I had never been to Scotland before, the home of golf, and what a treat it is. I have played a fair amount of golf in my life but nothing like this! It is inspiring, fascinating and thoroughly engaging, I love it and my love of the game has grown.
I guess the real question is did I qualify? The answer is no, no I didn't but I did have a red hot crack. The weather that greeted the qualifiers on Tuesday was not great. We had a maximum temperature of around 12 degrees and also lucky enough to have wind and rain for all 36 holes. It was a perfect Scottish summers day!!!
I actually wouldn't have wanted it any other way as with 72 players trying to gain one of the 3 spots, the tougher the better, or so I thought. The difficulty I faced was that I had only played one practice round and that wasn't enough time to learn the art of playing true links courses.
It is so unlike anything I have played before with Melbourne sandbelt courses in hard and fast condition maybe being the closest. To give you an example on one hole into the wind I hit an 8 iron from 113m and then down wind later in the practice round I hit another 8 iron 184m!! It is so tough to learn and to trust club selections and to learn how incredibly different the ball reacts on the ground upon landing both into and down wind.
My day didn't start so well with my approach to the first green catching the wrong side of a slope right near the pin and ending up 50 feet away. I three putted the hole which I semi expected to do at some point in the day given the enormous size of the greens. It didn't bother me and I set about the challenge of the very difficult 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes.
A great par save on 2 followed by a very well played par on 3 left me at the tough par three 4th. It was playing 167m with the wind into from the left. The green had a few bunkers around it and a big tier in the middle of it with the pin cut just on top of it. Check out the photo from the yardage book that I have added. I hit a great 5iron that finished 14ft away and incredibly I was the first to putt with the other two hitting it inside me. The good news being that I rolled my birdie putt in!
The two guys I was playing with told two very different stories, one a you guy trying to make a name for himself here in Europe playing on the Challenge and European tours. The other, Peter Baker has done most things, Ryder Cup, played all four majors and won on tour, a very experienced veteran who finished playing full time at the end of last yr. It was great to be drawn with him and I learnt so much watching him play links golf.
So after that birdie I managed to keep things going and after birdies on 8 and 9 I managed to turn 2 under. A solid start but unfortunately I made two links golf mistakes coming home and finished the morning round in even par. I still thought that was a great round of golf given the conditions and also the foreign nature of the golf I was being asked to play.
I set off into the afternoon round knowing I had a chance to qualify for my first major but that I had to be clean, really clean with no mistakes. That was always going to be tough as the weather had closed in even further and it was now colder, wetter and the wid had strengthened.
Unfortunately I misread a putt in the second coating me a bogie and found a fairway pot bunker on the 5th that cost me another. With a score of 5-6 under needed to have a chance, not an ideal start. I stayed calm though and with birdies at 7 and 9 I turned in even par. That gave me hope with 9 to play, it just needed to be the best nine of my life!!
It seemed as quickly as I had recovered to give me hope, that hope was extinguished with bogies on 10 and 11. Once again my inexperience at playing on these true links courses jumped up and bit me. Two shots trying to use the wind backfired and cost me dearly. So at two over with 7 to play my day was almost done and when my birdie putts on the next two holes lipped out, I knew my British Open dreams were over.
It was a great challenge, a great experience and also a great thrill to be in with a chance with 9 holes to play. Last yr when I went to the US for US Open qualifying I really struggled and had no chance after my morning round. So I am getting closer to competing in one of these major qualifiers. Can't wait for the next chance!!
So after 6 rounds in the last 5 days I got to have a day off today to try and recover and rejuvenate myself before the coming days of golf. I play another Europro event next week further north in Scotland before heading home in the 15th. In the mean time I am playing some of the other famous courses here, tomorrow St Andrews, Friday at Kingsbarns and Sunday at Royal Dornoch, supposedly a brilliant track. I can't wait, especially for tomorrow!!
So bye for now but know this, if you haven't been to play golf in Scotland before, do it, it is unbelievable!!