What can I say? The final week of the 2015 season was pressure-packed, but ultimately came with a very happy ending! Obviously, I’m delighted with how Hong Kong went, and the tie for seventh that lifted me to the safety of 105th on the Race to Dubai.
I always knew the tight, tree-lined course at Fanling would suit me, and felt I was playing decently, but just not holing the putts. So I hadn’t given up, heading into that final week, but had obviously left it very late and made it very hard.
I thought I needed at least a top 20, maybe a top ten, and you can never block those thoughts out completely. But at the same time, I knew that I couldn’t control such things, so it was just a matter of giving my best on every shot and seeing what happened.
The whole week is a bit of a blur now, as the emotions were high, not just for me, but everyone who was in a similar situation. But I‘d had those feelings at Q school the previous year- I was playing for my career then, and I was playing for my career in Hong Kong too. So I used those thoughts and feelings in a positive way. I knew I was playing decent golf, so it was just a matter of keeping the emotions at bay and doing my best.
After three good rounds, I was nicely placed in tied sixth, but then I bogeyed the first hole in the final round. Negative thoughts can quickly creep in then, but I’d bogeyed the opening hole in the last round at Qualifying School too, so I thought, ‘It’s only one hole; there’s another 17 to go’. Obviously, when you then bogey the 15th and 16th when you’re in good shape with just a few holes to go, you can start getting down on yourself!I hit a poor tee shot on 16, but actually played 15 pretty decently. My iron missed the green by a small margin – a yard to the left and a short birdie putt awaited – and I didn’t get up and down from the sand. But then I holed from about 15ft for birdie on 17, which was obviously crucial, although I didn’t really know it at the time. The 18th tee shot is pretty daunting, even though you’ve only got 3-wood in your hands – hit the fairway and you have a chance, or you’re in the trees. There’s nothing in between!
I had about a 7-iron in to a difficult flag on a little front right slope. I was just trying to find the right half of the green, and pulled it a bit, leaving myself a 50- or 60-footer. I putted up to about three feet…and then holed that for par. I had a rough idea of what the scenario was, but you never know for sure. As it panned out, it was good enough for a top 10, and good enough to secure my card. One more shot and who knows!
When the putt went in, my caddie seemed pretty certain I’d done enough, and Rich McEvoy, who I’ve been rooming with most of the year, was there by the green as I came off. He was pretty certain that was ‘job done’. I handed my card in and saw that I was eighth, and that was apparently good enough, but I still didn’t really believe it, to be honest. But it was true, and I then had to compose myself for an interview, which took two attempts because the emotions were running so high!At that point, I was quite keen to get a beer in my hand. And there were a few of those to follow, I can tell you. My flight wasn’t until 11.30pm, and there was free Stella on tap, but I desperately needed food as well to keep me standing upright.
I did try to treat myself to an upgrade on the flight home, but unfortunately there were none available. Such is life.
Now I have the luxury of being able to plan out 2016. I’m only going to play Leopard Creek pre-Christmas, then from January there are potentially eight or nine weeks in row, so I’m just looking at the schedule to decide what to do. The South African courses suit me, so I will probably do all those, plus Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I might miss Qatar, but we’ll see. And deciding which ones to miss is a very nice problem to have, given where I was heading into the final event of 2015!