Hi again, thanks for keeping up to date with my travels. The latest event I attended was in sunny Vilamoura, on the Algarve. I’ve been fortunate enough to fly down to this part of the world a lot and it never disappoints. The climate is excellent, the courses are good and I much prefer the port in Vilamoura to Puerto Banus….although both pale in comparison to Monaco I have to say!
The Portugal Masters would be the last event for many European Tour regulars as only the top 60 on the Race 2 Dubai would qualify for the season finale DP World Championship in Dubai and a few of the other big events at the end of the year. That would mean an extra air of tension on the range for those on the ‘bubble’. Both Gareth and Michael could both qualify for the R2D if they had a really strong finish, so that extra incentive made it fun!
Michael was actually going to compete the week after in Perth of all places in the very last regular Tour Event. Just think of that journey (Faro – Gatwick – Dubai – Perth) and the time needed to prepare for the event the next time you are fed up on a flight to mainland UK!! Gareth knew all about it as he done it last year. As I often say – the European Tour doesn’t come to your door step.
After another ridiculously early flight from Dublin, I made it to the Oceanico Victoria course by 10.30am and met Michael on the range. We had a constructive session during the previous week in my academy at home, so now was the time to see how much of it survived. Thankfully, like most good players, he had refined down the ideas to ‘playable’ thoughts and feels for the tournament ahead. He was focusing on his address position, especially the shoulder aim, right arm hang and grip. We were able to gather all this together into a concept of him ‘hammering’ a nail into a ball, and it was working a treat. His ball flight was laser straight on his good shots.
We set out to have a look at the course after lunch and under the blue skies, himself and Gerry (his bagman) plotted their way around. The only feature change from last year was a lengthened par 5, so it was a case of staying engaged with a few challenges and the odd ‘impression’ courtesy of….everybody.
During a practice round like this on a very familiar course with little change year to year, the players have to remain professional and go through their usual process of lines from tees, landing zones, prevailing wind decisions, playing and putting to predicted tournament pin positions etc. I’ve noticed it’s easy to slack on these occasions, but the really top professionals invariably play on their own and ‘map’ the course thoroughly. Chris Wood has a mantra with his coach that I like – ‘no stone unturned’.
Monday night was spent having a bite with Ryan McGuigan who has just started caddying for Richie Ramsey. I’ve known him for long time and he’s always been a good dinner companion as he really loves the game and is fun to be around.
As Monday had been predominantly with Michael, Tuesday would be about helping Gareth get ready for a course he really likes. In fact, the told me that the first year he played the Victoria course, he didn’t drop a shot in the first three rounds. ‘More of the same this year’ was my reply. As with all students, the two lads’ approaches differ a little which is natural with most golfers and its important for me to remember the likes & dislikes of each. Gareth for example is very efficient with his time, has the day planned out before the off and loves to compete on the course. Michael gets a lot of his confidence from knowing ‘why?’ things happen in the technique and really enjoys hitting ‘proper’ shots. One commonality they both share is an appreciation of the scoring game and thankfully neither have to be encouraged to work regularly on their wedges & putter.
Gareth’s range session was brisk which is always a good sign and he was joined for nine holes by Christian Cevaer who was playing his last event before embarking on a coaching career. What a friendly guy he turned out to be. He was very approachable and was generous with his knowledge about his game around the greens. Just like Bret Rumford, he was able to demonstrate too.
Tuesday evening finished off with some work with Gareth around the chipping and bunker green. He just wanted to re acquaint himself with the longer grass. I had studied Martin Kaymer play exactly the same shots earlier, so added to what we already knew, we were able to get a shot that landed a little softer than before. Also, we started to discuss how best to play shots where there is a district direction or ‘grain’ to how the grass is lying. The really tough one is when it’s brushed back against you, like you would find if you finished on the walkway toward the next tee. The first time I saw this was in Dubai 2010 and luckily I’ve researched it and can now demonstrate how best to play it reasonably well. A definite case of ‘when needs must’.
Wednesday was an early start again with Michael, just running through the main things we are slowly evolving. Most important to me is to hear his explanation of what he’s doing as this always gives the coach a good indicator as to whether the student is clear. Michael was crystal clear on this occasion so we finished off before lunch with some chipping again from the high rough and a continuation of the bunker ideas we stated just before he won in Russia. Last up was a putting challenge which included getting as many twenty five foot putts to stop within a club’s length as possible. Sounds easy? Well the catch was that the putts all had to get farther away each time. In thirty minutes, his best was 4. Not bad, but I’m expecting a new PB either before the end of the week or in Oz!
All that was left for me to do was to play a few holes on the O’Connor course at Amemdoeira and then jet home. I will add that the jetting part nearly didn’t happen as Aer Lingus had ‘technical issues’ and had to substitute in a new plane at the last minute with a smaller capacity. As it turned out, I got the last seat in the reduced passenger count. Bingo! I hope the luck lasts for the lads until Sunday.
Hopefully I will catch you again before the end of the year.