THE run of three Rolex Series events starting at the HNA Open de France offered a great opportunity to boost my overall Race to Dubai standings with such huge prize funds on offer.
The course at Le Golf National is out of this world and could well be the toughest all year, but it’s also 100% the fairest. It’s also hosting the Ryder Cup in 2018 and for every possible reason it will be an incredible venue.
Every hole has its own amphitheatre feel to it, and there are so many risk and reward holes which for matchplay will be very entertaining.
I really do love the place, and enjoy the challenge it presents, even if you do want to pull your hair out coming down the last few holes when the wind is up. It’s tough.
Again, my preparation was first class. I feel it always is, and that’s something my team and I pride ourselves on – we give it 100%.
I played nicely for the first two rounds, but a few slips of concentration cost me dearly. In round one I shot 72 (+1) but my game was in a good place. On day two we were nearly last out off the 10th, and I got off to a lovely start with birdies on 11 and 12. I then made a nice birdie down 15 and despite a few mistakes coming home, a good couple of up and downs on 7 and 8 kept me inside the cut line.
I had one hole to go to get the ‘cut monkey’ off my back. I hit a decent drive, a crap lay-up and then hacked it towards the green to see it plug in the face of the trap...
Once I saw where the ball actually was I didn’t think I could get it out. It was ‘hit and hope’ and thankfully with some brute force it came out, went forwards and left me a two putt from 18ft to make the cut safely in the end. And I’m not going to lie; there was a sense of relief.
So, weekend golf, and a pay day of some sort to look forward to and maybe a little less mickey-taking from a few mates who claim they play more weekend golf than I do. You know who you are!
With the depth of the prize fund it meant a weekend move up the leader- board would could be very fruitful, so Saturday’s plan was to climb as high as possible.
The weather was shocking and combined with the strength of the course it will go down as has one of the toughest days I have had on a golf course in a long time.
So to start the way I did and then finish the way I did was a sickener. Four under through 8 holes and I had- n’t missed a shot, I was flying despite being wet through. The rain was in and out and at times unplayable, and when I stood on the 15th tee I really didn’t know what to do.
It was coming down sideways and there was a cold wind ... summertime in Paris!
The round got away from me at that point with a visit to the water, and a double bogey, bogey, par, triple bogey finish to fall back to plus four for the round.
Round 4 was a fresh start and I played lovely, but couldn’t buy a putt, and in the end shot 73 (+2). But there was so much to take from this round and it left me extremely excited about what might be around the corner.
I also have to recognise my caddie Steve who magically creates an extra two arms when it rains, and the demands I put on him when it’s wet are massive.
I also had great support from Cathy and Jim Baxter and Steve and Sheila Selbie (Selbie Opticians) who cheered along and entertained us in the evenings.
The DDF Irish Open, hosted by The Rory Foundation, was played at Portstewart which is just down the road from the soon-to-be Open venue of Royal Portrush.
I’d heard great things, especially about the front nine and the enthusiastic locals who lived up to their billing, and seeing them lining the fairways and perched up high on the huge sand dunes was amazing.
#TeamHanson was also out in force in the shape of Laura and the girls, my mum, Geoff and Pat Newton, Super Sue Kaye, Doreen Sutcliffe, Nancy Lightowlers, and Michelle and Tony Booth.
My good friends David and Julie Murray, from an hour down the road at Galgorm, were also up to support for a few days, and David actually sorted out a rental house in Portstewart, which was perfect – we can’t thank him enough.
I’ve known David now for over six years and he’s been a true supporter. He took one of my fave pictures of all time when I won on the EuroPro Tour at Galgorm in 2011.
All looked swell before the girls started to get sick at 2am on the morn- ing of the first round, and after little sleep I was pleased to shoot 70 (-2) with only one blemish on the card down 17. Another 70 got me inside the cut mark by a single shot which meant a 5.30am start on Saturday.
After a double bogey, bogey finish for level par I went off to see the kids in crèche, but I hadn’t been there long when I had to make a dash and it was daddy’s turn to be ill. I headed straight back to the house, got to bed at 2.30pm Saturday afternoon and, bar an hour, slept right through to my 5.30am alarm Sunday morning.
I felt rough but after a few huffs and puffs I got the first few holes out of the way and it’s amazing how a few decent shots make you feel better.
Through 8 holes I had made 8 pars before Laura turned up and brought some luck with her. I made 6 birdies in my last 10 holes and also managed some revenge on the 17th, making birdie there too.
I ended up T36th, which quadrupled my OOM points tally, and that last round was a prime example of a patient round of golf.
A poor second round of 79 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open led to a missed cut and a week in Huddersfield, with lots of catching up to do with family and friends and, of course, work on my game and fitness. I had a great day out with my sponsor David (DP Publicity) and some friends – Peter and Gareth – at Ganton. It’s always nice to play one of the best courses in the country and take the money.
On the Thursday I had a four-hour session with my coach Mark at Oulton Hall, and it was probably one of the best sessions I’ve had in a long time. It felt like I was only there for an hour.
We worked through the bag, ticked some boxes and made sure I had a solid plan in place for the Porsche Open, covering all aspects of my game. From there I headed up the road to meet Rachel Tibbs, my fitness trainer, for some testing and to put a new programme together. It was also good to see that I hadn’t gone backwards too much after a few weeks of illness.
To finish the week off I was over to Pannal on Sunday for a game with my coach Mark, John, and good friend Jason Wood – what a top day out, I’d not played Pannal for years so it was great to be back, and to see Woody hole his 6 iron on the 17th was a great end to the round! Thanks guys!