Johor Masters Day 1

It’s been an eventful couple of days here in Johor so far. Our quick, early morning practice round on Tuesday was elongated to an all day affair once the siren was sounded to suspend play due to lightening. It’s not uncommon to have rain delays here in Asia, especially Malaysia but this one was particularly prolonged and frustrating as it was only a practice round! Had we known the course perhaps we’d have packed in and headed back to the hotel but instead we waited it out in the clubhouse and resumed play a few hours later. I doubt it’ll be the last time we get to see this little device.

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Sure enough the Lightening detector was in full use again yesterday morning, we woke to see flashes of light outside our hotel room and rumbles of distant thunder. The storm stayed around for a little while delaying the start by some 45 mins. My rescheduled start of 9.25am arrived and I swiftly pulled my opening tee shot of the day too far left and out of bounds. De ja vu! Similar to last week in Thailand I managed to hang in there and grind for the next few holes. With a ball striking round straight out of a horror book I relied heavily on some magical short game to keep me going.

I chipped in on the first of the par 3’s on the back 9 (my front 9) for a much needed birdie before hitting a couple more errant drives to rack up back to back bogeys. Seemingly unable to find anything near the middle of the club face my 7th hole of the day was another tricky short par 3. Again, I missed the green after a lack luster 7 iron plugged deep into the ground in the rough before the green. A free drop later and I lofted the ball green wards with my 54 degree wedge. It landed perfectly on the edge of the green and trickled into the hole for another highly unlikely birdie.

9 holes played. One green hit in regulation and +3. Ouch. Not the start I was looking for this week. I managed to hang in there despite still hitting the ball in every direction but straight. With 2 holes to play I was +4 for the day and in need of a couple of closing birdies to tidy up my card. Instead I bogeyed them both. A poor start. A scruffy finish and not much to report in the middle apart from some world class scrambling!

It’s hard to describe how a golf swing can feel so comfortable one week with the driver and irons flying exactly where you intend to seemingly having zero control the next. I had a feeling yesterday of being very disconnected. The timing just wasn’t anywhere near where it has been the last couple of weeks. But after an hour on the range post round I felt like I was getting it back a little. A bit more patience during my swing and a smoother transition from the top of my backswing is the key today to hitting some more fairways. The greens here at Johor Golf Club are tiny, I mean really small. It’s like hitting full shots into pitch and putt sized greens. The advantage is if you get your ball onto the putting surface you’re rarely going to have a long putt to convert.

My 78 yesterday of course putts me in that all too familiar position of needing to play much better today but I don’t feel like I’m a million miles away. If I can get my tempo and timing back to where they were just last week I’ll start hitting it back on the planet again and can start attacking for birdie again instead of scrambling for par. Hopefully it stays dry today and I can get moving in the right direction at 12.55. The good news is there’s no out of bounds anywhere to be seen from the first tee so my new found first tee habit should be broken bar a straight top through my legs into the clubhouse….

Ok, time to get out there and make some birdies.

Golfest, GolfJunkie & Johor Masters

Back on the road again today after a couple of really busy days helping the TaylorMade Demo team over at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. The 4 day Golfest was an equipment lovers dream with every manufacturer under the sun showing their wares and inviting golfers to try before they buy. I know it’ll sound awfully biased of me but it was a huge success for TaylorMade. Part of my duties were to deliver a product presentation on the Sunday afternoon, basically telling everyone about the new R11S & RocketBallz lines. Our demo bays were full to bursting the entire time!

My Thai hosts of the last couple of weeks, Dean & Tommy made the short flight across to Malaysia this week for the second Asian Development Tour event of the year being held down in Johor Bahru. The Johor Masters begins Wednesday and at the time of writing I’m sat on a slowly but surely shrinking reserve list. I’m getting used to it now though, the uncertainty of a place in the starting line up isn’t as much of a distraction as it used to be. All I can do is prepare as though I’m actually in the tournament and hope for the best. We drove down to Johor Bahru or JB as its known this afternoon and hit some balls on the driving range before finding a hotel this evening.

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A huge thanks to my clothing sponsor GolfJunkie for sending a package of new clothing over from Thailand with my roommates this week. If you haven’t already checked out their fantastic clothing lines please do so at www.golfjunkieshop.com. As you can see the designs are colourful, eye catching and take it from me, incredibly comfortable to play golf in.

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An early practice round tomorrow morning with R. Nachimutu, a fellow Impact Elite Golf Academy student and the in-form player in Malaysia at the moment having finished 4th in the first ADT event last month and winning last weeks PGM Clearwater Classic.

Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks!

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The learning curve continues. Why am I still learning at 36 years of age? Well, in golf there’s always new learning to be done. A lot of it for me is re-learning old stuff that I used to do years ago when I first played professional golf. Like figuring out again how to finish off a good round or somehow managing to still post a reasonable score when not playing so good. Other learning is due to playing golf in a very different environment nowadays. This week I definitely picked up some more new tricks from my Thai playing partners.

Only slightly less irritating than missing the cut again this week was to sit on the plane last night typing out an entire detailed blog post only for it to disappear when my battery died. So, this second attempt may be a bit void of on-course analysis. To summarize, I played well on day one after a terrible start. My opening tee shot was blocked to the right, landed on a cart path which catapulted it out of bounds. The opening double bogey spoilt what was otherwise a pretty solid days golf. 15 greens in regulation and another spell of somewhat lack luster putting all added up to an opening round of 75.

Day two started early. Really early! Due to the enormous field size this week 180 hopefuls teed their ball up rather than the usual 150 or so. That meant some poor souls would be teeing it up at 6.30am each day. After a quick bite and some stretching (it was too dark to hit balls on the range,) my ball was in the air at 6.31am. Maybe it was the sleepy brain not working right but I made a poor swing on the 5th hole when I really needed one of my best. Unsure of my yardage (due to earlier blogged about changes to the course planner) I didn’t fully commit to a 5 iron over water. The resulting splash meant an unwanted double bogey 7 and placed me firmly on the back foot.

Some great scrambling over the next few holes brought me back to the 10th tee for the second day sitting around about the cut line. I was conscious of this but not overly worried by it. I’d been playing some really nice golf and just needed 9 solid holes and a couple of putts to drop to stick around for final 2 days play. What followed was a real blow to my chances. My tee shot from the 10th again came off the club well to the right of where I was aiming and once agin bounced high and destructively off the aforementioned cart path. OB again and another double bogey. Now I was in trouble.

A quick bounce back birdie on 11 helped. Birdie chances on the next few holes slipped by and I eventually stood on the 18th tee box probably needing to birdie to post the required number. It’s hard to describe but as Pros we kind of get a feel of what score will be good enough on certain days. There’s even a formula some players use to estimate where cuts will fall at. Anyway, as I stood on the final hole I decided to push and try to make a finishing birdie which I felt might be just enough to see me through. Hitting driver up the last hole is a risky play with a tree sitting directly in the middle of the fairway. Downwind I calculated a good drive would pass it and leave a short approach where a birdie would be possible. I smashed it. Absolutely killed it at the tree with a little draw. Perfect, or at least I thought until I reached the area where I expected my ball to be. Nothing. It was nowhere to be seen.

At this point the ball spotter came over and pointed out my ball had run under another tree just to the left edge of the fairway. It was wedged well and truly inside the multiple trunks and left me with no other option than to take a penalty drop. Deflated I missed the green with my approach, chipped on and almost too predictably missed the putt to end the round on a horrible low. Another double bogey.

As it turned out, a birdie would have been enough so the risk was arguably worth taking? What was interesting was the fact that upon finding my ball wedged in the tree, my first thought was that I had no other option than to take a drop. In hindsight, guys I had played with on each of my previous 3 days play had taken relief when in similar positions due to red ants being present. It’s a local rule in Thailand that red ants or fire ants as they’re known are pretty nasty little things who will bite whenever they have the chance. The rule actually only allows relief from ants nests but on every occasion one of my playing partners received a very favorable, questionable drop. Maybe I was too honest for my own good this week….

All in all the last couple of weeks have been great. I’ve been hitting the ball better and better each tournament I’ve played this year and the swing changes i’ve been making with my coach Andrew Argus are definitely starting to pay off. Under the gun, the only place to test new moves I still came up wanting once or twice but I’m confident I’m moving in the right direction and it’s only a matter of time before the scores start to reflect the kind of golf I know I am capable of.

I’m now waiting to find out if I make the great escape off the reserve list again into the next ADT event in Johor, Malaysia. It isn’t looking good so far with only a handful of names dropping off the list but the same happened at the first event with the entry list changing completely in the days leading up to the actual event.

A few pictures of the week in Thailand. Healthy post round snacks, Bangkok traffic at its finest and a much easier than expected commute back to Bangkok despite getting in everyone’s way at the train station! I’ll be back Bangkok, I’m not finished with you yet…

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Bye bye Bangkok

It’s that time again folks, time to pack up the bags and head back out onto the open road. A familiar road this time as we head up from Bangkok and the fantastic hospitality of Mr. Dean Gultula & Tommy Mansuwan to Narai Hill Golf Resort. It’s back to the now familiar course for the second week of qualifying being held at the club. This time it’s for the newly formed Thailand Challenge Tour.

Again the event runs from Tuesday to Friday with rumours of huge entry numbers after the success of last weeks qualifying event. I’ve spent the last few days eating, relaxing, practicing and meeting up with Hein, the man behind my clothing sponsor GolfJunkie. We had a great afternoon out playing golf today at the Thai Country Club.

A quick photo diary of what’s been going on…

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Bangkok continued….

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So with a few days to kill here in Bangkok we spent today practicing some shortgame and hit a few balls at Panya Indra Golf & Country Club. The course has excellent turf on the range to hit from and island green targets to aim at amidst the sprawling lake that other golfers out on the course were desperately trying to avoid.

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I’m hopefully meeting up with the guys from GolfJunkie, my clothing sponsor this weekend to have a game of golf before heading back to Narai Hill on Monday to prepare for another qualifying school.

The rest of the time has been spent wandering around malls, buying belts for a friend of mine back in Malaysia and admiring cars inside the showrooms on the top floor!

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Back in Bangkok

After two hot, sun drenched days at Narai Hill Golf Resort here in Thailand I’m afraid I had to pack up my bags and head back to Bangkok. It was a week of what ifs with plenty of good golf played but still I came up a few shots shy of the halfway cut line.

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The first round on Tuesday started off ok. Despite a couple of three putts early on I stood in the middle of my 14th (the 5th hole) fairway at +2. Wanting to close out my round on a positive note I took on a moderately risky approach to the watery par 5. Despite driving my ball into the fairway, my line to the green was hampered by a strategically (strangely?) placed tree which I just managed to keep my 3 wood beneath, unfortunately that meant I didn’t make the carry over the water. I bogeyed that hole then managed to add to the agony by dropping further shots on the following two holes. So instead of tidying up my card with a strong finish I instead frittered away shots to sign for an opening round of 77. Frustrating.

Oh, the highlighted yardages? They are the ones that were wrong so had to be altered in our yardage book! Quite a few were wrong.

With the top 65 and ties making the cut I was still in with a good chance on day two, maybe needing just to post a sub par round to advance. Whilst it may sound like I was cut watching again I kept my head in the right place and played some solid golf again. My driving and ball striking in general is improving all the time and after a couple of timely birdies on 11 & 12 I got back to even par for the day, +5 for the tournament. Unfortunately, a wayward drive and a couple of 3 putts later I had again posted a score which I felt didn’t really reflect my play. Again. This time a 75 and as I sat and watched the scores come in the cut line drifted up to +5. I had only needed to par my way in over the finishing 6 holes after all.

All in all it was another week out on the road, a couple more tournament condition rounds under my belt and a few more steps in the right direction. I made some good swings under pressure, holed some good putts but alas missed a few when I most needed them too. On a positive note I’ve managed to secure a place in the field for next week at the Thailand Challenge Tour School, held over the same course. Peter McLachlan and I will be heading back up to Lopburi on Monday after a few days catching up with friends here in Bangkok.

I’m looking forward to the daily transfers to the driving range in the back of the open top pick up truck! You can see us gripping on for our lives in the picture below. I’ll be doing as much putting practice as I can when we arrive to try to get a grip of the undulating, grainy greens.

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Thailand Pro Tour Qualifying School

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I first heard about the new Thailand Pro Tour through Facebook a couple of weeks ago. A few of my Thai based golfing buddies were making some noise about a new golf tour starting up with talk of some serious prize funds to be played for. What was first known as the Chang Tour seems to have taken a different direction with a number of other sponsors coming forward but the buzz around the new tour has continued to grow.

Despite entering the qualifying school almost as soon as I heard about it my entry was placed onto a growing reserve list which meant I couldn’t make any travel arrangements until I received a call on Sunday afternoon saying I was in! What followed was a hectic couple of hours of booking flights, packing and rushing to the airport with my Scottish friend Pete Mclachlan who also climbed his way up from the reserve list.

An Egypt Air flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 10pm touched down in Bangkok around 11.15, we then found a private car which whisked us a further 3 hours north to the course. Narai Hill Golf Resort is the venue for this weeks qualifying school and it was a well needed few hours of sleep last night before getting a look at the layout during today’s practice round.

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The course is tricky with a number of crucial tee shots that can make or break your chances on the par 5’s. Large undulating greens are made even more challenging by the subtle changes in grain that take some serious reading. Having said that the course is playing fair and is in excellent condition so I’m looking forward to getting out there tomorrow at 12.20pm (yes, that’s my name spelt wrong on the draw sheet)

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RocketBallz Marketing

Ok, so this is going to sound all corporate of me now but I have to say I was really impressed with TayloMade’s RocketBallz campaign at Doral over the weekend.

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For those of you that didn’t see it or ‘get it’, the guys you see pictured above are all TaylorMade staff players. Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson etc. For the final round of the WGC at Doral’s Blue Monster course the players wore these outfits. The number 17 refers to the average yardage the new RocketBallz fairway woods have added to players shots when changing from their old fairway wood to the new RocketBallz fairway.

Now I know the skeptics out there will just say its all marketing hype but there genuinely seems to be a huge buzz around this new range of products from TaylorMade. I attended the Asian launch of the new clubs just a couple of weeks ago and the feedback was amazing! I’m looking forward to getting my hands on them to try them out hopefully later this week where I’ll report back as to how many yards I manage to pick up. I need every yard I can get so 17 would be most welcome!

Oh, and the winner of the WGC at Doral? Justin Rose, just one shot shy of a perfect marketing day of -17 for the week. It’s great to see the Englishman back in the top 10 of the world ranking. Not so great to see Tiger limping off the golf course again after withdrawing to hopefully protect his damaged achilles. That reminds me, I must put the iPad down and stretch before going off to play the wonderful West course at KLGCC today…

Chalk & Cheese

A very, very strange week. Last minute entry into the tournament. Some brilliant golf surrounded a crazy half hour of torture in round 1. All in all it added up to a weekend off again for me but, as usual, it’s a much longer story than that!

Teeing off last at 2pm on Thursday I played really solidly for the opening 6 holes. A stumbling bogey, bogey run on 7 & 8 was only trumped by possibly my worst stretch of holes playing golf as a professional in Asia. 3 double bogeys on the spin saw my name dropping down the leader board like a lead balloon. On a day where birdies and sub par rounds were in the air I managed to play myself out of the tournament with 3 errant tee shots and some lack luster scrambling.

To add insult to injury I managed to hit a floodlight from the 15th tee which rebounded sideways under a bush leading to another delightful double bogey. It sounds weird but I really didn’t play all that bad despite signing for a 9 over par opening round of 81! 4 holes destroyed any chance I had of competing at the right end of the field.

Knowing that my form coming into the week had been some of the best I’d shown in years I was determined to at least go out in round 2 and prove to myself that I was capable of playing some decent golf. It was again a mixed bag with only 7 pars on the card for the day but some exquisite iron play meant I was able to convert a few more chances than I had on day 1. 6 birdies were unfortunately all but cancelled out by 5 sloppy bogeys which annoyingly stopped me from posting a really good round. Still, a 10 shot improvement can never be a bad thing and my second round of -1 71 was a huge step in the right direction.

Scoring was low this week at Impian Golf Club. The halfway cut of 143, -1 could possibly be the lowest in ADT history. However, the course was there for the taking. Soft post rain conditions and improved lies meant that birdie chances came thick and fast. I have to complement Impian on the huge improvements I have seen at the course over the last 12 months. The new owners have done a tremendous job with the overall standard of the golf course now up there with some of the more exclusive courses in Kuala Lumpur.

A few more lessons learnt this week. It’s back to the grindstone after a relaxing weekend to work out some of the flaws revealed during the heat of battle. Tournament golf is the only way to asses my game after all the work I’ve been putting in on my golf swing and game. Definitely some good signs and a lot of positives to take from this week and I’m getting a taste for making birdies!

Only Tommy made it through to contest over the next 2 days from the guys staying at our condo this week. Some sparkling golf sees him right in contention at -5 for the week so far. Follow his blog here to hopefully read of a successful weekends work. Another friend and fellow Impact Elite Golf Academy student Nachi sits atop of the leader board at -11. I may even pop along on Sunday and watch my good friends in action. Entry for spectators is free of charge and with several Asian Tour players in the mix golfers in KL could get to see some great golf on their doorstep…

PGM CCM Impian Masters

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Well, after a nervy wait today I finally received confirmation from my favourite Asian Tour employee Putri Nadiah that I’d secured a starting place in this weeks ADT tournament. It’s been a weird few days leading up to the event, playing practice rounds and preparing for an event I really didn’t know if I’d actually be playing in. A good couple of days practice on the course under my belt I’m looking forward to getting out there at 2pm tomorrow to get the first round underway. The ball seems to be coming out of the middle of the club face more often than not of late and I’m even managing to hole a few putts so things seem to be where I’d like them to be form wise.

The course is in great shape with the new management having worked hard to improve the condition and presentation of all areas of the course. The greens were just starting to firm up nicely until we had the biggest downpour in weeks this evening so it will be interesting to see how the rain effects things tomorrow. Hopefully this deluge is the last we’ll see of the wet stuff for the next 4 days but then it is Malaysia lah…..

A huge thank you to all the staff at the Asian Tour for putting up with my constant email harassment and on site reserve list checking. Now I’m in the event I’d best get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible and see if I can start the year as I mean to go on.

Follow the scoring at the Asian Tour website