with Robert Bicknell
Well, the US$1.5 million Asian Tour Ho Tram Open is over, but the memories of an amazing week will last for a very long time thanks to the heroics of Sergio Garcia who pulled off an amazing win after two sudden death playoff holes against Himmat Rai.
After the layoff, I asked Sergio about this thoughts when Rai pulled his drive into the same approximate place as Sergio did the day before. He replied that he knew that bush and thought there was a chance Rai could squiggle a shout back to the fairway.
When playing Ryder Cup for the first time, the captains often tell the players to never could the hole before its actually won because they will see some of the most outrageous recoveries and wins snatched away ever. Sergio, being a Ryder Cup veteran knew better than to start celebrating early.
I have been told that the original four-man play-off is the very first time that has ever happened on the Asian Tour. Somehow I am not surprised anything that could happen at The Bluffs.
I am not sure where to even start when recounting the event because they had so many activities for us that it was impossible to get bored.
A champagne black tie gala welcoming party where Brian McFadden (formerly of Westlife) came out for a few songs; cigars and chat down at "Rocky's"(Named after Robert Rock who is the Bluff's Touring professional and host for the Open tournament); press conferences galore, gourmet food and, of course the full Brian McFadden concert on Saturday night.
In between all that we had golf. Lots of golf. Lots of amazing golf.
The Bluffs is not a terribly difficult course when the wind doesn't blow. If you play smart and don't try stupid things, you can score pretty well. However, once the wind starts blowing (which is normal there) the course has the ability to turn into a snarling beast and it bit quite a few of the Tour professionals I the butt before the week was over. You never had a feeling of being comfortable out there. Dropping a few strokes in a heartbeat was always a possibility, so you never took anything for granted.
Charlie Li shot a course record 62 in the first day, but struggled for the rest of the event. Darren Clarke (European Ryder Cup captain) never seemed to get things going on the course, but was a great guy off the course, which made up for his poor performance.
The second day actually saw the tournament put on hold due to heavy winds. After a two-hour delay play was resumed (which resulted in a few expletives from players who thought their day was open and "probably" had to knock over a few old ladies at the slot machines as they ran full tilt out of the casino), but the course exacted its revenge on players who didn't give it the respect it deserves.
For the record, despite what you might have ready anywhere else, I'm gonna tell you from first hand experience that Garcia is probably one of the nicest guys you can meet. During the entire event he was happy, easy to chat with, posed for uku-billion pictures and never lost his smile.
He also played his ass off. Five birdies in a row at one point. When Garcia wants to play, he does it better than most. I hope this difficult win helps to re-ignite his game on the European Tour.
I don't know how much exactly the Bluffs spent on this event, but it was worth every dollar and went a long way towards putting Viet Nam on the international golfing map. Both the players and their caddies were blown away by the level of hospitality and the professionalism of the event.
Not content with hosting a major professional event, The Bluffs (along with the Viet Nam Golf Association) announced the launch of the "Vietnam Junior Championship" to be held in August and is open to all top junior players from the Asia-Pacific region.
So, all in all, it was truly an amazing week but I have a feeling there is still more yet to come from The Bluffs in the future. They want to lead the way and are doing it.
And yes, I am still not "teed off" about anything…yet. — VNS