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Travelling in style with Travis as ideal company on the way to Beijing

We constantly seem to be getting on long haul flights to tournaments these days; it's a long trip out to China for 1 week.  The Tour had been in South Korea the week before for an event and most of the guys had gone there straight from Spain.  When we'd looked at the flights getting from Valencia on Sunday night to Seoul was difficult!  Most folk weren't arriving into the Korean event until late Tuesday which I decided wasn't ideal with the large time difference.  It's also a difficult week logistically as we stay 50 minutes from the course and the tee-times are early; you can frequently end up on the 430am bus.  I decided it was a good event to miss!

Instead I flew straight out to Beijing with British Airways on Saturday afternoon from London.  It's only a 9 hour flight and with the strong tail winds the plane got up to 640mph.  The alternative is to fly via Dubai with Emirates, which means an extra 7 hours flying time but it's also slightly cheaper on your pocket!  This time I traded in my BA miles for both trips and treated myself to a more luxurious first class trip on the way back as it was the only class still available when we tried booking with the miles.  You have to be organized to get to use your BA miles; I've found I need to be booking some of the routes 6 months to a year in advance to be able to use the miles instead of paying for the seat with cash.  It's not terribly practical when we only get the schedule for the next season in September!

The band Travis were sitting next to me on the plane.  They were nice guys and were headed out to China for 4 days to perform at two gigs; they were expecting 50,000 in Beijing and then had another event in Shanghai two days later.  It seems all the money is to be made out here these days!  The lift to Tianjin went according to plan this year.  It's 100 miles south east of Beijing and has a population of 12.9 million people.  I hadn't really heard of it until last year when I arrived to play the event.  A lot of large companies have a base there e.g. Airbus and the IT companies.  Thankfully it's on the coast so has more of a breeze than Beijing and much better air quality!

I was a bit of a zombie when Scruff( a tour caddy from Donegal) and I arrived into the hotel at lunchtime but I managed a good gym session after some food which helps to get the body moving again.  Most of the guys head to the gym as soon as they arrive from a long haul flight to help them acclimatize to the new time zone and to help get rid of the jet lag.

I was in bed early and slept well, the plan was to get up early on Monday morning and head straight up to the course for 9 holes.  It was very windy and the course was playing really tough which surprised me a little.  It's a really long course and has a lot of raised greens for the wind was making them especially tricky!  I spent an hour putting after the time on the course as it was too windy to really benefit from hitting balls.
I was up early again on Tuesday morning and played 9 holes with Gareth Maybin.  It was really windy again and the ball wouldn't stay on the 18th green as we were finishing.  We'd a little bit of a wager on the 9 holes just to keep things interesting, unfortunately Gareth won the money, but it was only €10!  I'd only caught Gareth for his back 9; he'd tee-ed off at 7am to make sure he got all 18 holes in without all the crowds.  If you try to tee off around 9 it can take up to 6 hours for your practice round - way too long!

I was 5th reserve to the Pro-am so I spent Wednesday walking the course with putter and a wedge in hand.  I was checking the greens and sneaking in some putting and chipping between the Pro-am groups.  It was 25⁰C and beautiful; not at all like last year!  I even managed to see the sun on quite a few days this year!  James (my caddy) and I spent an hour on the range hitting balls and another hour putting before I headed in to see Shane (my physio) to get a treatment.  I headed back to the hotel and had a 1 hour nap to try and catch up on all the sleep I'd been missing.  I'd managed to sleep great on Sunday night but had only managed a few hours sleep each night since then and it was starting to affect my judgment.  Some of the lads appear not to be affected by jet lag, unfortunately I'm not one of them!  It can quite often take me up to a week to recover from the trip out to China, even when I follow all the advice - compression stockings on the flight, go outside during the day, eat on the time-zone you arrive into, do some exercise - none of it seems to help!  I was waking up when I should have been going to bed or at about lunchtime which was 7am UK time!

I'd a late tee-time on Thursday with an 18 year old Chinese Pro and a Japanese guy as well.  There seems to be a huge amount of Chinese kids just coming through the ranks just at the moment, as showcased by Guan Tianlang (14) at the Masters this year and 12 year old Ye playing this week in China.  Ouyang must feel ancient at 18!  It was very windy and I played pretty solidly for level par.  Bev tells me the score card on the Internet was "interesting viewing" to say the least and she was relieved when I called to talk about the round later - I really hadn't been +4 through 9 holes! The Chinese scorers hadn't been very accurate!  Ouyang struggled with the pace of play on Thursday and we were on the clock for most of the round.  I told him to speed up but he didn't really understand and so we were tailed by a succession of refs for the 2 days.  It always puts you under a bit more pressure as there are serious fines for slow play on the European Tour.  I still hadn't adjusted to the time-zone and was awake most of the night, which wasn't ideal with a 430am wake up time Friday.  I did play some lovely golf and hit loads of fairways and greens but the lack of sleep showed on the 12th.  I was 10 yards from the very high raised green in 2 shots and got stuck in a divot.  The first chip wasn't great, the second hit a sprinkler and it seemed no matter what I did the ball arrived back close to where I'd hit it from!  It was torture for an 8!  All the hard work invested over the 10 hours on Thursday and Friday down the drain by one simple mistake!  I did recover well on the way in but then bogeyed 17 and 18 to just miss another cut.  It's a long and expensive trip to make when you don't get any payment! 

Golf is a funny game, you can get "hot" streaks like Brett Rumford is currently experiencing or really cold times too.  It's great to see Brett doing well again; he is a lovely guy and is probably one of the hardest working Pros out there.  He's also very happy to help all those struggling with their short game, he's given me a few pointers when I've been at the Wisley with him.  He's holed several 100 foot putts over the last 2 weeks, which you can't count on and you can never control but you really have to capitalize when you hit a hot patch these days - it can be the difference between having a job and going back to Tour school at the end of the season!  He's also won more money in the last 2 weeks than he has in the past 2 years, it's a crazy kind of work with feast or famine but I'd not change it for the world!