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They do things differently in Qatar

Qatar is the richest country in the world per head of capita and a place I like to visit.  We used to stay in the 4 seasons, which was my favourite hotel in the Middle East swing until last year when I got food poisoning.  This year we were staying in another St Regis hotel.  The group sponsored the tournament in Abu Dhabi as well, and we had high expectations…….unfortunately they weren't realised.  The hotel had only just opened to residents although the restaurants had been open for a few months.  The service and finish wasn't quite up to the hotel the week before.  Room service was hit and miss and the fire alarm was going off at all stages night and day, Fawlty Towers springs to mind!

Hotels in the Middle East are interesting places.  They tend to be very opulent; few hotels in the West are finished like they are out here.  I think one of the main reasons is that the hotel chains don't own the hotel buildings here like they generally do at home, they are owned by the Sheik owning the land.  It's a different way of doing business I guess.

This week is a different week.  The tournament was to run Wednesday to Saturday.  I think it was to coincide with the Prophet Mohammed's birthday which is one of only two national holidays in Qatar.  It's also the only day you can't get an alcoholic drink in the whole of the country; it was a problem for some people but not for us.

There wasn't much time off this week so we flew to Doha on the Sunday night, making sure I could spend most of Monday at the course practising.  Our usual day off was due to be a hectic one!  Thankfully we have an extra day before Dubai; it'll feel like a holiday I'm sure!  We were on the late flight leaving Abu Dhabi at 9:30pm, arriving in Doha at 9:30pm which was great as we gained an hour only to spend it standing at the baggage carrousel waiting for the clubs to arrive.  The car park was another disaster and our 40 minute flight plus travel time ended up taking well over 5 hours.  We just managed to get to bed before 1am!  This is the side of Tour life that few folks ever see.

Conditions are normally cool and windy in Qatar, this year it was hot with hardly any breeze and although the rough was thick I thought the scoring would be good.  I prefer the tougher windier conditions; think it reminds me off growing up at home. 

The roads are crowded and a bit like a race track.  So many of the Qatari population have invested in "super cars" and like to display them at very high speeds on the roads.  I was watching a BBC World piece on boy racers in Qatar when we were in Durban.  The government have addressed the issue by hosting race days at the weekend so the guys can get the speed out of their systems in a controlled and legal environment.  I'd love to have a go!  Roundabouts are another issue entirely; cars just don't slow down to go around them, except when the police are on points duty during the rush hour.  Strange and scary place to drive!

I intended to play 9 holes with David Drysdale on Monday as I enjoy his laid back company.  Unfortunately by the time David's flight arrived and he made it to the club everyone was on the course.  It took us an hour and a half for four holes so we decide to head in.  Generally play is way too slow unless you get up to the course for 7am or are prepared to play really late.  Neither is ideal!  A full round with David will have to wait until next week when we're in Dubai.  His caddy (Laney) and mine (James) are great mates, and tend to share a room each week to keep their costs down so the banter is always good.

I had a late start on Wednesday - 11:05am as a late start is unheard of in Europe! And was drawn with Lee Slattery and Richard Finch.  Both are good guys and I knew it would be a fun round for me.  Bev was also happy as Richard's wife Debbie would be walking too and they could natter the whole way round.  It was hot on Wednesday and there was little breeze and even less shade.  I didn't hit the ball very well though I scored well, mainly due to a good display of my short game.  I also have to say thanks to the group's official scorer as he got my score so wrong that I ended up on TV as a possible leader - I'm thinking I should "encourage" this behaviour every week so I get a little more air time!  Lee is a lovely ball striker; he was in the top 10 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in August last year where he only missed 3 fairways in 4 days, which is unbelievable.  If he chipped and putted a little better he'd be right up there.  Richard is a lovely guy he also has a great sense of humour and he does some great impressions.
Thursday was the early start 6:45am tee time and 4:50am alarm.  Way too early for me!  I got off to a nice start and was 4 under after 10 but unfortunately I didn't drive it that well on the way in.  I signed for a 69 and was in the top 20 heading into the weekend.  Lee finished on 1 under and had a long wait to see if he was playing the weekend.  Finchy played some lovely golf but nothing dropped and he was one putt short of the weekend, the margins are very small out here.  I spent some time on the range after to try and get a good feeling. The shot shape improved (less right to left) and I left the range feeling happier.  I'd a bit of physio and then headed home at 3pm thoroughly knackered after the early start!

One of the perks of playing well is a later tee-time and I was delighted with 11am on Friday morning!  Unfortunately I didn't hit it very well.  I hit a really poor shot on the 3rd hole which lead to a double bogey, Bev turned up on the next hole and I birdied it.  It was a good come back after that and I was 2 under playing the 18th with 135 yards into the breeze and water left of the pin.  It should have been a control 9 iron.  Unfortunately I dropped it inside a bit too much and as I tried to recover it with my hands over did it a little and sent it left into the water.  Double bogey on the last is never nice, especially when you know you'll be up at 5am the next day as a result!

Sunday was another early start but I played more solidly, hitting more fairways and greens.  The putting wasn't as good as Wednesday but I was happy to get the round finished off by 11am and 2 under par.  Back to the hotel for a relax by the pool and my first swim of the week.  Life sure is tough!  It was great to see Chris Wood win his first title, and in what style - eagling the last hole to avoid a play off.