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I covered my costs - but only just!

I took the 6 hour nighttime flight from Kuala Lumpar to Beijing on Sunday night arriving at 6:30am Monday morning.  The Courtesy Car picked Jamie Gough, my coach, and I, up from the airport for a 2 hour drive to the hotel in Tianjin.  I hadn't heard of the city prior to the tournament schedule being released but 12 million people live there and it has been designated a free business zone, so many of the largest companies in the world have offices in it. I think it's expected to be China's third biggest city soon.  Unfortunately our driver didn't know where it was either and got lost.  He didn't speak any English, had no SatNav or mobile phone so Jamie and I were really stuck.  After 2 hours circling the road system just outside Beijing airport and we decided to take our chances on public transport instead.  4 taxis, 2 trains and 1 bullet train later we arrived at the hotel in Tianjin at 2pm.  7 hours in a car and on public transport with your clubs and a suitcase is never fun! It's never a nice way to start the week, you get a bit flustered and stiff, but sometimes it happens - at least all the luggage had arrived.  It had put paid to the practice session Jamie and I had planned at the club so I just went to the gym, had a swim and settled into the hotel instead.


Hotels in Asia are generally a good standard, and reasonably priced when compared to those in Europe, most of the staff generally speak good English too.  Not this week however, so getting even the basics was difficult.


Tuesday was my first look at the course; I played 9 and practiced, trying to get the fade going again.  The range was very sandy as the course has only recently been finished and things have yet to bed in.  The greens were very slow and were very sandy with very little grass, something we generally don't see on Tour much.  I spent a bit of time checking my set up with the putting mirror, making sure I wasn't too inside at takeaway.
I'm always slightly disorientated in China as the sky is grey and hazy, even when it's sunny and warm.  The pollution in the industrial zones like Tianjin is a real problem now, and something I generally struggle with.  It always leaves me feeling slightly unwell and it's always unpleasant to get the taste of the pollution in your mouth when you're out on the course or practicing.  I never feel like going to the gym when I'm out there.  The food in the hotel was fairly basic and I stuck to the European buffet, the a la carte was a bit of a lottery as you didn't know which order your food would be served in - starters after mains or desert was common. 


The ProAm on Wednesday was slightly unusual as I played with 3 guys from Shanghai who spoke no English.  Mostly when we play these events you tell some stories and try to help the Amateurs.  This week I was struggling to even record their shots and scores!  The highlight of the round was my hole in one on the 16th with my 7 iron, unfortunately there was no prize.  I also made an eagle on the 2nd hole, a par 5.  We were 24 under and I thought we had a chance to win but Paul Casey's team beat us on 26 under.


I was up early for my 7:35 tee-time on Thursday.  I had drawn Brandon Grace and a young Australian Nick Cullen, whom I'd never met before.  I hit it well but couldn't hole a putt and chipped really clumsily finishing off the day 2 over par and 7 shots behind Brandon.  I'd obviously used all my good shots up the day before.  It was depressing, but it's awesome at the same time to watch someone really playing really well.  Friday was a better performance from me.  I was playing really well making eagle then birdie on 7 and 8 but followed it up with a double bogey, then a bogey on 13 and 14.  I needed to play the last 4 holes in 3 under to make the cut.  I played a nice chip shot on 18 to get though on 2 under, underlining the importance of never giving up.  By this stage Brandon was flying along - he'd played really solidly on both days and he hits the ball miles.  He now has pretty much every shot in his bag and will be a serious talent.   


I got to play with Ian Poulter on Saturday, the first time I'd ever been out with him and it was a good experience.  I learnt a lot, especially about cars!  His short irons were better than mine and he rallied on the last 4 holes to finish quite a few shots ahead.  I chipped poorly again but was happy with the way I was driving the ball.  It was such a cold, wet day early on, it reminded me of playing at home when I was younger.  I only took my waterproofs off on the 18th but it cleared up for the leaders teeing off and they really tore up the course, just making it that much harder to catch them!  I wasn't close enough with my 8 and 9 irons on Sunday either when I played with Tano Goya.  At least I'd made the weekend and covered the costs of coming out to Asia, but only just.


I was glad to be on the Sunday night flight back from Beijing.  The Courtesy Car people couldn't find my booking for the 7pm pickup even though we'd confirmed it less than 24 hours before, it really hadn't been my week.  Happily Rafael Cabrera-Bello offered me a lift in his and we made it with plenty of time to spare.  I was more than ready to leave China.  I'm looking forward to a week of gym and practice at home and I'll hopefully take the positives into the Spanish Open in Seville.  I haven't practiced much since Morocco and I definitely need to get home to the practice area to sort out the fade shots and get some practice in on my distance wedges.