I arrived at my hotel in beautiful Queenstown about 5pm, on the eve of the New Zealand Open which was being played at The Hills and Milbrook golf courses. This was always going to be a tough week, for a couple of reasons. Firstly I had just come from two awesome weeks in the States, playing Augusta and then teeing it up head-to-head with the top 50 players in the world at the WGC event. Secondly as some of you may know it’s a long trip from Florida to Queenstown. From the time I arrived at Florida International airport, it was about a 33-hour trip to my hotel in New Zealand and then I had a 7:20am tee time on Thursday morning which meant I had a 5.30am pick up.
The great thing about travelling from the other side of the world is when I arrived at the golf course Thursday morning, I felt ok due to the fact that I wasn’t sure what time it was in Florida. When I arrived I had to register for the tournament, purchase my yardage books and collect my balls from Titleist as I had given all my balls away at Doral.
I bogeyed the first three holes at the Hills and, to be honest, I felt a little flat, I think the jet lag had caught up with me. But after a few pars in a row I started to move in the right direction and had 7 birdies in my last 10 holes to shoot 4 under. I thought to myself, how did that happen?
I had a late tee off the next day so it was a good chance to have a sleep in and recover from the long trip. But as some of you that have travelled to the other side of the world know, it can be hard to get back into the time zone where you are. At 4am I was awake and ready to go. I was playing Milbrook today and there was 9 holes of this course that I hadn’t played so it was always going to be a challenge. I played very average. I couldn’t hole a putt or hit it close and that’s not a good combination! I signed for a 75, 3-over and despite being 1-under for the tournament, I missed the cut by 2 – an amazingly low cut and shows the quality of the field. I was disappointed having the weekend off but on the other hand it was always going to be hard to perform well after travelling so far, something I guess I will have to get used to.
I flew back Monday and only had one day at home as I was going down to Wagga Wagga to play in their Pro-Am. I have played it quite a few times and always love going back down. They have a great golf course but most of all the people are friendly and you always feel welcome. After shooting 4-over on the first day, I thought to myself maybe I should have stayed at home and cut the lawn! I changed putters to a TaylorMade spider that I picked up at Doral the second day and actually holed a few putts. I shot 70 and finished 2-over for the two days but unfortunately still missed making any money. I still enjoyed the trip because it was a good mate of mine’s birthday. Neil Sarkies turned, well, we will say 40, so all the boys went out for dinner to celebrate. Because I have been playing in other countries over the past few years, it was good to catch up, have a beer and a joke as I’ve known most of these boys for about 20 years.
We then headed back to Sydney for the Castle Hill Pro-Am. Once again it is a Pro-Am that I really enjoy. The golf course is great and the event always has a great atmosphere. I also got a chance to stay with my sister Joanne, her partner Mark and her kids Flynn and Jessie. But unfortunately the golf was very average again.
A 3-over 75 the first day had me a long way back in the pack and needing a low one the second day. A 3-under the second day had me back in the money until a storm came over in the afternoon and the day was cancelled. When this happens in a two-day Pro-Am, the results merely go back to use the first day scores, so my 3-over wasn’t in the money.
I flew back that afternoon and I must admit I was happy to be at home for a couple of days. It wears on you when you are not only playing non-stop, but travelling as much as I was. I really enjoy coming home and just doing basic household choirs, believe it or not they are relaxing!
While I was playing in Doral I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jordan Spieth, who just won the US Masters. I can tell you that all the talk of him being a nice guy is true. He was great to talk to and really down to earth. I will look forward to seeing him at this year’s Australian Open and congratulating him on an amazing victory.
In my next stint away, I’m playing Goulburn and Yowani Pro-Ams before heading to China for the Volvo China Open. This is a European Tour event and they always get a great field and play for around 3 million Australian dollars. I then fly back into Australia for about 24 hours before heading to Papua New Guinea, which is always an interesting trip. Hopefully the next article I write I can be telling you the story about another win!