It’s great to spend some downtime in Dubai after four-week desert slog

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey

It was strange having an extra day between Qatar finishing on Saturday and Dubai starting on Thursday.

Pro golfers are creatures of habit and it threw us off. It was good to see Bev and Erin though and so the extra day was very welcome!

We had rented a house in the Springs area of Dubai. It’s the area where most of the ex pat people live in Dubai; it’s about the only affordable housing out there.

It’s great to feel normal again after three weeks in a row in hotels. I just rested on Sunday my stomach was a bit off after dodgey food in Qatar. I still didn’t have much of an appetite but such is tour life sometimes.

We took Erin to sign up to some baby classes in one of the malls on Monday morning. It gets the girls out and helps Dubai feel like normal to Erin, they sing and dance for 45 minutes and come home exhausted. Perfect!

They then went to meet David Howell’s wife Emily who has two new twin boys and Mark Foster’s wife Sophie with their new baby girl, Evelyn.

I went up to the Els club to see Justin; I didn’t fancy all those babies!

Brooks Koepka and Peter Ulhein were hitting balls on the range with Butch Harmon’s son Claude who coaches them.

He had made the long trip from Florida just to see the boys at the Desert Classic.

The range at the Els club is always a melting pot of pro golfers from all over the world, never mind the Northern Ireland contingent!

Brook’s caddy Ricky Elliot is a great guy from Portrush, and then there was Andy Park (Ulster Heineken Cup winner in 1999 now getting into golf management), Justin and myself.

We worked on my putting routine for 2 hours trying to get it automated as much as possible so that in tournaments when the pressure is on you don’t think about the consequences as much and just execute the routine, easier said than done!

I thought I was being clever playing 18 holes at 7am on Tuesday morning but a lot of other guys had the same idea as the course was closed for the past champions challenge from 1030am. This was a special event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the tournament. I played with Peter Lawrie, Simon Thornton and Lee Corfield who Justin also coaches. Damien McGrane also joined us after nin e so I dropped back and joined Danny Willet, Brooks Koepka and Peter Ulhein.

It’s good to play with young talented players it kind of pushes you forward; these guys were hitting it miles and making tonnes of birdies it was hard to keep up.

After the 18 it was putting practice for an hour. I forced myself to do 50 in a row from 5feet, miss and you start over it simulates on course pressure which every sports psychologist I’ve ever spoken to has highly recommended.

If you don’t have some consequence associated to your practice, range golf and tournament golf become two totally different things.

It one of the reasons so many players say they hit it great on the range but not as good on Wednesday was a range and putting session with Justin.

We were working on the same theme as Johnny Foster, focusing on my leg stability. My legs want to fire too early from the top so I have to feel like I’m holding them in place while I coil the upper body, making more of a smooth wind up.

When I get it right it’s enjoyable; anyone who plays golf knows the right feelings. My back was a bit sore so Shane (my chiro) had a good go at me and manipulated it back into position. It’s amazing how good he is! It was perfect on Thursday morning.

I had a 755am tee time; the same as Rory and Tiger but I was off the 10th tee not the 1st. I came on to the range and noticed my golf bag besideTiger’s, apparently Justin and Gerry (my caddy) thought it was good for me to warm up beside him.

Initially I was a bit uncomfortable as there were so many cameras on him and hundreds of spectators but you have to get used to these situations and I know why Gerry put it there.

I tried not to watch him too much and just tried to do my own thing. I was surprised by how poor some of the shots he hit were but knowing golf it’s not all about how well you hit it but how well you score. His wedges and putts are phenomenal!

I hit the most fairways and greens I’ve ever hit on day one at the Emirates Course, that’s important as the rough is thick and the greens are firm so this is a premium. If I had holed two 10 footers then

I’d have been right up there but two under was a decent start. Tiger sprayed it but scored great for four under and Rory made him look poor with phenomenal golf coming in at nine under. I played with

Marcel Siem and Soren Kjeldson. Marcel is a volcano waiting to erupt and he did a couple of times,

Bev’s Dad Ken found this entertaining as clubs and balls were thrown! Erin was also watching from a height in the new hill walking back pack Bev had invested in. Thankfully Erin was well behaved or else balls or clubs could have come her way!

Bev’s Mum and Dad joined us for the week and it was a great help with Erin. Bev hasn’t watched me play a full 18 holes for months and I think she enjoyed the walk on all four days.

Friday was gonna be tricky as the greens get chewed up with all the traffic and the wind picks up in the afternoon.

I was off at 1215 and it was hot. I struggled a bit with my tempo; got a bit quick but managed some good solid chipping and putting. Finding the tempo settled me down and playing my last hole knowing I was inside the cutt.

I hit my best drive all week on the 9th, it’s a really difficult hole and it took a rock hard bounce on the fairway and just trickled long into the water 320 yards from the tee.

It was just an unlucky break, I had to hit a good 8 iron and make two solid putts to make bogey but at least I’d made the cutt.

Ken was disappointed that I wouldn’t be out with Tiger the following morning as we’d been coming down our last holes at the same time on the same score. The painful thing about just making the cutt is a very early tee time and I was first out at 730am on Saturday, a fraction softer bounce and I was playing with Tiger and enj oying an hour extra in bed.

I had 15 mins with Shane, food and to bed with the alarm set for 530am.

I didn’t sleep great my stomach wasn’t digesting food very well and my legs felt like they didn’t belong to me. I did my best which wasn’t pretty! I missed tons of fairways and was hitting outta wet rough as the dew on the ground early makes fairways important.

It’s harder when you’re playing partner has a blinder! Dawie was 7 under but I battled for one over and stole 10mins in bed on I felt much sharper on Sunday. I think I’d managed a world record of bed at 8pm and up at 530 again but I’d had good sleep and felt stronger.

I hit most of the fairways and managed to get around bogey free, it was a nice way to finish! I managed three under, and felt my game was in a positive state for the next tournament. I vegged out and watched the leaders on TV. I was surprised Gallagher was four over after 9. He’d had the round of his life the day before, 10 under for his last 10 on Saturday, unreal!

Rory struggled; I knew the greens were tough as they were burnt and fast. Rory only hit four fairways and was a bit aggressive on the par 5 s which cost him.

I played with Gallagher in Qatar last week and he is a very natural ball striker who doesn’t struggle on the greens any more .

He’s the first ever to defend this tournament. It was somehow fitting on the 25th anniversary!

It feels like a marathon four fourweeks in a row with over 20 rounds and approx 130 miles walking! It’s nice to have a week to rest here in Dubai.

Then it’s South Africa for another 3 weeks, I will definitely be looking forward to getting home then even if it’s to the wind and the rain.