I.N.D.I.A – “I’ll never do it again!”
That’s what the general feeling is from the players…you go, you get Delhi belly, you don’t enjoy it, and never go again.
For me, it was my second time to India; the first visit was my first ever event on the Challenge Tour (Ahmadabad), and I’m not going to lie – it was an eye opener!
I’ve now travelled round the world and visited 59 countries and I’d never seen sights like what I saw in India.
Thousands – and I mean thousands – of people sleeping on the roads; driving through the night from the airport you see families on the streets, children playing in the roads at 3am….these people don’t have homes, and this was on a massive scale!
I’d never seen rubbish like it. India must have the biggest divide between wealth and poverty – with nothing in between!!
We are very lucky in England, and very lucky to have the choice of where we live!
But even after hearing what other players had to say, it sure didn’t put me off playing a golf tournament there; my motto… “have clubs will travel” and that’s what I’ve always done – and many, many times at the drop of a hat!!
It was another fantastic opportunity on the European Tour and an event I didn’t get to play on my first year on Tour!
So, a night flight from SA to Delhi via Dubai, as that seems to be my central hub at present, and I arrived at the hotel around 5pm after the most hell raising 45-minute journey!
It really is a life experience driving around India – there are not many other words to explain it other than carnage! It’s a pure free for all; if you don’t keep driving you won’t get there; don’t brake, just keep nudging the accelerator until someone else stops!
We saw cows, pigs, goats, horses and dogs all wandering freely down roads and motorways! We saw cars performing U turns into oncoming traffic on the motorway, and people going the wrong way around roundabouts!
And I thought Dubai was bad for undertaking, in Delhi that is all they do!!!!
How we didn’t see a crash, I don’t know!!!!
So, curry for tea, fast asleep by 9.30pm, and up nice and early, ready to see what DLF Golf club had to offer!
First, another drive through slums to get there, but to then drive through the gates to find luxury, and probably one of the first golf courses I’ve ever described as WOW!
But this ‘wow’ can certainly be taken two ways; visually it was incredible – the bunker design is unique, the rock layout is impressive, the green designs are out of this world, the setting makes you feel you could be anywhere but India…
But ‘wow’ also means, this is one crazy, crazy golf course!!!!
I don’t think there was a tee shot on the course that gave you a breather… just a shot where you can feel to relax a little and just nudge it down there…
You just couldn’t – every hole has ‘hell’ at both sides, long grass/bushes or massive bunkers, all with riveted faces!!!
Then even when you got into position off the tee you were then faced with some of the craziest greens I’ve ever seen, and they were firm too!!!!
The best way to describe it is: on TV, it will look amazing but the players will look stupid at times…But I guess that’s what some people want to see…professionals struggling!!!
My personal opinion is that it was just a bit too unfair; good golf shots didn’t get enough of a reward at times!
Don’t get me wrong, I prefer it when it’s tough and scoring isn’t great, so for me to say the above takes some doing!!
So, heading back Tuesday to the hotel in the courtesy car, after what felt like the longest practice round in history (touching nearly 6 hours), we were ready for another driving exhibition…but we weren’t quite ready for this…
I was with Steve Tiley, and 1/2 mile from the hotel the driver had what we thought was an epileptic fit at the wheel – he had leaned into the back of the car looking at the roof and was shaking like mad.
The car was still going forward, Steve tried to pull the hand brake but in the BMW it’s the button, so he couldn’t stop it…we ended up crashing at probably 15mph into a mud banking!
The driver continued to shake, then whilst unconscious he started to vomit; we were surrounded quickly by 50 local Indian guys who started to pull him out of the car, shake him and pour water on him.
After ten minutes, he kind of came round but ended up walking off like a zombie into the middle of the road, out of control.
Thankfully, someone got him to hospital, and from what we heard he was ok. We managed to get a lift back to the hotel and I guess I was lucky to walk away with only a bruised knee.
The way folks drive, it could have been a lot worse – thankfully no one else was involved!
So, after a good practice day on Wednesday, I was ready for what was set to be one of the toughest physical and mental challenges we will have all year!!
First round I battled and battled and was up and down all day, and after a storm delay and coming back to finish round one Friday morning, I shot +4.
That wasn’t out of it at all, but it sure felt like it was! And if it wasn’t for the attitude and the constant reminders every shot/hole from my caddy Steve, it would have been so easy to throw the towel in.
Even I said one hole: “Steve, I just want to throw this club in the ****** water!”
It felt very much like the scoring at Valderrama last year, and after Steve said he wasn’t going to let us bow out early like we did there, he probably worked harder than I did those first two days!
Day 2, we played decent and missed three great chances on the last three holes to shoot level!
In the end, we comfortably made the cut, and the next 12 hours I watched my name creep up the leaderboard 48 places from where I started the day!!
That in itself was a huge confidence booster for the weekend. It was just confirmation that I wasn’t playing as bad as it felt, and everyone was struggling!!
The weekend was a mixed bag of scoring. I played great on Saturday and shot 69 (-3), then Sunday I was in a great position to move up the board. I actually played a lot better than my score and in the end 76 (+4) didn’t move me down the leaderboard much!
T22nd with rounds of 76, 72, 69, 76 was pretty pleasing after what felt like such a long week, and certainly one of the toughest mental tests ever!
Mid-way in round one I was only thinking of the quickest way home, so to be on my scheduled Sunday night flight home with extra money on the OOM is great!
It’s now four weeks at home with the family before another three week stretch on the road.
MOROCCO – CHINA – CHINA
Please, please, please don’t ask me if I want to go out for a curry this week…