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A top 10 finish in spite of the weather calling the shots in Portugal washout

It was a fast turnaround after the Dunhill Links Championship.  The cancellation of the Troon boat meant we weren't home until 11pm.  It was a wild night, and the wind was banging the gate against the house, I didn't get much sleep and was bleary eyed when packing the next morning at 8am. I was disappointed after the final round in St Andrews, my putting had been poor.  I hit the ball well and bad putting is just too expensive at this level.  1 over par at St Andrews costs a lot of cash, but you have to try and take the positives or else you'd not play again.
  
One of the essential things for me to do at home is to get my hair cut. I hate having longer hair beneath my cap when it's warm.  It really annoys me under the hat, so I ran quickly down to the barbers; I didn't have much time as the Easyjet to Faro was leaving at 1pm.  The options weren't good for the flights on Tuesday, it was either 4am wake up for 630am from City Airport or the 11am from Aldergrove which meant little practice Tuesday, so the 1pm Monday flight was the best fit. It takes quite a while to pack nowadays as I bring most of my own food.  It's all gluten free stuff, cereal, the bars and biltong for the course.  It is quite heavy but you just can't be sure of what you can get in some of the place.  We now have a checklist which is about 30 items long, Bev prints it off each time we pack and makes me tick through it, saves trying to remember everything.  I wouldn't be organised like that.

Bev and Erin were due to travel with me but we thought better of it at the last minute but she had checked in online.  It caused some confusion.   The air hostess didn't understand why they weren't travelling with me, we were on the same booking which meant I had 2 free seats beside me, I tried to explain but I think she probably thought I was a weirdo going on holiday on my own! Bev was knackered and we felt this trip was going to be too much and unfair on Erin after yesterday's trip from St. Andrews. 
   
The flight was great, uneventful, they say in the land of aviation that's a good thing!  It was glorious and sunny when I arrived in Faro and the suitcase came out quickly.  I have a new one for this trip.  I tend to buy Samsonite cases, as they last the longest, but they aren't the cheapest!  I'm trying the 4 roller wheels design; it's easier to push whilst I drag my clubs simultaneously.  My last Samsonite lasted 3 years, that's a good 90 trips away at least!  This time I got red and it's a lot easier to spot on the carousel, it's easier to find too when you're filing a baggage report, but hopefully I don't have one anytime soon!
 
Then it was on to Avis to pick up the rental, there are always queues but this time I was lucky and it was quiet.  I got an awesome Citroen! Not.  The car was fine, a little beaten up but grand.  My directions weren't, I got lost coming out of the airport.  Usually we travel with a sat nav, I bought one as it was cheaper than hiring one each week but I forgot to put it in my rucksack at the last minute.   Typically of these events there was one sign for the Portugal Masters which I followed and then not a single one after that, but I figured it out eventually.  The apartments at the Victoria course are quality.  I've been there for 4 years; it's a really relaxed atmosphere.  I was just headed to bed to catch up on some sleep when Gerry texted, they had just crossed the Spanish border in their van with 55 clubs from St. Andrews.  He only had another 11 hrs remaining of the 35hr drive! Johnny Foster and his new assistant Chris had also made the trip.  Chris kindly caddied for 9 while Gerry slept.  Chris is keen to learn and there's no better person to learn from in Ireland than Foster.  It's also a great opportunity for him to get out to some tournaments, even if Johnny's humour is borderline at times!  We did the back 9 with Kevin Phelan, Johnny also coaches Kevin.  The course is good and the weather was warm and nice, little did we know what lay ahead.

Wednesday was a circus as usual.  There was hardly a space on the range to hit balls all day. Tournaments are never great places to practice even though the balls are new and the turf is good; it's just too busy, so you do your checks and that's about it.  I putted with Johnny for 2 hours.  He has some good drills and then hit a few balls and headed to the nearby Quinta do Lago course to play 9, just to get away from the madness.  It was quiet at 4pm and we did the 9. Paul McGinley had just redesigned the north course; it looks good. I really prefer Portugal to Spain it's a shame we don't play more down here rather than China and South Africa but economics dictate.  I was driving it well, teeing the ball high and stretching behind, it minimises my tilt and maximises width, this works for me. 
 
On Thursday morning I woke to rain and wind outside, typical not a drop for 5 months then then we arrive and the heavens open.  There was a short delay but we got going later and I was playing decent but scoring well, making a few putts.  The light faded with 2 to play so we marked the balls paced the distance in case the marks were washed away and headed in.  We'd have to restart at 815am Friday.  I finished well birding the 9th for 6 under.  I was with 2 Danes who had good support, although Madsen was very slow.  He doesn't do any shot preparation before his turn, which is crazy I always work out an approx. yardage and club whilst the others are hitting, it helps you get the shot in your head and helps avoid bad time fines.
  
We got round to the 8th par 3 and I was going good again but heavy rain came in and the course flooded so we had a 4hour delay until the water could be removed. Staying close to the course was good; we could shower and chill in the apartment rather than the busy locker room or players' lounge.  We were sent out to play till dark and we got 5 holes in.  The greens were so slow and churned up with heel marks so it was tough enough.  We got to the 13th and then came back to finish at 8am on Saturday.  Tour had decided to reduce the event to 3 rounds, finishing Sunday.   I played the last 5 in level, it was target golf and easy, no wonder Alexander Levy got to 18 under shooting 10 under.  Still my total of 10 under was good and I had a nap and read my book, then had physio with Shane and before I knew it, it was night time.  My parents had come down for the trip and Gerry kept them entertained with some caddy stories over a glass of wine at dinner in town. I think they were a little shocked at some of the stories but it was good craic and the food was great.  I was shocked when I got my tee time from the Tour via text; I was expecting an early start as the weather forecast wasn't great.  We all thought it would be an early 2 tee start, in a u draw.  It happens all the time on Sundays, especially in Malaysia and Singapore, but I was going out at 1240.  Strange!
 
  It was windy on the range warming up but there were lots of people from back home and a good atmosphere. The guys from Greenisland enjoyed themselves earlier in the week, and I must say congratulations to Stuart Kyle who got married last week.  Stuart and I grew up playing boys and youth's golf.  I played with Chris Wood and Gregory Bourdy, we got to the 3rd fairway and it started lashing, the course was flooded within minutes.  This was the chance they took and we knew there wasn't daylight to finish now.  Apparently Sky TV didn't want the golf to clash with the Russian Grand Prix so they wanted us to finish later after it.  It's all about live sport nowadays.  It's crazy because we could have been done at 2pm, and 3 rounds would have been finished, it happens a lot.  Because of the tournament in Hong Kong next week they couldn't play on Monday as guys' flights were booked so the tournament was called off to 36 holes. It's very disappointing for everyone but mainly the sponsors and spectators.  Only 75% of the prize money gets paid and counted towards the race to Dubai.  I got my 6th top ten of the year even though it didn't feel proper and we said well done to Levy and his caddy from Ardglass "Bo", Brian Martin.  We thought he would win anyway he's a very good young player; the French are churning them out just at the minute.
 
It does make you wonder though should TV scheduling come ahead of getting the tournament done? I know the Sky contract pays for a large part of the Tour but some common sense needs to prevail at times.  A lot of guys were angry with the Tour; especially those fighting for their cards, there were careers at stake with only 2 events left counting some guys on the bubble like Tom Lewis had played great during their 3rd round for nothing.

Luckily my bookings were all made for Monday and I was heading home anyway so I'm sat doing this article.  Next stop on the circus for me is China in 2 weeks for the BMW.  I'm trying to hit the gym this week and spend more time with Erin as Bev is shattered with only 7 weeks until number 2 arrives.