The first World Golf Championships event I ever played was the 2016 HSBC Champions tournament in China.
I’d qualified by finishing third on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit in 2015 and it didn’t take me long to realise this was something different from what I was used to.
When I got into the locker room at Sheshan International the row of lockers read ‘Matsuyama’, ‘McIlory’, ‘Millar’, ‘Molinari’. It’s not hard to pick the odd one out amongst those names.
As you get older you start to wonder perhaps whether you will ever get the opportunity to play in events like that so to be going to my second WGC event this week – the Mexico Championship – is a big thrill.
There are so many guys out there playing professionally across the world so you can be a really good player and never get the opportunity to play in such a big event so I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.
Finishing second on the Order of Merit last year will allow me to play this week in Mexico and also the HSBC Champions later in the year so while it would have been nice to pip Jake McLeod and win the Order of Merit, these events are a very nice consolation prize.
Everywhere we go we are treated very well but there’s no doubt the WGC events take it to a whole new level.
The accommodation is taken care of for both myself and my caddie Dave – we get a room each. We will be picked up from the airport, taken to the hotel, taken to and from the course each day and back to the airport again at the end of the week.
To give you an idea of the level of organisation that they go to, in mid-December I started receiving emails asking who was coming and how many bags we’d be bringing so that the car they send can fit everything in.
They want to know every last detail; when we’re arriving, when we’re leaving and anything they could do for us in the meantime.
Of course, once you get there you have to pinch yourself that you are surrounded by the names that are in the field.
I was lucky enough to play in the 2011 British Open at Royal St George’s and as you walk around the range and the course you can’t help but stop and think, Geez, I don’t see you every week.
Before the Open in 2011 I ran into Adam Scott and told him I was going to go out for a practice round. He said that I couldn’t possibly play Royal St George’s for the first time on my own and told me to go in and put my down with him, Geoff Ogilvy and Aaron Baddeley.
That was awesome and really nice of Adam and then another day I played a practice round with Davis Love III, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink. The next day I caught up and played four or five holes with Anthony Kim, Kyle Stanley and Matt Kuchar. It was pretty awesome to be able to play some holes with those guys.
I don’t know that I expected to be playing with players of that calibre unless it was a Saturday or Sunday at one of our tournaments here in Australia.
After I finished playing in Europe in 2009 I probably didn’t think opportunities like this would come around.
I hadn’t really thought about playing in a major championship and then all of a sudden, five days after my daughter Charlotte was born, I qualified at Kingston Heath to play in the 2011 British Open.
In 2013 I took a job teaching and played a little but when I lost my card in 2014 I knew some things had to change.
Thankfully the last four years here have been really good for me. I’m older now and I don’t play like these young guys do but you wouldn’t be there if your game wasn’t any good.
It’s certainly great to be able to go back and try and compete with these guys.
I’m not sure how I’ll go. The course is probably more suited to me than the HSBC. The ball goes a bit further through the air in Mexico but that just means the other guys will all be hitting it a lot further as well.
It’s about knowing your strengths and understanding that some weeks you’re going to have some courses that are good for you and some weeks you aren’t.
A big part of it for me will be finding my game again – it’s been a bit askew the past month. But if I can do that then I give myself a chance of running in the top-25.
I’d be happy with a result like that playing against the best going around.
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