Trying to keep the Ryder Cup off my mind at Celtic Manor

After Wales Open I’ll be watching events from a couch in Portugal

The funny thing is that most of the talk among players this week – at least so far – has been about Billy Horschel and how he isn’t in the American team. He wins the FedEx Cup. He goes second-first-first in the last three weeks. And he, like most of us, will be watching on television. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

The funny thing is that most of the talk among players this week – at least so far – has been about Billy Horschel and how he isn’t in the American team. He wins the FedEx Cup. He goes second-first-first in the last three weeks. And he, like most of us, will be watching on television. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

Tuesday morning. 3.40am. The alarm goes off. It’s gas in a way that this week is the shortest flight out of Dublin airport I will do all year and it brings with it one of those early morning-middle of the night wake-up calls that every player dreads. But such is life, who am I to complain?

After all, this is a time of the season on the European Tour where there is so much to play for. Of course, there’s the Ryder Cup next week – which I will be watching from a distance, hoping that my time will come in due course – which will be the focus for so many golf fans and especially so for Irish golf fans with Paul McGinley at the helm. Of course I wish him and his team well.

My flight on Tuesday took me across the Irish Sea from Dublin to Bristol and on by road to Celtic Manor for this week’s Wales Open. I won’t say this is the calm before the storm because, for the vast majority of the players competing here at Celtic Manor, it is about trying to win this tournament in its own right rather than wondering or thinking about the Ryder Cup. It’s an important week for us.

Four years

Still and all, the Ryder Cup and what it means to golf is very much in the air. It doesn’t seem like four years since it was actually here in Celtic Manor.

I bumped into Stephen Gallacher in the locker room on Tuesday and congratulated him on making the team. He’s very excited about playing, which is only natural. The funny thing is that most of the talk among players this week – at least so far – has been about Billy Horschel and how he isn’t in the American team.

He wins the FedEx Cup.

He goes second-first-first in the last three weeks.

And he, like most of us, will be watching on television.

I’ll be watching on television too . . . from Portugal! I’ve booked a holiday with Wendy but did make sure that there’ll be Sky Sports in the house. I will sit down for a few days to watch the Ryder Cup and, hopefully, will be doing so after a good performance here in the Wales Open.

I didn’t get into the pro-am event yesterday which, to be honest, didn’t worry me too much. I normally play the pro-am every week and I enjoy meeting and interacting with new people but the other side of the coin is that you are out there for five and even six hours. Instead, I was able to do some quality practice on my game and some rest. I am happy with how I am playing.

The past two weeks out on tour have been pretty decent. Tied-13th in the European Masters in Switzerland. Tied-28th in the KLM Open in the Netherlands.

That’s as much as I was hoping for or expecting from those tournaments although I’d been floating around with a chance of a top-10 in the Dutch until a poor finish.

Great craic

I got a good practice round in here on Tuesday. I played with Kevin Phelan against Ollie Fisher and Graeme Storm in an Irish versus English match. I’d great craic with Graeme a couple of weeks ago in Switzerland when he won a BMW for a hole-in-one and was genuinely thrilled for him. Thanks to Kevin birdeing the 16th and 17th in our little match, we managed to take the honours.

These are an important few weeks for Kevin as he tries to keep his card and he seems to be playing very well. I hope he can keep his card or at least come close so that he can take some confidence on with him. He’s a good lad and I’ve got to know him pretty well since he has come out on tour. I have tried to give him whatever advice I can. I’ve been out here for five years so there are some things I can pass on.

A week like this for me involves going out and trying to play well and hopefully to get into contention going into the weekend to give myself a chance. It’s about going into Sunday with a chance to win the tournament and I know that’s the way the majority of players will be looking at it.

Big events

I have an important spell coming up towards the end of the season with a great deal to aim for. After Wales, I have a week off before a run that takes in the Alfred Dunhill Links, the Portugal Masters and the Volvo World Matchplay. All big events.

Then, I have the final four tournaments in the Race to Dubai. It’s been a good season so far but I know I have the chance to turn a good season into a great season.

I feel like every golf course we’re playing from now to the end of the year suits me and, if I can keep doing what I am doing, driving the ball really well which is the key for the next couple of months and hole a few putts, then you never know what is going to happen.

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