Playoff thriller at the 2014 BMW International Open

Top day at Gut Lärchenhof in Cologne, Germany. OK, the weather could have been much better but in general it was a very good decision to make my way from Frankfurt to Cologne – at 6am on that Sunday morning last week.

The BMW International Open is the only European Tour event left on German soil. It usually took place in Munich, the home turf of BMW, but was recently changed to an alternating structure in which Munich and Cologne are the two venues. GC München Nord-Eichenried for the former, GC Gut Lärchenhof for the latter.

Gut Lärchenhof is situated on the west-side of Cologne, so pretty much in the centre of the Rhine- and Ruhr area. The course is a Jack Nicklaus design, undoubtly presenting itself in greatest shape. From a vegetation perspective, I’d say it’s something in between a parkland and a links course. There are a lot of trees which however are not in play really. Instead the heavy rough is made of links-dunes-like long grass which sucks in balls without regret. From an aesthetical fauna standpoint you might want to compare this course with south-west London heather courses like Sunningdale, Wentworth, Berkshire and alike.

Due to the expected weather conditions including heavy thunderstorms, the playing mode of that final day was changed to a starting time of 7am, teeing off on the 1 and 10 simultaneously, plus they had three players in a group rather than two – all to speed up the play and make sure the tourney is over before the dark clouds arrive. I had to use my umbrella most of the time, but in the end it was not as bad as expected, there was even sunshine from time to time.

When I reached the grounds I realised that there were way less people than anticipated. Another consequence of the weather I believe. After a quick look at the range I got right into it and followed some players round the course. I stayed with Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Emiliano Grillo, Pablo Larrazabal, Alexander Levy, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson and others. The only one I really haven’t seen at all was the winner in the end, Fabrizio Zanotti.

In the end I unfortunately could not manage to get a seat on the grand stand, which was really a shame because due to a multi-hole playoff, the grand stand would have been the perfect place to see the last 1 hour of the tournament. As a compensation I managed to get some nice autographs on Golficiency balls: Danny Willet, Paul Casey and Marcel Siem. All in all a very nice day with impressive golf. Cologne is just not around the corner from Frankfurt, so I drove for 5 hours in total – and was pretty exhausted respectively. And I missed Martin Kaymer, as he missed the cut, which is a bit unfortunate, but I guess the crowd following him on the Sunday would have been really over the moon… so glad I came so close to all the other mortal golf professionals.

Please check out these pictures I took (totally illegally…)

Continue reading Playoff thriller at the 2014 BMW International Open

Rory wins first tournament after two years

Rory McIlroy, the young Northern Irishman, has won his first tournament after two years. On the weekend he came up first at the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, outside of London.

Last year I was on-site to see Matteo Manassero win, this year I was able to follow the TV coverage a bit. I have to say I was cheering for Martin Kaymer or Luke Donald, the latter who really had a chance to win but missed it on the very last hole to Rory.

What a pressure this young fellow must have been under the whole time! He changed his equipment from Titleist to Nike, undoubtedly just for the money… fair enough, but he lost his swing somehow, he forgot to be able to win. Some experts like Nick Faldo said he’ll never be as good as before.

Then he dated Caroline Wozniacki, the tennis player, and he seemed to be really happy. Not with his game, but his private life apparently came to order. Now just last week he called off the wedding to the young lady and left her in tears I’m sure, as he felt he’s not ready for a marriage yet. That was after they posted their wedding invitations of course… bad timing!

However, he must have had his mind full of different (frustrating) things – and then out of nothing – he wins a tournament, probably the best and toughest tournament of the European Tour, the flagship event: the BMW PGA Championship! What a story!

I wish him every luck, private and professional, and I do hope to see him win again to join the European Ryder Cup team later this year! Fingers crossed.

Congratulations Rory McIlroy!!

Final day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England

Last Sunday I made my way from East London to the affluent area of (south-) west of London. We’re talking here about famous names like Windsor, Ascot, Virginia Water and last but not least Wentworth, the posh estate in the middle of a beautiful forest with loads of multi-million properties and, not of minor importance, home to the prestigious Wentworth Golf Club.

The West Course at this club is host to the annual BMW PGA Championship which is one of the most important European Tour events as Wentworth is also the home the tour itself – therefore it’s kind of a flagship event for Europe.

DSC06416I haven’t been to many professional golf tournaments so far and there are advantages to watching it on telly and there are disadvantages but it’s always a special feeling and an exhausting experience somehow. Especially at Wentworth where the course layout is more or less a circle, it’s not easily possible to flip between holes to see your favourite players. Here I had to stick to the round and all I could do was walking quicker or waiting for the next group to come.

I started at the 1 with Bernd Wiesberger and followed him for like 3 or 4 holes. Then I waited for the next group which was Gregory Bourdy and one of my idols, The Big Easy Ernie Els. He used to be a resident at this estate and was responsible for a re-design of the course a couple of years back. So as a South-African, with houses all over the world, Ernie was walking home turf here! And it was a big joy to see him play – it really looks so easy!

After following this group to the 17th I made myself comfortable and watched all the other players coming through: Quiros, Jiménez, Garcia, the Molinaris, Westwood, Canizares and last but not least Manassero. The rest of the tournament, basically for the 4 extra-playoff holes, I had a seat on the grand stand right at the 18th green. A perfect place to follow the playoff action!

Needless to say that I did some extensive shopping in the pro shop…

For more information follow these links:

BMW international open in munich… my first on-site pro-tournament report

germany isn’t blessed with professional golf tournaments at all. it’s just one per year!! ok, to be honest, this one single event that is played on german soil is one of the better ones. BMW does everything right to make this event as memorable and professionally organized as possible.

as a matter of fact this week’s tournament was the first one i was personally attending (i.e. visiting) on-site. the rest of all the US and euro events are just consumed on telly… unfortunately! after these days i can tell you that it’s a bit sad that the germans only have the possibility once a year to come to such an event. ok, they can travel to switzerland, the netherlands and italy, but that’s not quite the same.

is it because germany has too little sponsor potential? by no means! there are dozens of corporations that would jump in as a sponsor of a world-wide recognized golf event in germany. is it because the golf courses are lame? not at all! we have some very nice and professional courses in germany where such events could take place. is it because germany has only one single important and famous golf player? maybe yes… martin kaymer is currently THE german golf player and gets all the attention. he’s a BMW ambassador and understands to get the southern-german people to the course but i guess if we had some other big names in international golf, we might have some more interest among the german people, golf players and golf enthusiasts. berhard langer, alex cejka and marcel siem are just not important enough (anymore).

but back to my weekend: the weather was not promising for these days: mainly cloudy with some rain shower. so i packed my belongings like an umbrella, rain kit, cap, victuals and some other stuff and drove to the golf club eichenried, 20mins north of munich. the area that was set up was really impressive: a huge tent city with lots of exhibitors and fun stuff to do. for sure dozens of BMW cars and a beer garden have been installed too!

throughout the days i was walking with different players, just like it was suitable to me at that time. i saw colin montgomerie, matteo manassero, sergio garcia, martin kaymer, chris wood, dustin johnson, francesco molinari and many others. it was real fun to be so close and to even be able to talk to them, ask them for an autograph (afterwards) or just be amazed by the playing capabilites these guys reveal. that’s real golfing proficiency!… eh, i mean golficiency! :)

in the end i was unlucky to have a 5-hour trip to frankfurt to make. therefore i had to leave early and couldn’t stay till sergio garcia and pablo larrazabal had a 5-hole (!) play-off. from what i’ve seen and read later on, it must have been a thrilling event in the end!  why isn’t there such a tourney in frankfurt?… i should consider to move somewhere else. florida maybe! :)

one short notice on the course: i was disappointed a bit, since i was somehow expecting a lot more. it’s not bad, that’s for sure but i had the impression that there were power lines all over the place and that made it hard to feel like on one of the best german golf courses! sorry to say!!

BMW golf cup international… what a day!

today was a wonderful day! not only because i had a day off and we had the most beautiful weather ever, but because i had the rare chance to play the BMW golf cup international in the most famous and elite golf club in frankfurt.

i was looking forward to this day like months. and yes, the waiting was totally worth it. everything today was kinda perfect: the sun was shining all the time, the course is a real must-play, a gorgeous venue for this tournament, catering at the half-way-house or in the club house was delicious, the club with all its facilities is just amazing and the BMW organization was absolutely brilliant!!

the course and the club made such a good impression, that i really consider a membership. it’s very expensive, yes, but where in the region can you get such combination of perfect course, perfect organization, perfect member’s attitude and real nice club house facilities. just to give you an example, the free towels in the shower room have an embroidered FGC on them, same as all the dinner plates and cutlery that had the club logo printed or engraved. just marvelous! i like that. i don’t know why.

at 1pm we had a shotgun start and there were two gentlemen joining my group. we had real fun! not because of the good strokes but we just enjoyed the day and ourselves. we were getting along with each such good, that we exchanged email-addresses and planned to play some more rounds together in the near future.

after the game, some cool fresh-up in the shower room and some severe up-dressing, we enjoyed a perfect three-course dinner with the best roast beef i’ve ever tasted so far. the wine flowed freely and i had no reason to go back home really :)

to sum up: frankfurter golf club is a really nice course to play golf! it’s very upperclass, yes, but when you can cope with that, you’re in love with this place, i can assure you! you definitely should consider a round here. required minimum handicap is 28 and weekend play is only possible as a member’s registered guest; that’ the downside.

i made some photos for you, maybe you can grasp the beauty of the course, which is a huge parkland area in the woods of frankfurt-niederrad. have a look:

and not to forget: i wanna thank markus and his sister for… nah, they know what for! cheers mates!