• Facebook
  • Twitter

Focus on practice ahead of Morocco defence

The golf course was located in a new area of Delhi, on the outskirts of the old city, about one and a half hours into the centre of town.  It seems a lot of the developing nations are starting to try to develop new more modern cities on the doorstep of the older ones.  It was a great spot, the real estate was just a little pricey and it felt a little like a ghost town compared to the bustling life of central Delhi.  The traffic is still horrendous and even though it was only 50 kilometres from the airport to the hotel it still took about 2 hours in the Emirates car.  The trip from the airport to the hotel was one of the scarier ones we encounter all season, everyone I met during the week commented on it.  7 lanes of cars merge into 2 as you exit the airport, no one stops, and no one gives way.  It's a crazy environment!  Not to mention all the tuk-tuk and cows roaming in the midst of things!

The course itself was a Norman designed one.  It has a few 460 yard par 4s and I thought the scoring would not be great on my initial assessment Sunday evening.  I'd gone for a run around the course after I'd checked in as my hotel for the week was on site and I was one of the only lads to have arrived into the hotel.  The course was long and a few of the holes had really narrow landing areas on the fairways, I decided the par 5s weren't just going to be driver, iron to the green but would probably require a little more consideration to avoid OB or water.  Whilst I was practising the next day I noticed the greens were really firm and the ball was releasing a lot, it confirmed my initial assessment on scoring.

It never rains this time of year so I wasn't expecting the greens to soften up and the locals were saying it was cool for this time of year even though it was still 31⁰C.  Apparently it'll be 50⁰C in a few months time, all I can say is that I'm glad we weren't trying to play then.  It was at least a dry heat which I find easier to deal with rather than the humid heat we encounter in Singapore or Malaysia.

I was really looking forward to the event; I hadn't been to India for about 10 years and was glad to be back.  I'd heard good things about the course but had always managed to avoid playing here the last few seasons.  It's always one of those events where someone gets awful "Delhi belly".  The food is different and not always to the same standards we get at home even in a good hotel like the one on the course.  I'd decided Bev should stay at home just encase she got ill, there was no need to risk food poisoning for her or the baby.  I spent most of the week eating dinner with Peter Lawerie; I hadn't spent much time with him recently but always find him easy company.  More importantly he likes to eat early, just like me, and he always has a stash of chocolate on him.  This week he supplied me with several Cadburys Crème Eggs for desert, nothing beats a cold crème egg straight from the fridge and a big mug or milky tea - heaven!  Not exactly what the dieticians would have me eat but sure!

In the end I was very wrong about the scoring!  The cut ended up being 3 under, which is low and the boys tore the course apart over the weekend.  The grain on the greens wasn't a huge factor this week, sometimes it can make a big difference to your putting, but I still found it difficult to read the greens I got caught in a catch 22 if I didn't allow for the break it moved, if I did allow for the break it didn't and I couldn't figure it out at all.
Having said all that I hit 11 fairways and 14 greens on Thursday morning and thought I'd had a pretty good round.  It was a much better hitting display from me, and I was feeling really comfortable with my swing at last.  I only had one bad hole where I possibly should have laid up on a par 5 instead of going for the green in 2; I turned it over and straight into the water.  The resulting double bogey left me with quite a lot of work to do on the way in!  I really didn't expect someone to go and shoot 11 under in the afternoon, it had been very windy for us in the morning but the wind died as we finished.  Even so the greens were hard and non-receptive so it was a bit of a shock to finish the day below the cut line.

I knew I'd a lot of work to do on Friday morning and was confident I was for making the cut as I spoke with Bev before the round whilst putting on my Kinesio tape.  I wear the tape in every round to support my feet instead of wearing orthotics in my shoes.  The tape has helped as its more comfortable and my feet and legs don't ache when I've finished the round.  I hit 8 or 9 fairways and 12 greens and didn't miss the other fairways or greens by a lot.  I misjudged the grain on one early hole ending up with a three putt and then a few of the later puts moved more than I'd anticipated so I was a long way down by the turn.  I made 4 birdies on the back 9 so was happy that things were clicking into place ahead of Morocco, unfortunately I also had a plugged ball in a bunker on the 11th and ended up with a double bogey which sealed my fate.  I was disappointed to have missed my second cut in a row but spent Saturday and Sunday practising and at the gym with Shane (my physio).

I ate with Peter Lawerie again that night and he was equally as depressed.  He'd sunk a 40 foot put on the last and threw his putter into the air, thinking it was enough to ensure the weekend but it wasn't to be and he headed out to Malaysia on Saturday evening to try and get over the jet lag before the event.

I noticed that most of the top 10 were players from the other half of the draw sometimes that just happens.  The conditions change and there's not really a lot you can do, but the luck generally averages out over the course of a few seasons.  It was good to see Thomas Aiken come through and take the title.  He's a phenomenal putter and when he gets it going he can shot a ridiculously low score!  He has a high left to right ball flight which really suited the firm greens this week and was just a birdie machine.  23 under on that course is ridiculous scoring!

I'm heading back to Dubai for another weeks practice ahead of defending my title in Morocco.  All the other lads are heading out to Malaysia, including Luke Donald.  He's quite a trip ahead of him Florida-London-Malaysia, about 25 hours I reckon.  Mind you I think I'd be doing that if I was getting paid as much as he's reported to be getting for the week.  I'm glad I'm not going I find the humidity very tiring especially for just one week and I want to be fresh to enjoy the challenge that being defending Champion will bring.

I was really upset to learn that a friend from Castlerock Golf Club tragically lost his battle with cancer this week.  Philip Wilson was a friend I'd met as a Junior Golfer at Castlerock and we'd been close as kids.  It's one of the reasons I'm getting more involved with the Clic Sergant charity.
As I'm so far ahead time wise this week I missed the Ireland rugby game, which I'm told was a blessing and I also missed the St Patrick's Day celebrations.  I also missed out on going to a very close friend's wedding but that's just one of the problems with being away from home so much.  At least the ground stayed closed under me, not like the guy in Illinois who was trapped in an 18 foot hole when the ground swallowed him during his round of golf.  He ended up with a dislocated shoulder and was trapped for 20 minutes.  I guess exercise isn't always good for you!