Posted: 3rd July 2012
Crikey.... lots of golf since we last spoke folks so a lot to get through due to my tardiness on the blog front, apologies for that. After a three week break due to the Spanish Open entry debacle I promptly found a way to miss the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
A double bogey on the first hole on Friday had me on the back foot but after an admirable fightback I was in good position when I promptly three putted the 13th after a beautiful five iron to 20 feet. Two bad swings on the next two holes and I was left taking a boat trip on the Thames with Fred and the wife rather than competing in the year's biggest event. As nice as it was, I would have to say it was not quite what I had in mind.
Wales was a different story though, an event I have yet to play well in since we switched to the 2010 course. This year however I played fantastic golf on Friday, hitting 17 greens in regulation to make the cut in the top 20 positions.
A good first two holes on Saturday came to a stunning halt on the par three third when my seven iron soared towards the pin looking all the while like it was due to nestle in close to the flag only to fall to earth two yards short and trickle back into the hazard - a criminal error of judgement that ended up costing me a triple bogey.
I would have to hold my hands up and say I never really recovered from that and in the end I finished a lowly 50th or something undesirable, which was frustrating to say the least. Still no rest for the wicked at this time of year so it was off to Sweden which started on Wednesday this year and another cut safely made.
Once again I was blighted by a double bogey on day one halting some steady progress and then again on Sunday playing with my good friend Fozzy, I contrived to hit a gorgeous six iron straight over the pin on the 10th, unfortunately it was also straight over the green, a duffed chip, followed by a poor chip and three putts from four feet and I had racked up a god awful seven from the middle of the fairway.
For the life of me I can't work out where all these high numbers are coming from and if I had any left I would be pulling my hair out. On that note take a piece of advice from me, never get your hair cut in a foreign country by someone with only minimal English.
Scissors in hand, this Swedish dude asked me if half an inch on top was the required amount to remove from my already sparsely covered scalp. "That's great," I replied. However, no sooner had I placed my wallet on the counter and checked one message on my phone he had taken the clippers to the side of my head and given me a number two right up the side.
The look on my face told the story but what can you do other than hide from any colleagues and wear a TaylorMade cap down to breakfast. I did wonder whether the new minimalist look would carry over to the golf course with minimalist scores but the seven on the tenth put paid to that theory unfortunately.
So another lowly finish in the Swedish fjords left me underwhelmed but quietly confident that if I can get rid of the double bogeys good things could come. On this front I had devised a master plan that involved missing the US Open qualifying to play in St Omer, a co-sanctioned event with the Challenge Tour just over the channel in Calais.
The family were with me, wife, Fred, Vivienne, the mother-in-law and Aunty Lesley, Vivienne’s sister. Raymondo came over later in the week but decided not to stay in our little French cottage, oh and Madeleine the Au Pair. So all hands on deck to look after little Fred while I concentrated on getting myself into contention, to feel the buzz of competing for a high finish, to boost my confidence of coming down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.
It was, to say the least, an interesting environment for the two males in the household to witness. Grandma Vivienne, it turns out, is a whizz at entertaining Fred in the mornings with her back catalogue of hundreds of nursery rhymes and folk songs, none of which I have heard of before. Fred literally sings along for the first 45 minutes - however, for even the youngest of ears he seems to know when enough is enough.
I can see Vivienne entering into the secretive world of evidence gathering for MI5, not even the most extreme of terrorists could cope with 30 minutes of Humpty Dumpty sang in C8. However, should they manage to resist, a rendition of the newly composed children’s classic "Jiggliy jiggliy grandma, jiggily jiggily grandma" would cause even Abu Hamza to give up the cause.
What nobody could have foreseen were the events that took place in a quaint little French bistro on Thursday evening. Vivienne and Lesley spent a great portion of the evening deciding on which of the four French players on the next table they would love to get to know had they been ten years younger, (ambitious I thought, but hey ho) before Fred’s grandmother declared: "Ooh I have just realised, I have brought a poo with me."
Nobody quite realising what she meant, we were somewhat relieved to realise she was only talking about a nappy safely bagged up and ready for the bin which she had forgotten about. Not an ideal dinner topic, it would have to be said, but it made for an interesting evening.
So down to business safe in the knowledge that Fred was in safe if not slightly quirky hands and my week progressed nicely indeed, my master plan was proving to be a good one. In the smallest European Tour event I have ever competed in my hope was that some solid golf would eventually propel me into contention.
My feelings were proved correct when after nine holes on Sunday, although some way off the lead, at level par I was in third place and within striking distance of second. With the most experience of all the competitors I felt great about my chances of securing a top three placing.
I summoned all of my 17 years of experience on tour and hit a slightly heavy eight iron short of the 10th green. Bogey.
Par on the 11th was followed by a good saving par putt on 12, so all was still possible. Thirteen saw a pathetically weak tee shot which led to another bogey. Composure still intact however and I managed to par the tricky 14th and after a superb chip on 15 that burnt the edge of the cup, I promptly missed a three-foot tap in for par.
Now slightly miffed at all my hard work slipping away I summoned all my combative skills and caught a flier on the next which led to another double bogey.
After a par at 17 and a hike up to the 18th fairway my left foot promptly gave way in transition on my seven iron to the last, an impossible chip and a missed putt later I had come back in six over par. 23rd place then after all that toil. What a master plan that was! Gutted.
Germany came next and a switch to Cologne from Munich this year, so Raymondo continued on from St Omer where he stayed in a chateau and onto a small German town where he stayed in a hotel that could only be described as the complete opposite. Still he had a good time even if he struggled to navigate across Europe successfully.
Dad owns a TomTom also has Sat Nav in his car but is unable to use either without help from the nearest three-year-old, so he instead drives while reading a good old-fashioned road map. Unable to locate the world's most undesirable hotel, he had to pay to follow a cab, who then promptly drove off with his map.
Fearing a never ending trip home without paper map I took 7.6 seconds out of my day to enter the word Calais into a box called Destination on the cars navigation system and, to dad's amazement, directions to a place called Calais appeared on a talking map in front of his eyes. Dad was nearly as astonished as the fact that I had by now made another cut - yes I know, is that four in a row you're thinking? - top 30 this time, another display of steady golf tarnished by a couple of three putts at the wrong time and a bogey bogey finish on Saturday.
Another week where I threatened to get in the mix but found a way to drop back again - frustrating but at least my belief and confidence is growing by the week.
Finally then, you will be pleased to know, should you have gotten this far, it was onto the Irish Open at the famed Royal Portrush. We were staying with friends just 300 yards from the club which was great. Fred was in tow with Emily and numerous Dubai-based friends were in town for the festivities.
I, of course, was concentrating on trying to win the Irish Open that was attended by over 130,000 avid Irish golf fans eager to see their four major winners in action. What a great week it was, other than the weather which finally graced Jamie Donaldson's sublime maiden victory with blue skies and tranquillity after three days of links-like weather.
Once again, I was blighted by a triple bogey on day one on my 9th hole but my new attention to the mental side of getting around the course proved fruitful when I bounced straight back with three birdies. However I still needed to find a birdie from the last two holes on Friday to make the weekend which I duly did with a sublime eight iron to the 17th to within a foot.
Delighted to still be competing, I managed two decent rounds at the weekend and a 69 on Sunday left me heading to the Easyjet check-in reasonably happy with 34th place.
Then the fun began; a two-hour delay was announced, followed by Emily announcing that she wasn’t happy and that, seeing as Easyjet knew of her travelling with a baby, how could they possibly allow this?
Next stop; the bar, which had the football on - Emily’s idea of hell coming to fruition. Finally, a boarding gate full of stressed Easyjet travellers standing in line for a further hour, speedy boarders making declarations of this very fact: "Do you mind, I have paid for speedy boarding," normally sane people cry out.
I was hemmed in between a non-speedy line up and speedy boarders barricading the front line by the counter, pushchair and carry cot in hand, wife and child leaning over at the front of the counter like a caged animal trying to escape. She had her place and woe betide anyone who should challenge a tired and hungry mother protecting her young. But horror, I had the passports stuck with the masses, what to do? A dilemma indeed. Could I ask for help to queue jump, would a riot ensue?
Thankfully my salvation was my old pal Mark Foster, fresh from a fifth place finish. Unbeknown to Emily and I, he was a speedy boarder, a modest one ready to wait in line, not an eager one shouting the fact. He would become our Manny for the flight, a helping hand with the buggy over a barricade of chairs and in a jiffy we were on the flight.
Fred was calm, Emily not so much. Bottle in hand, dummy in the other hand, a spare dummy in my hand, and bottle of sterilised water in the Manny's hand, along with thermos flask to warm the bottles. We were the most prepared modern travelling family.
Fozzy and I were warned to concentrate on staring at the sleeping baby during takeoff to make sure he wouldn’t wake, which he didn’t and apparently proved Emily correct that staring would indeed help the situation. The one thing we were short of was a dummy for the wife who, quite frankly, was a pain in the arse, and will never again fly on the orange airline. Finally, a Daily Mail calmed her down along with Fred being firmly asleep in my lap. Then to mine and Fozzy's horror she left us alone to visit the loo.
Never have two male professional golfers felt so nervous on an airplane. Please God let Fred stay asleep, and for once our prayers were answered. What a star.
Unfortunately, Emily and Fred won't come to France so I am going to have to put up with ten hours sleep a night and read a book on the plane. What a nightmare. Spare a thought for me, please.
The former European Tour golfer and ISM founder looks into the world of golf, life on the world's fairways and the fortunes of his stable.
This is where, from time to time, you will find out what I've been up to!