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NI League table has become more competitive than ever

My week started with a few administrative tasks, family stuff that couldn't wait.  The most important of which was to go to Belfast City Hall and register the birth of Erin.  Bev had decided we needed to get the birth certificate underway so that we could apply for Erin's first passport as soon as possible; we're planning on attending the tournament in Switzerland in September as a family this year so the passport is a must!  I'm not sure how we're going to get the pictures, she never keeps still!  We also had to sit in and wait on the midwife.  In our area they tell you which day they'll arrive but do not give you an appointment, or even an approximate time slot e.g. morning, afternoon.  We sat in all day and the midwife eventually arrived just after 3pm so it was a quick dash into town to register the birth and then up to visit my parents.  It was really warm in Belfast and I was surprised by how many folk were using the gardens out the front of City Hall, then I spied the huge TV at one end and realized how many of them were sat watching Andy Murray at Wimbledon!  I'd no idea Belfast had invested in the technology, it certainly wasn't there the last time I'd visited City Hall but then again I had other things on my mind that day - Bev and I got married last time I was there!

I wasn't up early on Tuesday as my flight left at lunchtime.  It was direct to Paris and most of the other lads from home were on it too.  It was nice to catch up with a few faces from home on the way out to another event.  This week there were no courtesy car pick-ups from the airport.  You have to get a taxi, pay for it and then present your receipt at the Tour Office to get reimbursed.  It's quite an expensive trip; it takes about two hours from Charles De Gaul airport depending on the traffic so I can understand why they don't use the courtesy cars as you'd need a huge fleet of them.
I didn't do any practice on Tuesday as my flight was in too late.  It was about 6pm by the time I arrived at my hotel so I met up with physio Shane for a treatment and some dinner and then headed off to bed.  Gerry (my caddy) had booked us a 7am practice tee-time with Gareth Maybin so I needed to get up early!  The Tour office had also contacted me to say I was the "on-site Pro-am reserve" for the Wednesday.  Basically every Pro-am day someone who's not playing has to spend most of the day at the course just in case one of the players involved in the pro-am doesn't show or has to withdraw at short notice due to injury.  You get fined 500 euro if you withdraw from the pro-am but play the tournament, it's a bit harsh but the player's participation is important to the sponsor.   Some players really dislike having to play in the pro-ams and the might fake an injury to avoid spending 5 hrs out there with people you don't know.  I like playing in them, finding out about other people's jobs.  Unfortunately when it's your turn to be the "on-site reserve" you have to wait until everyone has played at least 9 holes and then you get to go back to your hotel.  It's a good way for the Tour to be able to ensure all the sponsors and guests actually manage to play at least 9 holes with one of the Pros.  Generally you're not called on to play so I wasn't expecting to any contact but as luck would have it Gareth and I were on our 13th hole when the office called.  Jeeve Mika Singh had withdrawn after the first guys had tee-ed off but before his own tee-time so I was called up.  I normally find the pro-ams pretty tiring and that's without having already played 13 holes.  Sometimes these things just can't be helped! I was certainly making Gerry earn his pay!  I was happy as we left the course, I'd hit a lot of fairways and greens again and the putting was coming along nicely.  I played pretty well and was knackered by the time I got back to the hotel having played 31 holes.  Shane only did a light treatment as I was up early again the next morning and anything more would be more harmful than beneficial.

I wasn't really expecting much on Thursday, apart from possibly feeling tired as I hadn't slept particularly well and my stomach was a little upset too.  I got off to a great start and was feeling really happy with my game.  I was playing with Lee Slattery and Mark Foster, both of whom I know well.  Lee is a glass half full person; he's always got a great big smile on his face and is easy company.  Mark on the other hand is a little more pessimistic in outlook but he has a wicked sense of humour and employs sarcasm almost as well as David Howell.  It certainly was an interesting round!  I wasn't far of the leaders as we finished and was happy things were going in the right direction with a 2 under 69 and a sky sports interview after, always a positive sign!

Friday was a little disappointing.  It was really only my last hole which caused problems.  I was 15 feet from the pin in 2 on a par 5 to make a 7, unfortunately the green is like an upturned saucer and I played tennis back and forth.  It cost me at least 2 hrs in bed and 25 spots.
I played on Saturday with Chris Lloyd, a young English Pro.  I'd also played with him in round 3 at Carton House the previous week.  It was such a shame to finish dropping three shots in the last four holes; it always leaves a bad taste in your mouth when that happens.  The last 4 holes are so penal I was just slightly off and 3 over leaves you feeling beaten up when you've played well the first 3 hours.

I was playing early on Sunday, which wasn't ideal as the only flight to Belfast didn't leave until 9pm.  It was going to be a long day!  It was definitely a back 6 holes to forget!  I was level par after 12 grinding nicely on a very tough course, then a couple of shots slightly to the left put me out of position I tried to push but got burned.  It just leaves you upset that all the work you've put in through the rest of the week is wasted over the final 2 hours.  I always try and finish in second spot in the Northern Ireland league tables but this week I wasn't even close, finishing a distant 5th!  The boys all performed well.  Graeme had another fantastic result, bouncing back from missing the cut at Carton House in emphatic style.  Gareth Maybin finished joint 8th, a result which saw him jump back up into the automatic cards for next year!  Gareth Shaw had another great week finishing 13th just missing out on a spot at the Scottish Open next week and leaving him in 117th position on the Race to Dubai, only having played in three events!  Alan Dunbar also made the cut and finished 34th.  I was well off the pace!

I managed to get the bus back to Charles De Gaul for the easyjet flight home.  Gareth Maybin was also on the flight, we really live a glamorous life!  Graeme McDowell's parents were also on it, having been out in Paris to watch Graeme lift yet another trophy!

I was a little upset that I hadn't managed to see any of the Wimbledon men's final on TV whilst at the airport.  I can't play at all but I really enjoy watching the guys play, especially the top 4.  They just make it look so easy!  I was glad for Andy, he's under a lot of pressure to perform and I'm glad it's all started to finally happen for him.  All I can think is Sports Personality is going to be interesting this year - Justin Rose v Andy Murray - first time an English man has won a golf major in 17 years against first time a Brit has won Wimbledon in almost 80.  Who's your money going to be on?