tee shots and round that golf course you don’t get away with any!

Lost balls, unplayable lies, hazards!!

I made some big numbers and lost two balls in two shots off my 11th hole in round 1!

But after nine holes of round two I gave myself plenty of chances to make the cut and I really tried to dig in!!!!!

77, 75 +8 M/C

I believe in everything I’m doing, will continue to work hard and I’m looking forward to those tournaments where I get that reward, as it’s going to really feel sweet then!

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The 2nd desert swing!

So, it was back out to the desert for the second desert swing of 2018!

This time it was Oman followed by Qatar.

The last time I was in Oman was for the Challenge Tour grand final in 2015, when it was pretty much an ‘all or nothing’ month in my career as I was at a very low point financially and mentally.

I had an average week there but then went on to get my card at Q-School and then started the next chapter in my career the following season on the European Tour.

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I did play the Qatar event last year and finished mid pack, so it was nice to go back and play both these courses in 2018.

After a pretty long travel day, and then a night flight Monday, landing 8am in Oman Tuesday morning, I headed straight to the course and was showered and on the range by 9am!!

After a quick warm up I was straight out on the course. It’s a great track – to me it feels like a little bit of a mixture of desert and heathland by the sea – it has the potential to be very windy!!! The condition was perfect too!

Wednesday was my normal practice day with a slight twist at the end – five pros were asked to play a five-hole junior pro-am; it was good fun and the kids in my team were great!!

Round 1 got off to a crap bogey bogey start!! Not ideal at all and, in the end, I dug out a round of level par with a battling finish down the last three holes!! I made a great 5 on my 16th with a penalty drop, holed a great putt on the next, and made a nice save from 7ft on the last!

Scoring-wise I was relatively happy, but performance-wise it felt a little scrappy!!

Round two started the total opposite and finished the total opposite!!!!

Two under through three and then threw all that away with some mental errors and just some all-round crap golf!!!

From that start there was no way I felt I should have missed the cut, and it’s a shame as it really did feel like a golf course that should suit my game! But I’m old enough and wise enough now to realise that’s not the case and golf will always be the winner!!!

So, it was a re-set over the weekend, be more competitive in practice and look forward to the next event in Qatar!!!

After a busy weekend of practice, it was then straight into it Monday. I didn’t feel my driver was quite right in Oman, it’s probably the fastest driver I’ve used, distance-wise it was performing but dispersion-wise it wasn’t good enough.

So, Monday and Tuesday morning I did some thorough driver testing and took them all out to play nine holes each day. I think that’s something I’ve probably not done enough of when testing – you can always get a driver to feel decent on the range, when there is no fairway definition, pressure, or other elements.

Monday, Tuesday it was very windy too, so it was great to hit plenty drives on the course with different directions and strengths.

I ‘gamed’ the Callaway Sub Zero Rogue last week, but like I said it wasn’t quite right.

So, I tested:

Callaway standard Rogue – Tensie Orange shaft

TaylorMade M3 – Tensie Orange shaft

Ping G400 LST – Tensie Blue shaft.

TaylorMade was great on the range, but over the course of the two nine holes I played, the bad shots just weren’t good enough for me, maybe the twist face was not for me.

The Ping really surprised me, I normally wouldn’t have tested it, but my good friend Adam Walker had just been fitted for one and said ‘give it a whirl’. I did and it was fast, and pretty straight too…it was in contention!

The Sub Zero head didn’t quite sit square enough for me, so once I got my hands on the ‘standard’ head with the right loft I loved it, it sat great, felt great and again came off the face as fast as the Sub Zero did!!

On the course it went well, and it totally reined in my dispersion with my bad shot being just a tad blocky with a bit too much spin – it was very safe though!!!

We had a winner!!!!!

 

It was two great days of testing, and two great nine holes where me and Steve set loads of competitive games whilst on the course…points for hitting fairways, greens, up and down challenges, bunker tests and holing out!

I was very lucky to have my good friend Gary Dunkley out to support me in Qatar. Gary currently lives in Georgia, so it was a short flight over to Qatar. We stayed in the official hotel which was a cracker!

The St Regis!! Gary didn’t get in till Wednesday so, unfortunately, he missed out on the welcome party, but me on the other hand…I took full advantage of the five-star buffet beach/poolside on the Tuesday night!!

With my category position slightly improving this year, I seem to be getting some nice draws. In Oman I played with Pepperell (won in Qatar) and in Qatar I got Marcel Siem and Scott Jamieson.

I had dinner with Marcel the week before just by chance, he’s a character for sure, great fun, but had heard on the course he can be pretty fiery.

Over the first two days we had a good laugh, we all played some mixed stuff but pushed each other round, and all three of us sneaked the cut in very different fashion. Scott scrambled home with a few mistakes, Marcel cruised to a stress free 6 under, and I hung in there till the end birdieing 7, 8, 9 to shoot -5 and make it on the mark!!

A great group, good players and also great caddies, it makes your first two days at work a lot more enjoyable when there is some good chat, some fun stories and plenty of banter!

I was delighted with my finish, and Steve and Gary certainly were too. I was pretty certain the cut was looking at falling at -4 – the weather was good, the wind hadn’t stayed around from Tuesday and the standard, as you know, is pretty damn good!

There were a few holes which offered up some pretty straightforward chances: 1, 10, 16, 18, but the rest you needed to get it in position and hit some very good shots.

I started on 10, and made a perfect birdie! Made the easy birdie on 16, and then holed a good putt on 18 for birdie, so cruised through the front nine -3 without really doing anything special.

I didn’t take my chance on 1 but the key moment of the round was holing from around 18ft for bogey on the 3rd. It’s a tough par 3 playing over par for the week and I tried to make a meal of it.

I then had 6 holes to chase three birdies to play weekend golf – missed a chance on 4, parred the next two and then it was make or break!

All you can do is give yourself a chance, give yourself a putt at it…and I did better than that as I nearly didn’t have to putt!

7th – 3 wood, 95 yard LW to 3ft = birdie; 8th – 6 iron, 185 yards to 3ft = birdie; 9th – driver, 4 iron, 110 yard LW to 3ft = birdie.

 

WEEKEND GOLF! Now that finish felt like a nice reward for the preparation I had put in!

Over the weekend I shot a pair of 71’s, so finished the tournament -6 and 53rd, not a great week in terms of position on the leaderboard but I had plenty of my own little wins in there to be proud of!!!

I’ve now got five days with the family, as I’m missing the Tshwane Open, and then I fly back to India to play the super challenging DLF golf course!

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Double cut in KL!

If you’ve been there you will know…but if not, the best way to describe the temperature is “it’s like sticking your head in an oven!”

You can feel your skin cooking, sun cream just sweats off you, it floods off the tip of your nose, dripping onto your ball…

It runs down your arms onto the grips, ruins your glove and if you’re getting the picture well enough, you can tell it’s pretty uncomfortable and I personally don’t like it!

This is not complaining by the way, I’m just telling you how it feels to me!!

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So, it was my first time to Malaysia; my third year on Tour and the previous two years my category hadn’t got me into the event.

It actually didn’t this year either, but a top 10 in Dubai made sure I got my place on the start sheet and getting on the flight felt a lot better than travelling as a reserve which I had planned to do!

I hadn’t heard much about the course, although I’d seen from previous years that the scoring can get as hot as the weather! But on arriving and seeing the condition of the greens you would expect it would have a negative effect on the scores.

It’s always tough playing the Asian players in their own back yard; I’ve mentioned plenty of times how the grass plays so differently!

To be honest, the course layout, condition and greens couldn’t have been more different to the event in Dubai last week!!

It was time to adjust!!!!

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I checked into my hotel Monday lunch time and had the day off from golf; I had a decent gym session but other than that I just chilled out and tried to stay awake.

There were three official hotels to choose from…having not been to Malaysia before I thought I would take the easy choice as I didn’t know the area well.

I soon found out I was the only player in the hotel, which was also 30 minutes away from the course and downtown too.

It was going to be a lonely week, I had dinner for one every night…sometimes it’s not quite the lifestyle and social scene some people think it is!

The golf course wasn’t long and with the heat the ball was flying a little further too…

When you walked some fairways and looked around you would think you were in a rain forest and you were trekking through the jungle!

Monkeys surround the course, big lizards swim in the ponds and you have to keep your eyes peeled for King Cobras!!

Steve…. “help!”

In round one I played solid, I went bogey free and started the round with three birdies…that was also off the back of three birdies to finish in Dubai and back to back bogey free rounds which always feels nice!

I think that’s already 4 bogey free rounds for this season, maybe more than all last year combined!!!72D5B794-C3FF-47CA-A3B7-2CB99474318E

Round two was equally as steady, one bogey from a poor second shot after just missing the fairway by inches.

But other than that, some good birdies and I posted 70 (-2) to make the cut which fell at -4.

That’s -9 minimum you needed to make the weekend these last two weeks, and this week it nearly went to -5 again!

The standard is good, in fact it’s better than good, you can’t not be on your game!!

With fears of more thunder delays they sent us out in 3 balls and a U draw early Saturday, so with me being middle of the pack that meant an early start as I was second group out!

Playing with Beef and Manassero should always be fun, nice guys and both have good caddies on the bag.

For me though it wasn’t fun (the company was fun). I was on the back foot from the start, clawed it back, let it go again, clawed it back, then blew out in the end to miss the third round cut!

I bet Steve wanted to hang me playing the last two holes!!!!

To quickly explain, there’s a new rule when 80+ make the cut; they chop it back down to 72nd and ties after round three…there are many reasons they do it, but you still get paid even if you don’t make day 4.

So, to sum up round four, I was utter crap, the good news…I get to start the mammoth journey home 24hrs earlier and now have a full week off before heading back out to the Middle East for Oman and Qatar!

After today I feel I need a re group, give my head a shake, brush it off and be ready and excited to get going again next weekend!!

And more importantly, rest up and enjoy some time with my girls!!!

Blog again soon!

Shortened Desert Swing!

This year the desert swing was shortened because the Qatar event has moved to late February alongside Oman, which is a new addition to the schedule (it had previously been used as the venue for the Challenge Tour grand final which I played in 2015).

So, as my last blog mentioned, I am on the road for just over three weeks – Abu Dhabi, followed by Dubai and then Malaysia – if my ranking were actually to get me into the event. When I set off to travel I was surprisingly around 10th reserve, so either needed plenty of guys to withdraw or to finish top ten in Dubai!

After some good weeks of practice, I felt I was pretty much ready to start the season in Abu Dhabi. Of course, I expected some rust from not being too competitive for a month but what happened in round two certainly knocked me back, or should I say made me aware of what I still needed to focus on.

In round one I played ok, I made a few poor errors but made enough birdies to end the day one under and not in a bad position. It was a really strong field that HSBC had assembled (with rumours that appearance fees were totalling over $6 million), so the scoring was impressive.

After a relaxed evening with Mark (coach) and Iain (mind coach), I was up for the Friday challenge… and boy was it a challenge!!!


I started on the tenth, made a pretty perfect birdie and then quickly followed that with double, double, bogey…ouch, now to come back from that was going to be a huge ask!

And to cut a long story short I didn’t and, in the end, I was lucky to break 80! So, the first event of the year and I was propping up the field.

That’s never a nice feeling and believe it or not I still gave it 100%! Missing the cut by ten or missing the cut by one in golf is still the same result, you go home with nothing, but it does feel different, it hurts your pride!

But as my coach said, great things can always come from failure…how else are you supposed to learn?

And over Saturday and Sunday we sure talked a lot, discussed managing my game on the course, landing spots, finish spots and the ‘actual yardage’, which is never normally the yardage you start with!

I will leave that topic for another blog one day, but I promise it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds.


Saturday, we spent the day at Abu Dhabi, then Sunday I joined a couple of friends at Yas Island Golf course to put the game to the test again and discuss in more detail the ‘actual’ yardages.

As a team we worked very hard and were excited to head to Dubai Sunday tea time to get set up for the next week! Abu Dhabi was then a thing of the past!

One last thing from Abu Dhabi which was pretty cool and I have to mention, is the F1 track at Yas Island where our hotel was. Every Tuesday night they open up the track to runners and cyclists – it’s 3.4 miles round and it was a heck of an experience/atmosphere running that evening in the floodlights!


So, 1 hour down the road in Mark’s Chevrolet Spark hire car, we were in Dubai. Mark dropped me off at my hotel then headed off to find his hotel and battle the crazy Dubai roads, traffic jams, road works and in the process let his car RUN OUT of petrol – not ideal!!

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So, now back at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, an event I’ve watched for years on TV! Last year I missed the cut by one shot, so it was time to try and make amends!

I do like the course, the layout is great, so nice on the eye as the definition from sand to rough to fairway is amazing – the green keepers must be so proud of their work!

The rough I felt was pretty juicy, the greens firm, and with quite a few doglegs I thought it’s a tricky test…but experience sure plays a huge factor, as trusting some lines off the tees can make some holes so much easier.

13, 14, 17 and 18 all need some serious trust as to where you’re starting those tee shots, and I’m sure next year I will take some much stronger lines on 13 and 18 especially to try and take advantage of those holes.

Anyway, me thinking it was a tricky course was pretty silly when the scoring in round one went crazy! Guys shooting 7, 8, 9 and 10 under just shows how good the standard is on the European Tour!!

The social media world, and especially Twitter, went crazy with people as ever complaining about technology and course set ups etc. For me, Paul Waring summed it up pretty well in this tweet, which was a good explanation of why scoring was better than other years:

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Round one I set off with a crowd pleasing three putt bogey! Not ideal for the confidence, but bounced back quickly, holing for birdie from 7 feet and 9 feet on the next two holes!!

I played pretty solid and stress free for the rest of the round and it was nice to shoot 67 (-5). Even Coach Pearson was happy from the side-lines – which takes some doing – it was a good day for #TeamHanson all round.

The scoring in round two was set to be as hot as the weather, and at one point it looked like the cut might go to a crazy -6, that’s madness!!

I started poorly, two over after 3 holes, and my game felt off, my head was spinning a bit, it was elsewhere! I dug in, Steve kept me going, we battled back and it was probably a good thing to get called off for darkness through 10 holes (due to the morning fog delay).

A fresh start was just what I needed, and I came back early the next day and finished the last 8 holes with pars and a birdie!!


Cut made and into the weekend I went, in around 30th position on seven under.
Saturday, I spent most of the day hitting my second shot first of the group – Nicolas Colsaerts and Andres Romero don’t hold back and were giving me twenty yards at times!

But I played my own game, continued to hole some nice putts, and in the end just made the one bogey on my last hole, three putting from the fringe, to shoot 70 (-2).

It’s not often you shoot under par and move back 12 spots on the leader board but guys were still ripping it up!

But I had round 4 to look forward to, I was putting points on the OOM and building some confidence with my game…the wind was also forecast to get up, sand was blowing everywhere, a tree actually blew down and it was a little trickier, which certainly showed in the scoring.

I played the front nine nicely, made two good par saves and a pretty straightforward birdie on the 3rd, so 1 under I was cruising along ok.

Back nine charge maybe?

I hadn’t birdied ten all week, and I’m pretty sure it was playing stroke 18. Today I did, from the trap. I then holed from 15ft on the next for birdie, went for the power play on 13 with a bold tee shot line, that paid off and I made an easy birdie…all of a sudden, I was -4!!

Mentally I was in a good place, I like the wind and felt I was moving up the board, I had momentum…

On 16 I got a flyer from the rough, I was through the green in the rough. With Iain (mind coach) we focus a lot on self talk and how you see the shot, it helps a lot!

Steve actually asked me: “what do you see here Chris?”.

Me: “it’s perched up pretty high on the rough so I don’t want to go under it, I’m gonna open the loft, keep my speed up and clip it off the top, if I land it next to Jamie’s marker it’s got a chance”.

Where did I land it…?

Next to his marker and from there we watched it trickle down the hill finding the bottom of the hole. A birdie there, I drove the next green and made another birdie…and then finally hit the 18th fairway over the dog leg!

250 yards to the flag, over the water, I hit three wood back left and made a great up and down from next to the grandstand. And to make it better, as the 7ft putt rolled in, the roar from the #TeamHanson support team was heard all around!

Thanks guys…Ben Johnson, Eddy Brown, Andy Brown, Bob Whiteley, Michael Major and some more friends of theirs!!!

It was a great feeling, and then to walk into the score tent to see that I had moved up to third in the tournament was pretty special.

 

In the end I finished T6th which, from starting the day where I did, was a great result and hopefully something I can build on going forward.
I’m not sure 12 years ago, when I set out on my journey, I saw myself -16 round the Majlis Golf course finishing T6th in the Desert Classic!

I’ve sure come a long way!

 

Off to work I go….

So, here we go again, 2018 has now started for me and it commenced with me sitting on a train from Malaga to Madrid – It certainly was a travel day!

It was an early taxi up to the station, 3-hour train to Madrid, then a direct flight out to Dubai for two days’ practice before heading up the road to Abu Dhabi!

As a family, we had such a fun month together after I returned from Australia. We had a hectic and busy nine days in the UK over Xmas but then had some really terrific fun family time back in Spain too; I also got to enjoy some practice in far better weather than I’m used to at this time of the year.

It’s crazy how quickly my children are growing up; they’re both great fun, don’t listen to daddy at all, but I’m amazed how switched on and clever they both seem to be. Jessica just wants to learn all the time, whilst Olivia just wants to cause as much chaos as she can – it’s brilliant, and crazy how different they are!

We tucked them both up in bed on Sunday night, and it was time for me to say ‘bye, as I was up early for my taxi before they would be awake. I’m away for just over three weeks and that’s stretching our ‘family limit’ of time apart – in fact it’s overstretched it!!

We still don’t know if Jessica understands the timescales of daddy’s travels, but she certainly understands I’m away for a good few bedtimes this time. And last night was the first time we’ve had tears from her and asking for me not to go away!!!

That’s a tough pill to swallow for me and Laura, seeing Jess sad, and something which at times I’m sure will make 2018 harder.

But as soon as she gets back to school the next morning and sees her friends, daddy will be forgotten – ha ha!!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusion that it’s only me going through this… As in all walks of life and like many other jobs, we all make sacrifices and that just happens to be mine…I’m very lucky to do what I do, it’s just a selfish profession whether you want it to be or not!

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So, after my full travel day, I landed in Dubai around midnight and grabbed a taxi straight to the hotel near Jumeirah Golf estates where I’m spending day 1 of my practice.

It’s a quality set up, and where the European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI) is based. My plan is to get up there in the morning, spend the day practising, and then at 4pm I’m meeting the Tour Fitness/Physio team for a few hours of testing, as I’m going to start working with them very closely in the 2018 season which is something I’m very excited about.

Having the Physios, Strength & Conditioning coaches, and nutritionists, at each event throughout the season surely should lead to a better chance of progression, improvement and maintaining the good habits!!

What an opportunity!!!!

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Sunday, I’m going to head across to The Emirates course where the Desert Classic is played following Abu Dhabi. I’m meeting with Callaway at 10am to test the new Rogue driver, which will be fun!
I’m currently using the Callaway Epic driver since my contract with TaylorMade finished in January, and I’m actually a free agent for 2018 in terms of clubs, with my only commitment being to use Titleist/Footjoy ball, shoe and glove.

So, let’s see how the Rogue performs!!!

Aussie adventure!

Australia is a bloody long way away!!!

Sunday night, after the UBS HK Open, I flew from Hong Kong down to Melbourne, past my intended destination of Brisbane, then after a quick pit stop flew back up to the Gold Coast and landed in Brisbane around lunch time Monday!

And by quick pit stop I mean sprinting through the airport to catch the connecting flight with ten minutes to spare!

Another few hours of time difference to contend with this week, along with what felt like a crazy humidity, more grainy greens and plenty of Aussie players in fine form, as they have just come off the back of their two biggest events which then concluded last week with their final event – the Australian PGA Championship!

I actually played this event two years ago in my first European Tour year, when the greens had just been re-laid and redesigned and with the seriously strong winds it was too crazy!

I shot something like 81-71 to miss the cut by one shot!

The greens have had two years to settle, bed in and are now a lot softer and much more playable.

But if you watched any of the coverage on TV then you would know what I mean when I say they look like a jigsaw puzzle!

Apparently the greens were laid at different times, hence the grain is all over the place and you actually could have a putt from 50ft and the grain would change direction 10 times!!

My last putt of the tournament I was determined to hole… I had a 7ft birdie putt on the 9th to finish.

Easy read left edge, but the grain was strong off the right, so to adjust for that I decided to hit the putt straight!

Everything felt good, I believe I hit a nice putt, the pace was good and it still missed left on a left to right putt!! Sometimes grain can be extremely frustrating to deal with!!

And that was a shame to not sign off 2017 with a birdie!!!!!!

Coach from Myerscough

Coach from Myerscough college days!

So after arriving Monday after not much sleep on a night flight, I still wanted to do some practice, just some short game and some putting!

But WOW it was hot!! Just so humid, you were sweating doing nothing, so as soon as you started to practise you were wet through! A pretty horrible feeling sometimes trying to peel your shirt off your arms before hitting shots etc – or having to wipe dripping sweat off your brow whilst you’re over a putt!

Throughout the week I slept pretty good on the new Aussie time zone, you end up forcing yourself to stay awake, going to bed really tired but then not wanting to wake up.

In Brisbane they don’t change the clocks like other states do, so it’s broad daylight around 4.30am and already super hot!!! Hence the 6am first tee times each day!

I was setting my alarm a few mornings for 4am, waking up and speaking to the family before they went to bed and then I headed off to the golf course! Quite surreal, really!

It makes the time away feel even longer, as you don’t get the quality opportunities to speak with them which you normally do in Europe!

I also played the pro-am this week, played with three nice guys, one of them being Sergio’s manager, so heard some fascinating stories from the golf world. He was in charge of Adidas/Marketing for a long time and signed Garcia, Rose, Poulter, Kaymer to the brand before leaving five years ago and setting up his own management group, taking Sergio on board!

The first two days I continued some good golf from Hong Kong and my stats into the greens for two days were fantastic! The new Callaway irons have certainly warranted their place in the bag so far.

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I ended up shooting 71, 71 for a -2 total and made the cut by a shot! The scoring was pretty good, and I watched a short game master class for two days from Adam Bland, who was leading the Tournament on 10 under!

In fact I’m pretty sure the top 20 was pretty much an Australian leader board bar possibly Garcia…which surely shows the home advantage!

It’s definitely a similar scenario to the events in South Africa when they tend to dominate.

Anyway, it’s the second event of the 2018 season and two cuts made with plenty of positive signs.

Again, though, the weekend wasn’t to be and it felt like a horrible Saturday with nothing feeling good and everything going wrong!

I shot 75 (+3) playing bad and the strange thing about golf is I played quite nicely Sunday and only beat my score by one, shooting 74 (+2).

Result = T62nd (+3) 71, 71, 75, 74 – 291

Here’s my tweet following round 4….

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So that’s it for the 2017 calendar year and it’s now time to take a break and feel fresh ready for the start of 2018!!
I’m really looking forward to some time off, but at the same time excited for what 2018 may hold!!

But first this mammoth journey home awaits me!!!!

Monday 6am
Brisbane – Melbourne (2 hour ✈️)
• 2 hour lay over
Melbourne – Hong Kong (9 hour ✈️)
• 6 hour lay over
Kong Kong – Heathrow (9 hour ✈️)
• 2 hour lay over
Heathrow – Madrid (3 hour ✈️)
• 2 hour lay over
Madrid – Malaga (1 hour ✈️)
• 1 hour

24 hours flying, 12 hours waiting and then the final drive home to top it off!

37 hours door to door if no problems or delays is some going…and going back to the opening line of the blog…Australia is a bloody long way away!!!

“Put a fork in me, I’m done”.

Over and out guys, see you in 2018! Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!

2018 early schedule:

18th Jan – Abu Dhabi Championship
25th Jan – Dubai Desert Classic
1st Feb – Malaysia

Best wishes to you all.

Off and running in Hong Kong!!

I wanted to touch on a different subject at some point in one of my blogs, and last week in Hong Kong felt the right time, as it was very apparent that week!

I pride myself on my preparation, and I’m pretty sure Justin Rose does too; for me he’s the ultimate golfing professional! But one thing for sure is I’m pretty certain his days are extremely different to mine and he has to be even more careful with his time, which in turn probably makes his time away from tournament golf even more important!

Let me start with my Wednesday preparation:
• 7am alarm, up for breakfast at the hotel
• 8am, bus to the course
• 8.30am, physio treatment to get rid of my aches and pains from run/gym night before
• 9.30am, range session working through my bag, testing new clubs, Trackman games
• 12pm, relaxed lunch
• 12.45pm, putting drills, tech session and competitive games
• 3pm, short game, bunker work
• 4.30pm, few drivers to finish off in a different wind direction
• 5pm, early dinner at the course
• 6pm, bus back to hotel
• 7pm, gym session/run and cool down
• 8pm, write up the day in my diary then chill out, watch TV, speak to family

Sounds pretty easy and fun, right…?

Well, I got to do exactly what I wanted to do, preparation was great, I ticked off my ‘to-do-list’ and everything I wanted to achieve, and was ready for my first round!

So, from what I see, read and hear from other players, let’s now try and piece together what Justin’s Wednesday might look like:

• 7am alarm, up for breakfast at the hotel
• 8am, private courtesy car to the course from sponsor’s hotel (perks of being top 5 in the world)
• Arrive at the course 8.45am, get stopped by every man and his dog for a photo, autograph and chat!
• 9am, get sorted in locker room and head to the range (repeat above en route)
• 9.15am, spend an hour hitting balls, having every shot watched and I’m sure admired and sometimes even criticised by the public and press!
• 10.15am, press conference, more autographs/photos
• 11am, early ‘quick’ lunch
• 11.30am, meet pro-am team
• 12pm, play pro-am which is also your practice round, so studying course and practising whilst entertaining the team (importance of a good caddy here)
• 5.30pm, after 5 1/2-hour round, spend 45 mins with team
• 6.15pm, now too dark to practise, so courtesy car back to hotel
• 7pm, arrive at hotel
• 7.30pm gym session
• 8.30pm dinner and bed with no real time to chill out
• 5am alarm for round 1 to start!

What I’m trying to say is, the better you get as a player, the more commitments you have, the less time you have, and at times the more selfish you have to become as you still need to do YOUR job.

That’s why I sometimes/not always have sympathy for players spending hours doing autographs or receiving abuse for not signing another kid’s hat.

There has to be a point where they stop – don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it’s part of the job/success that comes with playing and I’ve seen first-hand how happy it makes a young boy/girl to get an autograph, but I also understand that at times it’s tough!

I saw it first-hand with Rory at The Scottish Open; he stood and signed autographs for people for 25 mins, and the second he walked away some guy sarcastically shouted “Thanks” for not signing his…that’s unfair, surely!

Rory seems a great guy too!

I did see at Valderrama, which I thought was cool, a kids’ only area for autographs! Now I’m all for that – there is nothing worse than seeing kids gets pushed to the back with adults leaning over them to get autographs for themselves or even worse to sell on eBay…get a grip!!!!

Anyway, that’s my little topic covered from a playing perspective.

Great third hole

Great third hole

Now back to the tournament…

Last year I really struggled at this event, I was like a cat in the headlights! Different grass, grainy greens, and so firm.

I don’t think saying ‘I wasn’t ready’ are the right words, but I didn’t embrace it!!

The layout of the course is fantastic, it has such variety, you maybe hit only 6 drivers, but even when you do they need to be good ones!

The course, I would think, is well over 100 years old, so is shaped wonderfully through the trees! The whole atmosphere around the event is cool too – I’m pretty sure it’s not a cheap place to play your golf!!!

But let’s just think about my preparation for 2018 compared to last year.

So, on finishing the 2016 season I had a pretty grim month of weather at home before flying to this event in Hong Kong for the 2017 season, I was probably practising every other day, maybe doing a few hours indoors at Woodsome and, if I was lucky, got outside some days.

Flash forward 12 months, and following the end of the season I had two weeks’ training followed by two weeks’ solid practice in great weather and really good golfing conditions!

I actually can’t believe some people felt a move to warmer climates was a bad idea and that giving yourself the best opportunity to be the best golfer you can be was not right!

Arriving in Hong Kong I felt prepared, if anything it’s just getting a card back in your hand now and feeling the butterflies!

I’d played a few games over the last few weeks but it’s still not the same.

It’s a tricky course in Hong Kong and one which I mentioned I really struggled on last year, propping up the leaderboard with a few scores in the mid-seventies!!

And with a sneaky wind in round one I posted a 1 over (71) but this year it actually felt ok; it’s not an easy course as you can soon get out of position with it being so firm and at the end of the day I was in around 50th position.

Day 2 I played really solid, everything went pretty smoothly, I controlled it nicely and shot a bogey free round of 66 (-4).

That felt great and boosted me up the leaderboard to T15th… they’re the rounds you really enjoy, not feeling to make mistakes as generally you make birdies, so to go bogey free is pleasing!

So, the first event of the year and some weekend golf, that’s a good start, but of course in the position I was in I wanted to push on!

Again, I played nicely, carding a 67 (-3) and left a few good chances out there!! I actually got it to -5 through 14 holes, but a poor bogey on 15 and a closing bogey on the tough 18th left a slightly sour taste in the mouth!

But to get myself into tied 8th with a round to go in the first week is pleasing, and you just never know what a Sunday has to offer!

Unfortunately for me this Sunday wasn’t to be, maybe I wanted it too much? Is that possible??

But a poor tee shot off the first led to an opening bogey and I just never seemed to get it going.

Through 8 holes I was +1 but it felt so much worse. Shaking that feeling off is tough, you feel to be trying and trying and getting nothing, it feels the world is against you!

Nine is a tough hole, a demanding tee shot, and a tricky second even when in position.

I tried to draw it round the corner, over hooked it and then compounded my error with a three putt triple bogey!

That hurt big time!!!

The next hole then provides a chance; I failed after two shocking pitch shots and luckily ran off with a bogey, and actually hearing the crowd laugh at my first pitch was pretty gut wrenching!

My only birdie came down the next, followed by plenty of average pars before short siding myself into the 18th and leaving myself no shot in the trap!

So, a 76 (+6) to turn a great week into what all of a sudden felt an extremely average week!

Of course, there are so many positives to take from the first event of the year, as you guys keep reminding me (huge thanks!) but I’m better than what happened in round 4, and I shouldn’t be letting rounds get away like that.

The only saving grace is that it was in round 4 and not round 1, as that would have made playing the weekend a lot tougher!!

As ever, in true #TeamHanson fashion, we’ve assessed the round/week and after two flights to Brisbane for the next event it’s time for a fresh start and prepare for the Australian PGA Championship!!

Game on!

End of year ‘round up’

So, the 2018 season is starting and it’s not even Christmas yet!

As always I try to recap on the previous year and there is no better time to write it than on a long Heathrow to Hong Kong night flight!

I will try to cover what went well, what didn’t go so well, any regrets, the low points, the high points and, of course, what I enjoyed the most!!

Overall it’s been an incredible season, even though I didn’t achieve all my goals, I sure gave them a damn good go! But I guess most importantly I have a job for 2018 and again on the European Tour!!

But with no one really knowing how the Rolex series events would affect the cut off for keeping your card, and of course with it being the top 100 and not the top 110 like 2016, it was a total guessing game…other than we all knew it would require a lot more.

Tour media

Tour media

Going forward I’ve already started looking ahead to 2018, setting some new goals etc, but I have to, because as you know Hong Kong starts this week!

I had a few weeks off with the family following on from Valderrama (T18th) but my pre-season two-week boot camp soon started, especially since I had some new equipment to try!

I had areas of my game I wanted to improve, some new equipment to test, and a great few days planned with my coach to get match ready for the start of the season – I’m excited!!

Stats 2016 vs 2017 (from europeantour.com)

Stroke average = 71.69 vs 71.06
Driver accuracy = 58.8% vs 65.9%
Distance = 292 vs 294
GIR = 68% vs 72.2%
Putts = 29.9 vs 30.3
R2D = 108th vs 89th

Highest OWGR = 295th

29 events = 11 miss cuts (4 by 1 shot)

Best results
• T6th Trophée Hassan II
• T11th Dunhill Links
• T11th British Masters
• T14th Czech Masters

As you can see from the stats the Tour keep, most areas have improved, but I also keep my own personal stats which are much more in depth and which you may have seen me tweet or seen on some of my blogs via golfstattracker.co.uk

I’m happy with my progress and all my stats are trending in the right direction.

I didn’t achieve my best result on the Tour this year, which was a shame, but I certainly performed better in a few bigger events, notably the Trophée Hassan where the prize fund was increased and I banked my biggest cheque to date.

Then of course the British Masters on home soil where my T11th in a strong field came with a timely cheque towards the end of the year and a boost up the OWGR to my career high 295.

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Other experiences and memorable moments….

I’ve played with some good/notable players this year, some really impressed and others not so much, but as ever I learnt from all of them, how they managed their games, the crowd and their emotions!

Poulter, Fitzpatrick, Lowry, Kaymer, Donaldson, Larazabal, Johnston (Beef), Dubuisson, Oleson to name a few…

Who’s the best……?

I won’t go into detail again, as I’ve covered these in previous blogs which you may have read but they’re not even on the above list – Richard Sterne stood out tee to green as one of the best ball strikers I’ve played with.

And of course Anthony Wall for someone who never leaves a shot out there; he really was world class around the greens and I learnt bucket loads off him.

Memorable moments…

One of the most stand out feelings/moments this year was on the iconic 17th green at Valderrama in round 4. I was playing with BEEF and Pablo Larazabal who is, of course, a Spanish favourite.

Pablo holed a fast putt down the hill for birdie from 15ft and the roar and atmosphere was out of this world! It’s fair to say he’s a bit of a showman, and he held the Spanish flag above his head after waving it around – the noise levels were through the roof! #goosebumps

Low points…

Unfortunately you have them, we all do, some more than others, and thankfully this year there were more highs!
But missing six cuts in a row wasn’t nice, and didn’t help with some of the ‘words of wisdom’ you get sent through or hear from other people.

• “Is it the caddy?”
• “Why move house?”
• “Why did you miss that putt?”

What hurt even more was missing the first two in that run of six by one shot, and both times bogeying my last hole in very poor fashion!

Thankfully, the amazing number of good will messages makes up for most of the above and I really can’t thank you guys enough!!

Prague was also a shitty feeling; after 36 holes I was leading by 3 shots thanks to some nice playing and some good weather breaks, and after 39 holes I was leading by 4…

To then fritter away my chance of winning or a high finish and end the week 14th, was pretty miserable! But I didn’t dwell on it in the slightest and never hide away from failure or setbacks. Straightaway the team got together, addressed the week and put a plan in place to improve certain areas of my game and mental game – and at Close House I reaped the rewards!

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#TeamHanson

What can I say…no one has a more honest and hardworking team in place than me!

We all sing off the same hymn sheet, we all strive for the same successes, and not one of us is fragile to criticism, we all think outside the box, and give 100% to the cause!

Golf may not be seen as a team sport, but you couldn’t be more wrong!

So thanks must go to…

Duncan Maxim – MB (MarkBlundell) Partners, Manager
Molly Thorne
Hannah Lee
Mark Pearson – Coach
Steve Tooby – Caddy
Iain Highfield – Mind
Rachael Tibbs – Fitness
Laura Hanson – The boss (haha)

Sponsors/partners…

Without you guys it also couldn’t happen, there are too many to list who have contributed and in so many ways and I wouldn’t want to miss anyone out, but you know exactly who you are – a massive, massive thanks!

The unofficial #TeamHanson

This is a seriously big unofficial ‘team’ and it’s ever growing worldwide! It starts close to home with my family and friends who have been with me from the start but continues to grow with the amazing friendships I’ve made with many people from local golf clubs such as Woodsome Hall, Crosland Heath, Bradley Hall, Outlane, but also all around the UK!

Then to many great friends at tournaments around the world, to families who have accommodated me from Ireland to Australia to South Africa and even looked out for me from across the pond in the USA!

I’m truly grateful for all the support, and I really hope you continue to enjoy the journey, wherever it takes us!!

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The Andalusian Masters!

After finishing T50th in the last Rolex Event of the ‘scheduled season’ in Italy, it was straight onto Spain for the last event before the top 100 cut off for retaining a European Tour Card and the magic 10 access lists spots would be confirmed.

The feeling going into the Andalusian Masters was rather different for me compared to the Portugal Masters last year, which was the final event in 2016 where I felt I needed to make the cut to be safe.

Also the fact I was only 40 minutes from where we are now living made the week more relaxing, but I reckoned my job for 2018 was 95% safe on the main list but 100% safe on the access list!

If you don’t know how the access list works it’s not something I’m going to explain on here, but basically because I earned most of my points/money in non-Rolex events, it meant I was safe as houses!!!

I felt pretty well prepared for the event too. I had a week off in mid-September, when I missed Portugal to many people’s disapproval, and I spent the week practising, resting and more importantly having a practice round at Valderrama.

And I just love the place!

The condition is world class, the definition, the greens, the fairways are pure…the welcome, the setup, the hospitality are just so special, it has to be one of my favourite golfing venues!!

That week I played on my own on a Thursday morning, there was no one around, the weather was perfect and I just strolled around playing two balls trying to keep a score.

Valderrama is such a great test and so tough, but when I played it on my own it was as easy as it gets…no wind, plus you get to kick your ball out of the trees and move it to the other side of the fairway when overhanging trees are in the way…ha ha!!!!

But when you’re out playing it in tournament mode it’s brutal, it tests every aspect of your game and more than anything your patience!!!

You have to get the ball in play off the tee, and that’s not just on the fairway, you have to be on the correct side of the fairway!! The Valderrama cork trees overhang so many holes, and I actually worked it out…

You could hit the fairway on the 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 16th, and 18th and not have a shot to the green!!! Some people hate that! But that’s part of it, you have to be patient and accept you’re going to get ‘unlucky’ at times!

Having already played my practice round, I had the luxury of just playing nine holes Tuesday and spending the rest of the day and Wednesday going through my preparation to-do-list!!

By Thursday I felt ready to get playing, I love the process, the preparation but I think competing is what I really enjoy about the game, it’s the fun part, it’s not the work, the lead up to events is the work and the game day is the play!

Round one I started on ten, the wind was up and my first tee shot changed from the three iron in practice to a knockdown driver sliding it off the trap.

I started birdie, birdie and was off and running, another birdie on my 5th (14th) and I was three under and on the leaderboard! I dropped one on the next not doing much wrong but then fatted my 80 yard approach into 17 40 yards short! Splash!!

Was nice of them to catch that on TV too…doh!!!!

Level par out, and 1 over coming home to shoot an ‘ok’ 72 (+1) to finish the day around 40th, disappointing after the start but Valderrama did exactly what I said it could do…beat you up!!

Round two I let a few slip and made a shocking bogey on 18 to finish plus three for the day which made the cut on the mark at +4.

So, once again, exactly 65 players made the cut, and the great thing about this course is you know if you go out there and shoot two level pars you move up the leaderboard…there are not many courses you can do that on!!

Saturday we played in two balls and I played with the Spaniard Jorge Campillo, a decent player and again someone who goes under the radar making well over half a million euros each year!!

I played again tee to green world class, picking up strokes on the field with my approach play, but super-fast sloping greens made even an 8ft putt tough! In the end I shot three under, which was a happy moving day!

I then followed it up Sunday with a 70 (-1) playing in a pretty special marque group, Andrew ‘BEEF’ Johnston, and Pablo Larrazabal a Spanish fav!!

We had good fun out there, I played solid again, BEEF had a frustrating day but battled till the end birdieing 17 and 18, whilst Pablo was as flamboyant as ever, pleasing the crowd with some special short game and some nice birdies near the end!!

If you know Valderrama you will know how the water sits short on 17 with the amphitheatre back drop creating an amazing setting. I smashed my drive and found the green in two with a 5 iron for my second shot.

Beef…lay up short, wedge on, holed out from 12ft.

Pablo…’fore’ left, down the bank, lay up short, wedged it on to 14ft, holed the putt for birdie to the most electric reception I’ve ever been involved in!! #goosebumps

Me…three putted from 50ft for par!!!! And that sometimes sums up golf…

But another under par round at Valderrama and a solid weekend to move up to 18th along with another top 20 for 2017! And of course 100% wrapped up my playing rights for 2018, finishing 89th on the Race 2 Dubai.

The only thing then was to wait and see if I got into Turkey; it’s 78 players and last year the list went down to 103rd place, but there were the terror problems which this year they don’t have.

But people thought I may have a chance…in the end it was a non-runner and I finished up 8th reserve, so that was now the official end of my 2017 season. Of course I’m disappointed not to achieve my goal of playing the final series… I’m still very happy with how the year has panned out!!

End of season blog to follow…

The Italian Open

After a disappointing Dunhill Links, it was nice to know I would be jetting off back to a course where last year I had some success! Golf Club Milano in Monza for the Italian Open and another cash-filled Rolex Trophy event at an extremely important time in the schedule!!

It was make or break week for many players, and a very clutch time for me too!! Lots of guys needing huge weeks to keep their playing rights for next year and with tenth place paying around €100,000, it was the week to do it!

And if I quickly flash ahead to Sunday, plenty guys did it…Gregory Havret on the brink of losing his card for the first time in probably 20 years secured it with a €65k cheque.

Max Kieffer needed to perform and did!! Matt Wallace needing a huge week to improve his category and did, winning €297k

Also Marcus Fraser who has struggled all season banked €251k and wrapped up his top 100 spot!!! Impressive stuff, and as they say in the sporting world, it takes some big balls to do that, well done guys!

My week ended up being pretty frustrating; I felt after Wednesday I had got my game in a good place and Thursday played very nicely. My approach play was world class.

Rounds of 68, 70 (-4) only saw me scrape through to the weekend on the mark as the scoring was good, and with Soomin Lee making birdie on 18 he knocked everybody on -3 out for the weekend and, from a selfish point of view, nicely reduced the cut to 65 players, which is the perfect number!

Had Soomin made par, the cut would have stayed at -3, an extra 18 guys would have made the cut and then with the new rule, that would have meant a round three cut and a watered down prize fund!

So, with the money on offer this week it was definitely the weekend to shoot two 65s.

I got it to a couple under in round three through 7 holes but too many stupid mistakes and very poor mental attitude cost me and level par wasn’t the round I was after!!!!!

It certainly wasn’t the weekend to waste shots, I was determined to make up for it in the final round. I have wasted too many opportunities this year and need to improve on this to be a much better player!!

So how did round four go? After that last paragraph it should have started well but it didn’t!!! The difference from playing early compared to after lunch was massive, by midday people were going for the first green in two with irons…at 8.30am it was cold, misty and you couldn’t get near the green in two.

I hit a decent drive, a good lay-up, then wedged it to 12ft – sounds good? It does until I three putted giving a shot away on the first!!!!!! What an absolute idiot, to put it politely!

An 8 iron to 6ft on the second and a 6 iron to 5ft on the third meant I bounced back strong and after a few more good approach shots I ended up shooting 68 (-3).

Relatively happy with my round, I hoped to climb a few places, but with everyone making birdies everywhere I only grabbed two extra places and moved up to 50th.

My Rolex series performances haven’t been great, but it was still a much needed €23k on the OOM…there are not many weeks you win a cheque like that and move down in the Race to Dubai (93rd)!

So, with one counting event left in Spain before the ‘end of the season’, it’s important I stay focused, I have goals I still want to achieve and pushing for a place in Turkey is high on the list!

It’s a field size of 78, and with many players who may choose not to play it could fall further down the list, so let’s fight for every penny at Valderrama and see where we are Sunday night!!!

On another note, I must say a huge thank you to Phil Shaw (Woodsome) for his amazing support this week in Italy. Phil enjoyed his trip to Prague last year so much he wanted to support me at another event. This week he cheered me along for 72 holes, joined me for dinner all week, and we had a great time, first class company!!

Then Friday, extra support appeared, Richard Sykes (Woodsome) was out with work in Milan and joined Phil on the sidelines to cheer me along!!

I can’t thank you guys enough for the support, hope you had a great time!!!