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Good things lie around the corner..............

The Dunhill week is always a little different from all the others on tour.  There are 3 courses to practice and prepare on, with a large field, and then there are the amateurs as well.  This is one of the only events we play in which the amateurs get to play alongside us as we compete.  It's a unique event and most players really enjoy it.  You feel good playing with sporting legends and celebrities.  I've been lucky with the partners I've been allocated and was really looking forward to meeting up with my partner from last year again.  I'd played with an American Gent called Bill Farish Jnr; he breeds horses in Kentucky and loves his golf.


I arrived into Edinburgh early on Monday hoping to get some practice in before a lot of the other guys arrived.  I was a little nervous as I'd never defended a title before.   Normally there are large pictures of the defending Champion on the advertising boards outside the courses and at other strategic locations.  I was nervous thinking about them and Bev was all ready to take pictures of me beside it so I was a little disappointed to realise it was a huge picture of Ernie Els and not myself as we pulled into the Carnoustie car park at lunch time.  James and I set off to get 9 holes in, before the rain started and Bev set off to Crail to find our house for the week.  We'd rented a converted farmhouse about 20 minutes from St Andrews for the week to get me away from the noise of the town.  When I turned up later it was idyllic - fields, horses and sea - perfect during such a hectic week!  I even had my own golf course at the end of the lane.


The week took its normal shape but I also managed to fit in 9 holes with Bill and his friend at Kingsbarnes on Tuesday.  I hadn't seen Bill since the Seminole Pro-am in March and we had a good catch up before I headed back to St Andrews for a bit of range time with Jamie.   Jamie also gave Bill a lesson, he got his hips leaning towards the target a little more and he achieved a much better wind up as a result and struck the ball a lot better.  People ask me for lessons but I don't have the experience of a proper coach and am afraid I will mess guys up instead of improving them.   I'd an interview to do on Wednesday at the media centre; the only other time I've had to participate in one was for the Irish Open this year at Portrush.  I elected to go last so I could fit in 9 holes around the Old Course before it.  I thought I would have been more nervous about facing the media but I was out in just under 20 minutes and off home again.  Bev had managed to get Sky Go working on the laptop and we stood in the kitchen to watch the European Tour weekly show, the one my car driving was scheduled to be on.  The broadband wasn't great though so it kept "buffering" and we missed half the show, so we thought we'd missed the bit with me in it.  It was only when I got a few text messages from friends and family that we realised it hadn't been shown.  I'm still not sure why!  Still I got a really good day at Mercedes Benz World because of it.  I did eventually find the clip on the European Tour website and thought it looked great, shame it didn't get aired!


I played Carnoustie first this year, starting on the 10th tee second from last group of the day.  It was going to be tough starting that late on the most difficult of the 3 courses but I played well and was round in one under parr.  A solid enough start to the defence of the title!  Friday was a much better day at Kingsbarnes and I was 3 under on the front 9, but misjudged the wind on the way back in and finished 1 under for the day.  My irons were either spot on or 30 yards from the target which isn't ideal when you need to put a score on the board.  Brandon Grace had zoomed miles out into the lead over the first two days and was putting the rest of us under a lot of pressure!


I played well on Saturday and had made a few birdies to get to the cutt mark.  I needed another birdie on the way in and I knew the 9th was down wind and reachable from the tee so I was in with a chance if I could stay patient until then.  I had a 50 yard wedge shot on the par 5  5th which I didn't get close enough and made par.  My irons were the same as the past few days either perfect or far away, and being erratic was making it difficult for James to help club me properly.  I hit an 8 iron on line with the pin on the 7th a little too hard and it bounced through the green into some fluffy grass on the bank behind.  It was sitting up and I got underneath it leaving the ball in the rough and ending my tournament right there.  
I had desperately wanted to do well this week but it just wasn't to be and then I had to go out to the Gala Dinner.  We'd never been before and only received our invite on Thursday night after the first round so Bev had gone to buy me a suit and her a dress in Dundee.  I was glad we hadn't just turned up in jeans - the style was mighty!  It's such an opportunity to network with the rich and famous.  Bev even got to meet Alan Hanson; she's a huge fan so the week wasn't a total disaster.


We'd an early flight in the morning so it was home early, leaving everyone to celebrate or commiserate as they saw fit.  We made it back to Ascot in time to see the final few holes.  A few of my records remained intact; my record winning score of 22 under was only equaled.  I was telling everyone that Brandon would shoot another 6 under and win by 5 or 6 strokes, but he didn't.  I think it was definitely more exciting the way it turned out!  As for me the defence of my first title was disappointing in so many ways, but the good stuff is just around the corner of that I'm very sure!