Playing with Royalty in Morocco
We arrived into Morocco directly from Malaga after the Open de
The tournament chartered a flight for the Tour as Agadir is a
difficult location to get to. We rented a car, definitely an
experience, especially when starting in the dark and set of
following sat-nav to the villa we'd rented for the week. It should
have taken 20 minutes but took us nearly an hour!
I had played well in Spain apart from two very costly holes out
of the entire 72 and was confident with my game, especially my
short game, so I was hoping to take some momentum into the week
The Trophy Hassan II is played at the exclusive Royal Palace
course, a Trent Jones design, and it was in excellent
There are only a couple of rounds played on it every year.
Security was tight all week, everyone was issued with photo ID to
enter the Palace Grounds and we had to leave the hire car at the
nearby Ocean Course and get a bus up to the course. The players'
bus from the official hotel was even given a police escort.
We played Pro-Ams on Tuesday and Wednesday which is a bit
On Wednesday I played with the King's cousin and another gent
who owns a golf academy in Marrakech.
It was a relaxed affair and great fun, especially as I made
seven birdies. The conditions were perfect and I was really looking
forward to the tournament. Conditions had changed by Thursday
afternoon, it was windy and the course was playing much more
The greens are undulating and I couldn't buy a putt early on in
the round. I had two really bad lies just off the fairway and found
myself working hard for +2 while the leaders, including Damian
McGrane, were at -7.
I hadn't been the most disciplined emotionally on the course and
following dinner at the villa with Gareth Maybin and our coach
Jamie Gough, Jamie told me a few home truths.
It's never easy to hear but sometimes you really need someone to
set you straight. I've been working hard trying to sort out my
technique and to get my body fitter so on course indiscipline can't
be tolerated anymore.
I don't think any of the four of us slept well that night as the
wind was howling. If was just like being back at home.
The high wind caused play to be suspended and we finally got to
play some golf in late afternoon. We'd been up since 6am, for our
morning tee-times and eventually finished the round just as the
light was fading.
Thankfully I didn't have to get up early again to finish off the
My game felt the best it has in a long time and I'd putted well
but not brilliantly for a 67. So it was back to the villa for a
"bria" with Jamie and Gareth, steaks, sausages and salad.
I started Saturday with the same swing feelings but just made a
couple more putts for a 65.
I concluded the round with a bogey which is always
disappointing, but I was in great shape for Sunday starting in the
second last group.
On Sunday everything went well right from the start. I chipped
and putted well and found loads of fairways and one ice bush but
was even lucky with that. I found the best shots on the back nine,
the lob on 16 being one of the best and pulled away from
Playing the 18th I thought I had to par it to win as I hadn't
really been paying much attention to the score boards.
I've been working on dulling my intensity levels on the course
as I have a tendency to get ahead of myself and then the swing gets
fast and the ball goes everywhere.
Playing the final hole and realising you're in the lead is a
great feeling, especially when the week started so poorly.
It's a lesson I hope to take with me, just to remain calm and
know that I've been working on the right stuff that I can get close
to the leaders like all the great players do.
It was also great to see Tiger back to winning ways, even though
he beat Graeme at Bay Hill.
It's great for golf to have so many talented individuals and
everyone - sponsors, fans, the media follow Tiger so closely that
to have him back is huge.
Irish golf is also in great shape - Rory, Graeme, Darren,
Damian, Gareth, Simon, Paul and myself on tour, hopefully we all
bring our A game to Portrush.
What a week that would be!