Some putting practice in the heat
Two weeks in the Czech Republic culminated in my best Challenge Tour finish so far this year with a tie for 15th in D+D Real Challenge at Kaskado Golf Resort.
But I left with mixed feelings. Yes, it was my best result in a while, and may even have sneaked me a few world ranking points back after plummeting down to 1000 in the world from a career high this time last year of 258.
I also feel I have made some progress with some of the changes I’ve made, but I know I have more in the tank so I’m excited about what the rest of the season has in store.
After what felt like the quickest 24 hours at home ever, it was straight back on the road and a 3am alarm call before heading off to Leeds/Bradford airport for a flight to Malaga for the Andalucia Costa Del Sol Matchplay 9.
The only blessing was that I’d played the venue Valle Romano a few times in Mike Wilby’s pro-am in February, so I wasn’t under pressure to have to rush round Tuesday afternoon as no play was going to be allowed on Wednesday.
It was so hot! The main focus, therefore, for two days was to get set with the least amount of practice possible, stay fresh, but still do the essentials.
I decided that playing the back nine was a must do. In the tournament we ended up playing in the opposite wind, but I felt it was still very important to hit the tee shot down the 12th, and get set on my plan off the 10th tee.
In Mike’s pro-am I made a real mess of the 10th both days and never really decided on the best way to tackle the 12th. So, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes again and now I had a plan.
On Wednesday we called up to Valle Romano in the morning and I got some putting done before the sun came up, but as soon as the heat kicked in and all the players showed up, we vanished. The facilities are not great there and it was so overcrowded.
So, it was back to Los Naranjos, where I spent most of my time when we lived in Marbella. Such a relaxed golf course away from it all to do some quiet and constructive practice. I’m so glad I went – the place is great and I got to say hi to everyone who always looked after me so well when we were based in Spain.
In round one we were in for a treat as wow did it blow!! The last time I played in a wind that strong must have been in St Andrews. It was like walking round in an oven too, and despite the wind taking a little bit of edge off the heat it made the course a real test.
I played solidly and a 69 (-2) left me in around 10th position. On day two the wind was just as brutal; I actually played pretty similar but scored 4 shots worse, but it didn’t really matter and the top 64 made the match play stages and it was then a fresh start.
Six nine–hole matches stood in the way of me and a trophy. My game was trending the right way and I was starting to get some confidence going. I’ve recently started to work with a new ‘performance coach’ based in the South and it’s made an instant impact. The conversations have really hit home with me and I have been able to relate to everything so well.
I drew Daniel Im in the first round; I’ve known Daniel for a good few years and know his game well. He eagled the first and I went one down – his putting can be dangerous.
He hit a few poor shots in the middle and I managed to take the win on the last. A pleasing start to the knockout, and hopefully that was my average golf out of the way too.
Next up was the in-form Adrian Meronk a guy hits it miles- he should, he’s 6’ 5″- but he can sure play and he’s proving it and currently lies 12th in the rankings.
We were playing the back nine and I missed a short eagle putt on our first hole and an easy par save on our second which would have put me 2up, but that’s match play and after 5 holes I went 2 down.
So, I had my back against the wall with 4 holes to play, Adrian made a poor bogey up our 15th to my par, we both birdied the next, and then I stepped up to the plate on our 8th.
My mindset was so positive and I felt to really take control of the situation, Adrian was 10ft away, and I was 20ft away. Downhill, 2ft left to right break and that’s no story telling exaggeration – I made the putt and fist pumped it in! Adrian missed so we headed for the last tied.
He holed a great putt for par, then we both made birdie down the first, Adrian holing out well again.
I made a great up and down par on the next and then it was his turn to falter and not recover. I took the match on the third extra hole and was now into the last 16.
I had one more match that day and played the 8 holes in -2 to beat Tommy Linard 2&1, hitting one on my finest 4 irons into the par 5 8th, closing the match with a birdie.
I had made it to the quarter finals but unfortunately that was as far as I went. A hot start of eagle par birdie had me one up but in the end, Ugo Coussaud made 5 birdies in 8 holes to beat me 2&1. I did make two mistakes in the middle but it was certainly going to be tough to beat him.
So, it was another week over and I was very pleased to post a 6th place finish and move up the rankings!
There are not many better feelings in professional sport than having a plan and making progress, especially when people say you are doing the wrong things.
Finally, a huge thanks to everyone who supported me out in Spain, it’s always great to have cheers from the side lines, and especially from my little nephew Issac!