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Paris was worth the trip if only to enjoy the drive

I had been looking forward to taking my car to France all year.  Pro Golfers don't get to drive their own cars to tournaments all that often (maybe twice a year) and because it's still a relatively new car to me I was looking forward to taking it to France where speeding points don't necessarily go on your British licence.

It's a 2 hour drive to Folkestone then you put the car on a double decker train and you're in France within 35 minutes through the Channel Tunnel.  It's not a great feeling thinking of all that water swirling around above you!  It's another 3 hours from Calais to Versailles, just south of Paris.  As we pulled into Folkestone there was a Ferrari beside us and a Porsche just in front, I obviously wasn't the only petrol head going to France.

The Golf National is one of the toughest courses we play all year and reports were that the rough was a lot thicker than in past years.  Arriving on Tuesday afternoon I wanted to hit some putts and a few balls on the range as I had the Pro Am on Wednesday.  Phil and I spent a bit of time on a new putting drill.  He placed 4 balls in a semi-circle around a hole on a breaking, but not double breaking putt.  I had to take my time and find the straight putt, marking it with a tee in the grass, then make all 4 putts.  It may seem obvious that a ball just left of the straight line putt will break in one direction, and one to the right will break in the opposite direction but I sometimes get confused reading the putts and with this drill I have to concentrate on reading the putt continually.  It also means that you can practice a definite correct read and see how your alignment is.  It's always amazing how much more it breaks even just a few inches up the slope away from the straight line.  Try it on the course; see how far left or right of your putt the straight line is and remember even if you're slightly away from straight it will break a lot.  Nearly all golfers don't give putts enough break and pros are just the same!

I had a good feeling of strong legs in my posture which worked pretty well during the Irish Open so I continued with this, but Jamie wants me to try and reduce my hand action further.  It closes the clubface and causes too much right to left shaping on the ball.  It's not as repeatable and is less easily controlled than the left to right shot I'm working on.

Bev and I had rented an apartment just outside Versailles for the week.  It's great to have your own food when you want it out on Tour.  Not having to come home and try to find a good restaurant at 7 or 8pm after a long day at the course is amazing and really relaxing!  Some weeks the apartments are really well equipped and really good, this wasn't one of those weeks.  We'd no sharp knife to prepare food with and the reception claimed they didn't have any extra, there was no toaster, and no mugs for a decent cup of tea, but most importantly for this tournament no air conditioning!  We had a thermostat in the room, reading 28⁰C, with a fancy unit for the air con on the wall.  When I went to reception to complain about the temperature they said the air con had been switched off in entire building to save on electricity.  This is common in Europe and is very frustrating!  All I can say is I'm glad we didn't have the normal weather for this tournament - it's been well into the 30's before and stifling - I can only imagine what temperature our room would have been in that!

I had a late Pro Am time on Wednesday afternoon and was prepared with some homemade sandwiches for my bag.  All the players and caddies I met were still buzzing from the Irish Open saying it was one of the best events they've taken part in on the European Tour, such a good atmosphere, such a knowledgeable crowd and that we need more tournaments in Ireland - North or South.  The Pro Am took a long time, 5 hours 20 minutes; thankfully I had a great bunch of guys to chat with.  They were travel agents invited by the Emirates Airline, Paris office to take part in the event.  I was in my element talking airlines, airplanes, destinations and most importantly for me deals on long haul flights!  Jamie Donaldson was playing behind me, the smile still on his face!  He gets into all the Pro Ams now as he won the Irish Open.  I asked him if he'd treated himself to anything new yet, to which he replied a Porsche for track days only.  He loves his fast cars and Bev always worries when she sees me talking to him, wondering what he's recommended for me to buy.  My swing didn't feel as solid as I would have liked, I lost a few balls as there is a lot of water on the course and almost had to borrow a ball from my playing partners!  I had 5 in there at the start of the round and when Owen told me I was down to my last ball I really had to concentrate, I started to play better with the added pressure!  I counted my score and was +13, not the best start to the week.  I did manage to beat one of Jamie's other pupils - George Coetzee though as he was +14 and really not hitting it great either.  I decided as it was late when we finished I'd just go home and rest, leaving the work until the morning.

I'd a late tee time on Thursday, but was at the course for 1130 and had a warm up with physio Shane, then putting and chipping then long game then food then it was go time.  I found a lovely rhythm in my swing on the range, loading my right knee and took it to the course.  A three putt on the 2nd and the 8th left me at +2 through 13.  It's a tough course and my game wasn't that far away.  The rain started on 14 and I hit a legsy shot right, I did well to find it and make a bogey.  2 more shots like it on the 17th and 18th and I came in dejected with a 76.  I've been building decent rounds lately, then letting it slip away over the final few holes.  I did the same at the Irish Open it's tough being out there for 5 hours, slipping in and out of focus but that's the game and it's something I need to improve.

I woke at 530am on Friday to a windy and cold day.  Jamie, Owen and I talked about the cut moving to +3 or even +4 if the conditions held before I went out, that I just had to keep grinding away.  I did really well and was proud of my recovery from the 14th (my 5th hole) in.  I'd made a handsy swing on 13, followed in by a wrong club, ended up with a triple bogey but I didn't have another bogey on the way in and hit some really great irons.  I carded a 1 under 70, one of a few scores under par in the morning.  It could have been a lot under as I missed an eagle putt on the third, 3 putting for par.  The wind was really strong when I finished; play was suspended about an hour later as a thunder storm came in.  Unfortunately it was really calm after the storm and I missed the cut by 10 spots, same as in Germany 2 weeks ago!  I'll just have to capitalize on the birdie chances next time.  We headed back to the apartment hoping to see the Murray-Tsonga semi-final but none of the pubs were showing it.  I don't think the French are as sports mad as we are. 

It was the first time in 6 years that I've played in rainy and cold conditions in Paris, it's just the summer we're having this year and the effect the tour has on local weather! The rain seems to be following us!

The only positive being at least I could enjoy a rapid drive home and the final of Wimbledon.