Chris in feelgood form
THE weeks feel like they are flying by at the moment after another run of four tournaments from which I have taken plenty of positives and a few Race to Dubai points. In Denmark, my ball striking was world class, but a cold putter led to a missed cut by one shot.
From there I went on to finish tied 14th in the Czech Republic, joint 37th in the Swiss Alps and finally in a tie for 25th at the KLM Open in Holland. And it was great to see the effort I’ve put into my putting starting to pay dividends and see my stats hugely improve – as I promised they would! I had also set some short-term goals to push towards.
The first was to win €100,000, the second was to be in contention and lastly to push for top 250 in the world. I didn’t achieve them all, but I got myself in contention to win, I added approximately €50,000 to the Order of Merit, and pulled my world ranking back up to 331.
The Made in Denmark Championship at Himmerland is quite simply one of the best events of the year. It is known for its huge crowds, concerts each evening, and the amphitheatre par threes – with the 16th probably one of the most famous holes all year – “Himmerland Hill”.
The reception you receive walking up to the green is amazing and if you make birdie then you’re in for a treat.
Thanks to one of the Danish players, Jeff Winther, I managed to get one of the Summer Houses ,which I thought would be a great shout for the family as the resort has a crèche, an amazing miniature adventure golf course, swimming pool, spa and bowling alley. As we settled in I booted out a few unwanted visitors and laid some poison, as it seemed a few little mice might try to join us for the week.
Tuesday I played a practice round with Laurie Canter and Eddie Pepperell and had a great laugh as I was in a positive mood having finished 50th and 18th in previous appearances. Despite getting the rough side of the draw I opened with a one-under 70 and although my ball striking was good, I didn’t hit it close enough.
Day two I was out early and the forecast was for strong winds to bu I led the stats in fairways hit (89%) and greens in regulation (also 89%) for 36 holes. But somehow I missed the cut by a shot on one over and, in retrospect, I just didn’t get it close enough to the flags, which put pressure on my putting on very slopey greens.
Needless to say I spent the weekend almost entirely on the putting green. So on to Prague and a fresh week and a new challenge and my third year in the Czech Republic ,but a first for the family.
If you haven’t been, you HAVE to go for a long weekend. It’s incredible; what a beautiful city, so clean, amazing architecture, cheap food, very cheap beer and so much to see. I had Monday off and we walked what felt like the whole city looking like proper tourists with the map and camera out. We even took to the river for some paddle-boating with the kids. which was tough work on the quads.
Tuesday it was back to work on the range or ‘playing out’ as Laura calls it. My plan was somewhat affected when I got a last-minute spot in the pro-am, but I felt it would be good game time. It didn’t harm as after birdies on the first two holes in round one and that score put me inside the top five at the end of the day.
The forecast for round two was pretty grim, rain all day, and wind to go with it. Lee Slattery went out in the thick of it and somehow shot seven under, beating the average by 10 shots – a candidate for round of the year. I got called in on my second hole and had to return next morning, when I played the rest in near flawless golf from tee to green, making up 5.80 shots on the field into the greens and closed with a six-under 66 to take a three-shot lead.
But I ended up playing the last hole of my third round in darkness and after a long day signed for a 75 and headed for some much needed sleep having been up at 4.45am. Round 4 got off to a crap start with a three putt bogey, which set the tone, and after a 73 I was disappointed not to have capitalised on my halfway lead.
But I decided to focus on the week ahead at Crans Montana in Switzerland and the Omega Masters, an event I had always wanted to play having admired the views on TV for so many years. After flying in to Geneva I had one of the most beautiful two-hour train rides ever courtesy of Omega.
The train gets you to the bottom of the mountain and then BMW get you to the top. I really was living the dream. The climb to the top is breath-taking; it plateaus every so often and you think you’re there, but then climb again further up the mountain where the views get better and better – to the point where you’re in the clouds.
The village of Crans Montana has a similar feel to St Andrews. You walk off the golf course into the village, the bars, cafés, shops and the buzz around the place is amazing. Relaxed, classy and totally chilled out – aided by the snow that fell on Saturday night. So I then had two full days to see the course, adjust to the altitude and the difference that makes to the carry of the ball, and, of course, to get my head around the spectacular views.
At first I thought the course may be a bit too tricky, a bit fiddly and maybe even unfair, but I soon changed my tune. It really was a good test. You had to shape the ball both ways, have full control over your shots and be super patient. I
was on the cut bubble with seven holes to play and then made six 3’s in a row – four of them birdies – to cruise through the weekend level-par cut on three under. I played with Anthony Wall and the crazy thing is many of you probably haven’t heard much about his game, but to spend 20 years on the European Tour, win twice and bank €10million is super impressive. He’s a master at what I call ‘real golf’. Real golf is scoring, not dropping shots, holing clutch putts, saving pars and making the easy birdies, and not hitting a shot till you’re 100% ready and committed. Anthony does all of the above and I sat down with him after round two to discuss his game as there were standout moments in his rounds that were world class. I can’t thank him enough for his time and the kind words he had on my own game too. I actually think that the conversation I had with him had immediate effect; the mind-set and the lessons learned from those two days, plus having some great chats with my mind coach Iain Highfield, really rubbed off on me for the weekend.
I struggled off the tee, but, wow, did I make some Anthony Wall saves and decisions! I didn’t waste a shot and battled so hard over the weekend making every shot count. I arrived in The Netherlands with positive memories of a T8th finish last year. I like the course, hence the reason I chose to play the KLM rather than Portugal, which was a scheduled break for me.
Unfortunately it turned out to be another week dominated by the weather, and I only played two holes of the opening round before play was called off for the day due to the severity of the wind and rain.
On day two I started to make some putts including from 55ft, 16ft, 8ft and 18ft. In the end, I shot 68 (-3) and followed that up in the afternoon with a level-par 71 to cruise through the cut to enjoy some more weekend golf.
Bad weather and delays sure make the weeks feel longer and longer, as you miss the breaks and down time you normally get during a week that keep you fresh. After a slow start to Saturday’s round, I then made eagle on 6 to change the momentum for the day. It got me under the card and from there I played nicely, carding another round of 68 (-3), which also moved me up to T16th with a round to go.
So, one last push and then home to Spain for a week to see the girls. I was treading water a bit on level par after 9, but hit it close on the short 14th and birdied 15 after finding the par 5 green in two . My round of 70 dropped me nine spots down the board, but it was a solid week and set me up for the final four events of the season.
Four fantastic opportunities – I can’t wait to get stuck in.
POSTSCRIPT: An excellent 11th place finish in the British Masters at Close House moved Chris up to 83rd in the Race to Dubai rankings and was big step towards retaining his main tour card for 2018.