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.
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!