Abu Dhabi is always a pleasure, and I played some good stuff at HSBC

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey

It’s an 8hr 30 flight from Durban to Dubai which is quite tiring. Although we arrived in the morning the room was ready in the five star hotel on Sadiyat Island and so I managed a three hour sleep and was eady to explore down town Abu Dhabi in the afternoon.It’s something I’ve never done even though I’ve been here for the last five years. I only saw malls which is the norm for the Middle East but as good to have a day away from the golf course.

They treat us well in the Middle East it’s a free hotel and its quality, it’s nice for a change, we normally get charged extortionate amounts around Europe. Last year I slipped on the way into the pool so I was going to be careful this year. HSBC became the title sponsor a few years ago and along with IMG they run events well.

Unfortunately the prize fund is a fraction of the appearance money they give to the top guys but such is life. Last year Tiger, Ernie, Luke and Justin played and it was reported to have cost approx. 7sevenmillion in appearance fees.

In fairness Rory said he wished the appearance money went into the prize fund that would mean a 10 million dollar purse, can you imagine it? I certainly can’t!

You can complain all you want but in reality it comes down to playing well then everything sorts itself out.

On Tuesday I went up and had a good bunker and wedge session with Johnny Foster, he really is a great coach. He showed me how to hit eight irons out of the bunker. If you can play this shot correctly it means the ball can be landed softly and it forces you to use the bounce correctly.

The normal sand wedge feels very easy after this.

Gerry (my caddy) was still ill and he saw the doc who said it was a bacterial infection so I gave him the day off and got one of the other caddies who hadn’t got a job for the week. Some of the cads haven’t got fixed up yet but have already booked flights and come out to network and try and get sorted for later in the season, they can’t do much at home!

I got Henrik, nickname Robocop as he talks a bit that way and we did nine holes. Johnny got me swinging smoothly and it felt good; I hit a lot of fairways.

The rough was very thick which you expect out here but it was worse than usual and sometimes it was a case of taking a lob wedge out sideways, the course is tough!

We headed back to the range for some slow motion swings with the fade feeling and quite a bit of putting then I headed to physio and finally home.

Days are long and its definitely work and not a holiday.

Only the top ranked players from last year have to play the pro-am on a Wednesday and the rest of us can’t use the course to practise, so I had more short game range work and went through the yardage book with Gerry.

This is important as the course plays totally different when the wind switches; I’m trying to prepare better for the exam paper these days!

Mickelson was on the chipping area flopping a few; it was impressive though he mishit a few shots proof that golf is not a game of perfect.

I had a late start on Thursday. Some years you seem to always get early late starts on Thursday and Friday rather than late early. I think it’s better to have late early as you can keep the momentum easier when the time between rounds is shorter.

If you’re feeling unwell its best to have an early late combination to aid the recovery!

I found some really good rhythm on Thursday and holed a couple of nice putts to get to three- under.

I had two great shots on to the 18th but unfortunately had a three putt from 60 feet. It always leaves a sourtaste in the mouth at the end of the round!

There had been a scuff mark in my line, but such are the joys of golf sometimes! I finished the day in top 15 position so it was a great start for me.

I played with George Coetzee; he’s a consistent player with a phenomenal short game but didn’t have the best of his long game with him Thursday and Friday.

He doesn’t miss from 20 feet it’s incredible!

On Friday I played even better hitting lots of fairways and greens but the putts didn’t drop and I only scored 1 under. It was a bogey free round for me is a rarity so a definite positive.

George hit it in the trees a few times but made birdie, a good mind and short game can make you a fortune on tour!

I went to the putting green to do disciplined 5 footers. It’s a great drill, you count how many you doand if you miss you have to start again. I managed 100 in a row then stopped, it took about 40mins

and it gets the mind seeing the ball drop which is good.

I headed to see Shane (my physio) and went home. Even with a 6am start on tour the earliest I get back is about 4pm, they are long days and tiring in the heat.

Justin Parsons (my other coach) came down from Dubai on Saturday and we went through Johnny’sstuff, focusing on set up ball position and leg stability.

I’ve got I coaches at the momentand I feel I need it as I spend a lot of time in Dubai and equally at home they are both on the same hymn sheet and great coaches.

I played with Darren Fichardt and he struggled off the fairways. I drove it well and four under was justified. It was great to play well with good crowds following and I even had a couple from Northern Ireland follow me and they were great support all the way round!

Now that Bev is at home more I can often have no one watching me during the competitions.

I spent one hour on the range after the round, working on same stuff and managed to get a few fades going so I left the course happy.

The promoters had arranged for a falcon to be at the course and I held it on the back of the practice area. They are amazing birds and it was great to be so close.

I was a little nervous though and just had to trust it wouldn’t dig into me with its sharp beak or talons, hope the pics go on the website.

It was an amazing round from Mickelson; he had 2 bogies and still shot 9 under, and he missed quite a few fairways.

s is often the case when the tour arrives in town the weather changes, the weathermen had forecast rain so there was a u draw for the final round ensuring an early finish to miss the rain.

Rory was very unlucky with his 2 shot penalty for an incorrect drop.

It’s a harsh penalty; I know it’s happened to me plenty times, you’ve got to be so careful with the rules, I’d try to take my time now and to ask for rulings no matter what my playing partners say.

I was the group ahead of Rory and played alongside Thongchai and Matt Baldwin. They were nice guys to play with, it didn’t go great for us all I was too quick with my rhythm; I guess I was a bitexcited in the final groups although I battled and with a chip in at 5 and a holed bunker shot.

I maintained resilience and got a top 10 finish, hopefully the first of many this year. It’s always good to mix it with the big boys it feels good.

After a quick bite in the club it was off to the airport for the 40 minute flight to Qatar!

The airport is always horribly busy and Sunday was no exception.

We had to stand in line for over an hour to get through Immigration; thankfully I didn’t have to pay the $50 as Bev had arranged my visa through the Tour.

Then it was off to the hotel and some room servicebefore bed.

I’m sharing with Simon Thornton this week as the hotels in Qatar are so expensive.

I have no idea how football fans are going to cope here in 2022! There never seems to be theequivalent of a Premier Inn!

I hope Simon manages to cope with all my idiosyncrasies and that we’re on the same side of the draw!