Serves me right for bragging about flying away for three weeks in the sun watching top golf. Here I am at Dove Mountain, Arizona, surrounded by snow, hardly any warm clothes in my luggage and no golf going on.
Mind you, the mountain and desert scenery is even more spectacular in the snow than it is in the sunshine but it was frustrating having to wait so long to see the heroes in action.
I didn’t venture out for any of yesterday’s first round of the World Match Play because of the conditions but I did spend Monday and Tuesday walking the course and realising that a hacker like me would probably have to give up the game if every course was like this.
Apart from being 7,800 yards long, the longest on the PGA Tour, its fairways curve through the wilderness with the desert threatening on either side and, on most holes, in front of you as well.
Some of the carries from tee to fairways are massive and, all in all, it demands a standard of length and accuracy players like me can’t even dream of possessing. You’d soon get pissed off rummaging around amid the cacti.
I played a few courses in Arizona ten years or so ago. They were further north, around Phoenix, and were of a similar vein but nowhere near as intimidating.
If you hit your ball into the desert they advised you to drop another on the edge of the grass under penalty because the rattlesnakes and some nasty variety of cactus make it imprudent to go looking for it. I’m not strong enough to carry all the balls I’d need
Thankfully, when we fixed up a golf writers game on Tuesday we went to a far more conventional course –the Catalyana at the Omni complex.
They held the Tucson Open here before they started invading the desert for courses and it was far more suitable for someone like me — wide fairways lined with rough that is by no means severe in winter, a hacker’s paradise.
Ironically, I drove so well that I hardly missed a fairway all round. The weather was beautiful, sunny but not too hot and with no hint of the snow-storm to come next day.
I played with my son, James, who is golf correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, Derek Lawrenson, of the Daily Mail, and Peter Dixon of The Times.
James did try to off-load me onto one of the others but they weren’t enthusiastic and he was stuck with me. We don’t have a great history as a golf partnership.
We took up the game at same time. He was 10 and I was 44. Within three years he was too embarrassed to play with me in the Father and Son competitions.
He used to play off 11 but no longer plays regularly. Like me he has encountered the paradox that being a golf writer means spending most of your time at the greatest courses in the world with hardly any chance to play.
Being in America is a help because, although the time difference makes coverage difficult, you’re finished in time to get a game in yourself.
After arriving at the Omni, we were getting our clubs out of the car when a gent asked us if we knew where the pro’s shop was. We couldn’t help him and as he walked away we said to each other what a remarkable resemblance he had to Fluff, Tiger Woods old caddie.
It turned out that it was Fluff, who now caddies for Jim Furyk. He played just ahead of us.
I thoroughly enjoyed being on a dry course with the sun on my back, an almost forgotten experience. It certainly helped my game and, apart from some chipping fluffs, I was pleased with my game.
Unfortunately, James proved to be a bit rusty and we were beaten six and five thanks mainly to Peter’s performance which, for an 18 handicapper, was very good.
We have a couple of other games planned when we get to Florida next week when we trust the sunshine will be uninterrupted.