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After a bit of a break it's a welcome return to golfers, caddies and coaches

It was good to join the dysfunctional fraternity of pro golfers, caddies and coaches again.  I had been away for 5 weeks out of the last 6 as I had played in the NI Open, the Challenge Tour event at Galgorm instead of the Italian Open.  Playing Challenge Tour again gave me an appreciation to have Gerry (my caddy) back again and to be thankful that I get to play a game I love for large amounts of money each week.  I am lucky to be able to make a living doing something I enjoy, which I often forget in the heat of competition each week. 

The feedback I've received about Galgorm was very positive again this year.   The first person I bumped into was Darren Clarke who said it looked like it went well, lots of other players and caddies had heard about the 34,000 crowds and were impressed, I said all was good apart from my golf!
 
I arrived Sunday night in Crans, leaving Bev and Erin to travel on their own which in hindsight wasn't a good plan, but I felt I needed to be selfish and get chipping and putting!  We have rented the same apartment for 4 out of 5 years but only from Monday so I had to stay in a hotel on Sunday night.  The hotels in Crans are expensive and a little out dated compared to other ski resorts but they do have a lot of sunshine and great views!  Dragging the clubs and case wasn't great as it's a long trip.  I flew to London on Saturday changed terminals, stayed at the Sofitel and then flew to Geneva early Sunday.  Then I caught the train to Sierre and finally a courtesy car to Crans.  I should have taken a car to the course in the morning as dragging everything down the hill back to the course and then down to apartment wasn't the best idea, I could feel my left shoulder getting tight, not a good start to the week.
 
  I hit putts, balls and did lots of chipping on the Monday.  It was cold but clear, the lips start to hack straight away, and anyone who skis knows what I mean.  I tried to get in the Pro-am on Monday afternoon; it was 1500euro to play and had been booked up weeks in advance.  Bev had asked but I didn't want to enter it then.  Nobody wanted to withdraw as it pays for the week in Crans.  This year Tour had a bus from the Italian Open up to the mountains, its only 4hrs away so guys could play the Pro-am and help keep the sponsors happy. It's still probably a good idea not to play a 5hr Pro-am on the Monday as the week up here is especially strenuous.
Certain holes on the course have the most amazing view.  The 7th tee is particularly stunning, where you look down the valley.  It was one of my favourite places, until I witnessed the Matterhorn in Zermatt 1 hour down the road which is even better, I've been fortunate to travel!
 
I played a full 18 holes on Tuesday, the only time I'd have the chance as I wasn't in the Pro-am on Wednesday.  There have been a couple of little changes to the course making it tougher, bunkers off the tee, lengthening the 5th and changing the 14th to par 4 with a forward tee. 59 was a possibility now as the par was 70 as it's a short course. We always use a metres book, as like Pretoria the ball goes 10% further but when its cold 5% and when it's hot 13%, give or take.  It also depends how high you hit it as a lower flight obviously won't take advantage of the thinner air.  One of the pilots I know used to talk about a high hot take-off being so much harder than at sea level now I know what he's talking about.

When Bev arrived on Tuesday afternoon there was a lot of running around to do.  We drove down to Sierre, 30minutes down the hill, to do the weekly shopping in the bigger supermarkets.  We also had to keep Erin entertained, she managed the journey well even if she was walked down the aisle of the plane to try and keep her quiet. Bev was tired and a bit fed up.  The folks in Dublin had been lovely and helpful; those in Geneva were rude and didn't help her as she tried to get on to the shuttle bus to car rental with 4 bags and Erin.  She had planned on using the disabled spot on the bus for the buggy but a ton of Italian or Russians had jumped the queue and were taking up the spots, I think they have sore shins now as the buggy may or may not have been rammed into them…….Don't mess with tired pregnant women!  It was the first time we had a car at this event and it actually helped to run to the shops and drop me to the course.  I think we'll hire the car again next year instead of using the train tickets the promoters provide.

My shoulder got sore after hitting balls on Wednesday. I was concerned but Shane reassured me it was just tightness in the infraspinatus area.  It connects the front and back of the shoulder and I had probably tweaked it by dragging the bags.  It's hard to believe something so uncomfortable is just from tightness.  He worked on it and I called it a day for practice so I could rest it.  We went to the shops to find ice, but nowhere sold it so I ended up getting 4 bags of peas and we sat at a ski slope with them inside my shirt.  I did look pretty weird! Erin had found a couple of 5 year old French friends and I was trying to communicate with them, digging up GCSE French.  The shoulder was still catching me that night so I drove to Shane's and he worked on me again.  This time on a different area and got the exact spot, the difference was amazing!

  At 7am the next day Shane got the same area again and I was perfect, in almost no discomfort swinging before I started to play!  What a relief!  It's why I pay a lot for the service, to be able to call on Shane night or day is an amazing luxury and very reassuring!  He's even treated my caddy and Bev in the past as well.   I started steady.  I was playing with Anders Hansen and Gregory Bourdy.  I had 7 pars with a couple of lip outs but I stayed patient and then the putts dropped for me; 5 birdies in 6 holes and another on 15 for 5 under.  I think it's the best round I've ever had at Crans. Anders has a great swing but he's 42 and just had wrist surgery, he can't fully trust his game and is a bit depressed on the course. I know I'm not the happiest looking either at times on the course, I think the game can wear you down! Gregory swings good with a nice tempo and is very competitive.  He just had a nightmare of a tight lie on the 13th, the club bounced, he thinned it into the water and had to drop back where he hit and almost did the same again.

Friday was decent. I started to loose concentration a little on the back 9, however I turned it around well with birdies on 7 and 9.  My swing thought was to stretch in the backswing, and it stood me in good stead as I scored 2 under.  Anders was having a nightmare but turned it around well to make the cutt and he hit the range after as I was getting more work on my shoulder. Jamie Gough, Anders' coach can't get him to go to the chipping area, like a lot of players they just want to flush medium irons all day long.  I can be guilty of that as well.  Gerry now insists on putting, then chipping, then range. I'd always go the other way!

Saturday was the latest tee time I've had at Crans, it was warm and the ball was going miles just like the pilots say!   I airmailed the green from the rough on the 2nd from 190m with a 7iron, got a horrible lie and 3 putted for double, not good.  I came back well but another clumsy chip on the 8th and I managed to putt off the green on the 10th!  It's always fantastic when you de-green and putt but the upturned saucers of Crans are very tricky.  On 13 I hit an 8iron stiff for birdie but it went 175m, that's crazy far!  I got stuck in a bunker on 17, made double it was just a nightmare.  And not great for the couple from Shandon that came to watch me but I think they were able to enjoy the views of the stunning mountains anyway. I was playing with Peter Whiteford and Robert Jan Derksen.  Peter has just recently got married and he played solid, until 14 caught him.  I always enjoy Robert Jan Derksen's company, I will miss him next season, he is a proper gentlemen.  He has decided to retire after about 20 years out here, these are his last few tournaments before retirement and he says he's feeling the pressure to play well more than ever!
 
My chipping was better on Sunday, but a 9 iron flew 150m on 17 even though I hit it smooth.  The bogey let me down. Gerry wanted me to hit wedge but I just couldn't trust the distance so I hit 9 iron! I really should learn after 7 years up the mountain.  At least the cheque paid for the not cheap week at the ski resort.

It was good to see Gareth Maybin playing well again; he is a serious competitor and always wins the money from me in practice!  We headed back to Geneva on Sunday so the girls could get their flight to Dublin on Monday morning; Bev wasn't undertaking the journey alone again she informed me!

I had a bit of a surprise on Monday.  Bev had booked a late afternoon EasyJet flight for me to Amsterdam but Tour announced KLM were putting on a flight for us at lunchtime about two weeks ago, perfect. When I arrived at the gate everyone was given blue coats with Champions Flight emblazoned on it.  I think there were only 10 players on the flight.  So I got a lot of pictures taken with Miguel Jimenez and Joost Lutein.  We got pics taken beside the plane and KLM did a press conference at 30000 ft. with Miguel and Joost talking about their playoff last year. It was cool and different and the flight half empty so we could stretch out more than on EasyJet.  I'm looking forward to getting the pics, one for the scrap book and was a definite bonus as a plane enthusiast.


We have a links course this week in Holland.  It's a true links in Zandvoort so I'm looking forward to it.