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Planes, trains, boats and trams but well worth it for a top 10 finish

The trip from Hong Kong airport to Longang district Shenzhen, was more complicated than I thought.  I was meant to share a cross border car with camera man Ian who was on a flight 1hour behind me from Kuala Lumpur. Our flight was delayed 1hr 30 so I thought by the time I arrived I wouldn't have to wait long for Ian.  I got a bite to eat in a familiar spot in arrivals, time passed and there was no sign of Ian.  I looked at the screen and noticed he was gonna be delayed 3 hours.  I had to decide what to do so I followed the signs for mainland china transport.  It was easy in the end 40 quid and within 15minutes I was in a 7 seater car to the border. The cars need dual plates to cross over and you just stay inside while the guy at the border looks at your passport and visa it takes 10 minutes.  I felt bad about Ian but texted him to say that I'd left, I wouldn't have expected him to wait for me for 2hrs.
 
We got to Shenzhen but then I had to change driver to get to Longang, it was 45 mins away and the driver didn't know the hotel or area.  He didn't want to go so I had to get out the wallet and offer him extra 70 RMB, approx 7 quid.  Corruption is good sometimes!

40 mins later it was getting dark and we couldn't find the hotel.  Luckily I saw some Volvo China Open signs and followed a couple and somehow got the hotel even though it was 10 mins from the golf course. These are the skills you need when starting on Tour as sat nav has no clue so times and my sense of direction is bad Bev knows only too well.  The most important thing is not to panic as things always work out, I was even reading my booking.com confirmation in the drivers headlights as the writing was small to get hotel address.

It's always a much longer week when its a new course and venue as figuring out travel time to putting green, range, first and 10th tees and checking out all 18 holes takes a while.  We did 9 holes on Tuesday with Richie Ramsay, Chris Wood and Prom Mesawat, an Asian Tour player.  It was very smoggy and grey and my lungs were trying to adjust.  I felt pretty lethargic, I've often felt this way in China. It's tough knowing you probably won't feel your best but you just have to accept its big money now in China and do your best. 

The course was good but made up of totally different 9s.  The front was straight forward with hardly any water in play but the back was tough and long with a lot of water.  It's such a big modern course that we managed to bum a lift from a buggy around the back 9.  Dinner was ok in the hotel, I was sticking to the buffet it had some western foods but plenty of noodles, veg, sushi which I like although I never try to be too adventurous in China to reduce the chances of food poisoning.  Gareth Maybin and his caddy "the bull" and Richie joined me, it was good craic. The bull has come to help out Gareth for a few weeks it was his first time to Asia and its some experience, he already had been burnt in KL but was embracing the rest of it.
 
I wasn't Pro-am on Wednesday, so it was the usual routine of checking out the back 9 again to see the lines and carries over water and doing putting drills down the metal ruler.  I managed 29 in a row, sent a video of my stroke to Johnny Foster, modern technology is great for this. He gave me the thumbs up and off I went to hit 8 irons from the bunker and long shots with alignment rods down to check ball position.  I was concentrating on the basics fundamentals, its not quantum physics although some coaches can make it sound like it is.

The grass on the greens was like nothing we had putted on before I heard Poulter saying he never saw grass as tough but almost grain free. It was similar to East London earlier this year and I thought that could help me. 

Brendan Brofey who has an Irish bar in Shanghai always comes to watch us in China and was explaining about the different languages in the provinces.  We couldn't get a taxi to find his hotel 10 mins away.  Nothing is straightforward and you can loose the head quickly here, if you're not patient.
 
I played on Thursday with Jacqueline and a local pro educated in the States. He was telling me how close we were to the factories and this was why the air was poor  and we needed wind to move it.  I got off to the perfect start, I played great and putted great for 5 under after 7 holes.  I was probably thinking too much about my score and got out of the present and into the future but I also didn't think clearly towards the end and had a couple of bogeys.  It dropped me back to 3 under which was still top 10. Jacqueline is good to play with his rhythm feeds onto you. The Chinese lad struggled and the course punishes you big time with all the water hazards.  I had the buffet again, its a bit like Groundhog Day on Tour.  I was up at 5am on Friday for a 7am tee off from the 10th. It was a perfect start again for me 3 under after 4 but I struggled with a couple of simple chips shots which were much harder because of the thick grass on the greens.  They just popped up in the air and didn't release coming 15 feet short both times, this was tough for all of us. A great drive down the par 5 9th my last of the day and a bad bounce right into a semi plugged lie frustrated my finish. Jacqueline putted great the last 9, he had parted company with his caddy of 9 years just 2 weeks ago the new guy was learning his trade.

I was drawn with Henrik Stenson on Saturday.  My caddy Gerry used to work for him and broke the ice saying some expletives in Swedish! I talked to his caddy Lordy about Ferraris as he just bought one as he lives in Monaco.  He made approx 2 million from Henrik last season, 10 percent of the 10million fed ex cup win bonus, not bad for just carrying a bag!  I was pleased to only miss 1 fairway and to swing it good.  I birdied the last 2 holes to beat Henrik by 2 shots, taking confidence from it.  He hits the ball good and strong but with these top players its the skills with short irons and the putter that I know makes the difference.  We had good craic and the crowd was big, still learning where to stand and to get off their phones.

I played on Sunday with Julien Quesne. I played challenge tour with him years ago and we have both improved a lot which is nice to remember.  He is a consistent player now and its just good hard work.  I felt a bit weak at the start of the day it was something I ate I'm sure and I was sweating a lot.  It was also 30 degrees but this slowed down my tempo and kind of helped me in a way.  The putts dropped and I got to 7 under after 15. I was feeling more drained though as the round progressed and on 16 my bad shot, a hook came and I had an unlucky lie which led to a double bogey.  On 18 I hit a great drive but had another lazy swing on my approach, stopping my body a touch meant a bogey and a fall from 4th to 8th.  I didn't feel I could take the positives after this but looking back on it now there were a lot and being in contention is progress.  My 3rd top ten of the year and a rise to 188 in the world rankings. 

We (Gerry, Ryan McGuigan and I) got a taxi to the ferry port and then a ferry to Hong Kong.  Ryan McGuigan, is Richie Ramsay's caddy but a friend from Castlerock. We went straight to watch Liverpool in Dealeneys Irish bar Kowloon, unfortunately they were beaten by Chelsea.  A few other caddies were out and the winning caddy, Brian Martin form Ardglass arrived.  It's his first win as a caddy and he bought us all drinks, his player Levy is very young but very good. Its also a game of fractions for players  and caddys to make a good living out here on this circus. 

Today myself and Gerry traveled around Hong Kong like tourists, we know it well as there is a tournament here but its always good to go and see the peak look out, and get a ferry across harbour at night time.  We worked it out that we will use 8 methods of transport today as we fly home tonight, metro, taxi, bus, tram, train, funicular, ferry and plane!  I've managed to upgrade Gerry to business class a result as he's knackered and its 16 hours flying time. 

It's been a good Asian trip, my best so far.  Erin will be bigger when I see her, and I can't wait. Next stop on Tour is Europe, finally.