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Missed cutt at Gleneagles difficult to swallow

I didn't write a column last week as I was suffering so badly from jet lag that I didn't do very much.  I decided one column for the 2 weeks would cover everything!

The jet lag coming back from the USA was bad, I have full admiration for Luke Donald, Rory, Padraig and all the others who play both sides of the Atlantic week in week out.  I found it was impossible to get to sleep before 1am any night that week we arrived back and I couldn't get up before 10am the next morning, which is still 5am in America!  It really put Luke Donald's performance last year into perspective for me, to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic while suffering jet lag is an awesome mental and physical feet and one I can only admire.

I had arranged to meet Rob, my trainer early on Thursday morning in an effort to get back on the time zone.  I had been hoping the gym session would get me out of bed and kick start my day.  The alarm went off at 5am for Bev, who was popping back to Belfast on the first flight from Heathrow, to take care of some business issues for me.  I was to drive her to Heathrow at 545am then be back in time for a light breakfast and to see Rob at the gym at 7.  Bev got a taxi and I hit snooze.  The alarm went off again at 630 and I felt like it was 2am so I managed to hit snooze again.  I'm not really sure that I truly woke up and I rested my head on the pillow again for what felt like 5 seconds but woke up at 930am! 2 and a half hours late for my appointment with Rob!  I felt really bad and called to apologise, he lives over 2 hours away so had been up incredibly early to meet me.  He wasn't as upset as I'd imagined and he laughed it off saying he'd figured I'd hit the snooze button.  He had 4 hours of driving for nothing!

I spent the rest of the week resting, recovering and going to the Wisley to practice.  The temperature was great, over 30⁰C, for 3 days in a row reminding me of America.  It's amazing how much warmer than Northern Ireland the south of England is, even though it's only a little further south.
Gleneagles the home of the 2014 Ryder Cup was my next tournament.  Bev and I flew up on Tuesday morning as I was playing pro-am on Wednesday.  We probably should have got an earlier flight as the day was almost gone by the time we got our hire car and drove up to the course but I fitted in enough practice.  The course is a Jack Nicklaus layout and it always gets criticized by the players for its poor greens.  A lot of players actually skip the event because of the greens, and the weather doesn't help either.  The wet and cold climate leads to the sogginess on the greens but the club has spent a lot of money in the last year on sub air circulation which dries out the grass.  I certainly noticed an improvement.  The golf course still has a long way to go to be ready for the Ryder Cup, and the date in late September or early October won't really help the greenkeepering staff either.
I played 3 holes on Tuesday afternoon and then the course was closed as a thunder storm had developed in the area, everyone was called in and all the facilities were closed.  It wasn't ideal for the guys who weren't in the Pro-am the next day as they aren't allowed to play on the course at all on Wednesday.  You can walk and look at how it's playing but you can't play.

I had an 830 start on Wednesday morning which wasn't too early and the weather was nice.  I played with 3 Scottish lads - David, who works in golf insurance, a good guy to know if you get hit by a ball which happens a lot more frequently than I thought apparently, Peter the sponsorship guy from the Scottish Golf Union and Charles who works for Sky TV.  Charles told me he's spent the last year living outside IBROX waiting for the next installment in that saga.  He said it was tough having to watch Rangers play in smaller grounds with less atmosphere.  Their handicaps were low so we didn't have much of a chance to win but it was good fun.  The greens were rolling well and I made good swings and 4 birdies.  My coach Jamie wasn't with me this week.  His girlfriend had been involved in a really bad car accident the week before in South Africa.  It had been touch and go for a little while but she had pulled through it was looking like she was going to make a full recovery.  His brother Richard Gough, who captained the Scottish football team 50 times, was there keeping Bev company on the side lines.  He'd also been invited to play in the Pro-am, and had ended up with Thomas Bjorn, another former student of Jamie's.  I spent a little time after the round chipping and hitting shots then hit a few putts on the practice green and went home.  The practice green was soggy and really bumpy, not like the greens out on the course so James and I decided not to spend too much time practicing on it as you could loose confidence.

The physio team was also finished early so 4 of us headed out for a gentle jog down the country lanes close to my hotel.  Unfortunately golf doesn't get your heart rate up high enough for cardio training so I always need to try and fit in a few gym sessions as well.  Rob makes sure I do lots of different stuff and we had a gentle jog followed by lots of stretching especially my leg muscles and lats in my back.  Bev had dinner ready early and we were in bed, lights out at 9pm ready for our 6am alarm.  It's a really glamorous life!

I was back with the physio boys at 645 for my warm up after my porridge, eggs and smoked salmon, armed with my bag full of sandwiches.  Everyone laughs when they see me carrying it but I eat so much out on the course it's nice to have normal food not just bananas and protein bars.  The physio boys really help get your body moving for the early tee-times.  It just takes me 20 shots to get ready to loosen up now, my first shot could be a full driver, they've helped me that much.

I met James one hour before the round on the putting green for 10 minutes, then we went to the chipping area and the bunkers leaving the range to last so your full shots are hit just before you go out onto the course.  I find it helps me more this way; I'm still warm for the vital first tee-shot.  It always helps to get the tournament off to a good start! 

I got off to the perfect start - birdie, birdie - 2 nice irons and 2 nice putts.  I moved to 3 under with a birdie on the 18th, my 8th hole and was par for the rest of the round.  Unfortunately I had a 2 shot penalty to add in for missing out a procedure on the 16th hole.  My tee-shot had landed in GUR (ground under repair) on the fairway and I took relief but placed my ball instead of dropping it.  I should have dropped the ball, picked it up and then placed it as we were playing preferred lies.  I took a costly short cut and ended up with a two stroke penalty.  It was disappointing, especially after the incident at the PGA.  I hadn't even realized what I'd done, nor had James, it was only when Ross Fisher and his caddy Adam made a throw away comment that I realized I'd made a mistake.  From now on I'll call a referee when there are a slightly abnormal conditions or procedures to be followed just to make 100% sure that I've complied.  Even with the 2 stroke penalty it was a good start and I was well placed for Friday.

I'd wanted to go and see a little of the Highlands after my round but I didn't get finished until 4 and we decided it was too late to drive up past Perth so Bev and I drove up to Crieff along the country lanes for a cup of tea.  It's always good to get away from the tournament and do something normal.
The greens were bumpy when I teed off in the afternoon on Friday.  I'd felt a little strange during my warm up but hadn't thought much off it and tried to just get on with the round.  I made some lovely smooth swings during the front 9 and was 2 under for the round at the turn, getting a little TV time as a result.  As the round progressed I felt less and less focused and a bit unsteady, my stomach had been a little upset during the night, and I just ran out of steam.  It's at times like these that my old habits come out.  I got a little legsy and hit a few pulled hooks on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes, bogeying all 3, but bounced back well to birdie the 14th and was still making the cutt. I tried to hit a big drive down the long par 5 16th when I was really only capable of making a smooth swing physically.  It was an aggressive play, and was too aggressive given the circumstances.  I hooked it into the bushes, lost ball and the resulting 7 pushed me back to +1.  I missed a long birdie putt on 17 by an inch and hit 2 great shots up the 18th only for my 6ft birdie putt not to break like I'd expected.  It left me right on the mark and a little nervous about being there for the weekend.  A couple of guys made birdie on the closing par 5s to knock all of us on +1 out for the weekend.  I think it might be the worst cutt I ever missed, to be 4 inside the cutt with 2 par 5s remaining and miss - heartbreaking - especially when everyone wants to know what happened after the round on text.  You don't always feel sharp with the lifestyle but you have to pick yourself up and start over the week after.

It was great to see Paul Lawrie go on and pick up another title.  He's a great player and a really nice guy, totally deserving of his Ryder Cup spot.  Colsaertes really deserves to have been included.  He's been playing well and his game is perfectly suited to match play.  He hits the ball miles and putts great.  I am sure the Ryder Cup will be good viewing as always, I have a feeling the USA will be hard to beat this time.