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Special times at Dunhill where Wilson's fairy tale steals the show

The Dunhill Links Championship is my favourite tournament of the year, not just because I won it but because of the golf courses.  The home of golf is a special place as a golfer and when you twin that with celebrities from the world of sports and business it provides a great atmosphere.
 
We took the car on the boat again; the weather was good on the Monday so the 730am Troon crossing was easy. Erin was full of energy, I took her round the boat 7 times and still she wouldn't sit still. It was a fine drive and we headed for Carnoustie, via Perth and past Gleneagles.  You could see the impressive stands for the Ryder Cup; it was a little eerie with no one in them. I spotted a few sponsors cars and could imagine lots of people with hangovers! I did also spot Gareth Lord's (Stenson's caddy) Ferrari California leaving for Birmingham. What a result for McGinley's men. It seemed like he was clued in as a captain, doing a lot of research and preparation.  From the sounds of it, Tom Watson just told his guys to play; that was what they did in his era, no pod systems or dividing the team up like Azinger did.
 
In reality the US Team only lost in the foursomes, everything else was tied, so their ability to team up with another man was poor compared to our boys. I know our guys all play in the US now but they stick together more and get on better.  It can be explained by America being such a big and ruthless place, or that was my experience when I was there.  The American guys travel more as individuals on the PGA tour where as we get used to just one hotel each week and similar flights. Maybe it was harder for Watson to connect with his guys being much older while Paul is still playing on Tour and knows everyone.  I sure there are a lot of different theories circulating as to what went wrong.

We got to Carnoustie and the weather was still warm, Erin was desperate for a wriggle so off we went. We met Gerry, fresh in from Manchester and straight to the putting green we went. Since Wales I had putted for 2hours a day, it hasn't been easy since the greens back home have just been hollotined so I've been on my little indoor 12 by 6 green and every carpet imaginable. Bev's mum, Audrey likes it when I putt to the little flowers on her carpet. Johnny Foster and I also managed a day at Carton House where the greens were still rolling good. I was trying to get the left hand grip high in the lifeline to lock the wrist out and keep it secure; it's an important feeling as any golfer will tell you. Thinking back to Russia last year and that's what I did well to win with an average of 26 putts.
 
 The first legend we saw was Sir Steve Redgrave, he was eager to play 18. It's impressive that the guys always have so much enthusiasm, a lot of them playing 3 full practice rounds plus 3 full rounds in the event itself.   After hitting a few on the range we did the usual short cut - 1 to 6 then 15 to 18 the course never changes; it's just the wind direction and getting a feel for how much the ball is running.   I saw a few young South African guys playing the full 18; most likely they'd do 18 on the other 2 courses and be knackered later in the week.  The rounds take about 6hrs and it can be very, very cold. I'm always careful to do just enough prep; I'd rather walk the course in 1hr than play for 5.
 
I spent Tuesday at the Old Course; again I just walked out from 2 to 7 and back to 15 checking the lines off the tee to see where the fairway bunkers come in and hitting a few 100ft putts which you can get here on the double greens. It was warm but we all saw the weather was changing our Indian summer was finally leaving us.
 
 My partner for the last 3 years has been Bill Farish Jnr; he's a big horse guy from Kentucky.  He's very down to earth and a good golfer, capable of ripping it but with only 5 shots it's hard to do damage in the team event.
 
I've been checking my putting set up and basics with Henry who works for Scotty Cameron; he's a good coach and gave me the all clear on the fundamentals.
 
Wednesday was walking Kingsbarns and beating Gerry around the putting green.  We were talking to Johan Crouyff and some big business guys I've met over the years.  They have such passion for the game and play for a few thousand in practice.  It's a different world!
 
It's just cool to be on the range hitting balls and then someone like Brian O'Driscoll comes over and watches and admires your swing.  I still find it hard to believe but I suppose we've trained to hit a ball for a long time like he's been running through people. I got speaking to him and what a nice down to earth guy, he even remembered speaking to Bev at an Ulster Leinster match a couple of years ago. Legend made her day, even though I didn't get an autograph for her, which I got reminded of every single day! 
 
 We were at the Old Course on Thursday and I struggled with my swing. I was leaning into it with my legs to try and fight the cold wind.  It doesn't work for me and if I hadn't putted well I wouldn't have shot par. Bill played good at the right times and we managed 6 under total for the team, a respectable start. I went to the range to work on my basic set up.  Johnny and Justin have helped instil this year and came away from the session feeling good. It was early to bed and ready for the early 1hr trip to Carnoustie the next day.
 
We played with Ricardo Gonzalez and his partner who retired from Wall Street just before the credit crunch, no doubt with a few hundred million in the bank.  It was cold and wet most of the round but it died at the end and I worked really hard for the 6hrs to get to 4under with solid putting only to hit 2 loose shots at the end for 2 bogies.  It's a cruel game! Bill did pretty good and we got to 10 under, it was a long day and Erin was mad with energy when I got home not exactly what you need when all you want is food and bed.  The girls had been trapped all day at the Fairmont as the electricity in our rental house was out; thankfully it was on by the time we got back at 8pm!
 
The third day we played at Kingsbarns; my swing clicked for me. I stayed behind the ball well, set the club and flushed it and holed a few putts for 65, 7under which felt good.  It was nice to finally get something from this tough game.  On our last hole we knew we needed a birdie as the team cutt was 20 and we were 19 under, my wedge was a touch short and Bills putt lipped out.  That's 2 years in row we've just missed by one.  I was in good shape, 12th place going into Sunday.
 
I was playing with Brooks Koepka on Sunday.  He's a young American guy who's played in Europe for a couple years, lovely guy and a great player. His caddy Ricky Elliott is from Portrush and I grew up playing on the Ireland Amateur teams with him. He does a good job for Brooks, and is the only man I know to have retained his accent even though he's lived in America since he was 18. I started fine, had a birdie putt on 3 from 7 feet which I missed, then I birdied 5, 3 putted 6 and got stuck up the face of a green side bunker on 10.  I couldn't get it out and parred in, not holing anything but hitting the ball solid. It was disappointing but I know my game is close. Brooks flushed it miles and played by real feel, no technical thoughts and shot 4 under.  He was in with a chance to win, but its fine margins nowadays that it takes a bit of luck to get over the line.
 
It was a fairy tale story though!  Of all the fairy tales out there who'd have guessed that Olly Wilson playing an invite would pop up and win his first title?  He's had a tough year this year on Challenge, making only a few cutts and has struggled since the 08 Ryder Cup.  I can't believe he won in the face of everything but it was great to see.  He's one of the nicest guys out on Tour and he works very hard on his golf and in the gym.  People would not believe what he has gone through.  Bev and I are very happy for him and his wife Lauren, to go from having no job at all next year, not even on Challenge to securing your Tour card for 3 years and getting into the HSBC at the end of the year and then the Bridgestone next year is just awesome.  He's even over taken me in the Race to Dubai, that's how important playing well in an event like the Dunhill is.  You can make your card in just one event!  Lauren had flown up from London on Sunday morning just to be there either way, I'm sure they'll treasure those pictures forever!
 
 The Troon boat was cancelled so we made a mad rush down to Cairnryan and just got on the 8pm boat.  It was really choppy crossing; it was funny watching Erin in the kids' area wobbling about, with the rest of us. We got home and the rain and wind were vicious, it kept me up most of the night as it battered against the side of the house.  I was knackered and trying to get organised to get on the midday flight to Faro wasn't fun but somehow we managed it.  The girls were meant to come too but in the end we decided it was way too much for them and so I headed off alone.  It was nice to get a good sleep last night and I've just played 9 there in the sunshine but true to form as Tour comes to town there are thunder storms arriving.  Let's hope it's an enjoyable week.