In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise, Welshman Jamie Donaldson discusses life in the bubble, the Ryder Cup, and why he ended up with five roosters
It’s very nice coming back to Celtic Manor this week. I’ve played here for many years, I’ve played well in the past, and it’s a special place. It’s a great championship golf course and a tough test, and it’s a nice place to be. Having these two weeks in Wales is great for Welsh golf too, it’s just a shame we couldn’t have the crowds here as I’m sure there would have been plenty.
Life in the bubble has been pretty good, it’s really straightforward. I played the last three weeks, so this is my fourth, and it’s good, I really don’t mind it. It’s no-nonsense golf because you turn up, get tested, go to the course, play your golf, practice, go to the hotel, chill out and golf again. Normally you’d get a lot of players hanging around, but now you just come in for a quick bite and you’re off again to practice, play or head back to your room.
Some people find it difficult and won’t play, which is absolutely fair, but for me I don’t think it’s a problem. A lot of people are still furloughed and at home going loopy and we are outside playing golf for a living, we are very lucky and it’s pretty simple. The European Tour have done an unbelievable job to make it happen because we’re golfing again, and I think every credit has to go to them.
At the end of the day we’re here to play golf and it’s our job and nobody’s worked for four months so let’s just get on with it.
If the crowds were here it would feel exactly like it would at a normal event. Once you get tested it’s normal apart from the fact that nobody is here, so the only difference is crowd and that you can’t go out after your round afterwards, but that’s it.
Obviously, I really enjoy the crowds, but not having them here doesn’t affect my game or my focus. It was epic playing in front of those huge crowds at The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and I loved every minute of it. Getting home support in Wales is always fantastic, and it would have been great this week, but apart from the fact that having nobody is here is a little bit odd, it’s not much different. If you’re playing well you still have cameras on you like you normally would have, it’s just the people that would be watching are now at home rather than around the course.
It’s been great to have a couple of good results recently because I had wrist surgery in November 2018, and I came back too early. It wasn’t great. I thought I’d be alright, but I didn’t play well last year and my swing started doing some funny things. I couldn’t get it in to certain positions because I wasn’t strong enough in certain areas because of my wrist. Now it’s fine and I’m playing well because of that. I’ve been playing a lot of mini Tours at home trying to get going again and I’ve played decent the last couple of weeks so I’m just trying to move on from that.
The time off really helped my wrist because it was another four months of recovery for me. I spent a lot of time in the garden in lockdown which I think helped too. I built about 14 raised beds and a vegetable garden which was fantastic and it must have strengthened my wrist up as well as doing all of the exercises my physio gave me. It now feels strong and basically back to normal except for a lovely big gaping scar, which looks pretty impressive. The one I have from the chainsaw accident a couple of years ago is nearly gone now, a tiny mark you can barely see, while the wrist one looks like I’ve done it myself or been bitten by a crocodile. You’ve got to have a few scars, t’s another story to tell.
As well as gardening we actually hatched chickens too. It was brilliant, the only problem is that most of them are roosters. We hatched six chickens and I think five of them are roosters. Absolutely disastrous. One of them started crowing at seven weeks old and they are only supposed to start at 20 weeks so my Mrs is having kittens over that. If you know anyone that wants a rooster, please get in touch… we’re not selling them, we just need you to pick them up! I did ask Dave Horsey how much he thought a chicken cost and he said between £1000 and £1500 per chicken. I told him I had six at home and I would even throw the coop in. He didn’t take me up on it….
I’ve been a professional for twenty years, and life has changed a lot in that time. You’d see more people out and about in the bars and restaurants around hotels but nowadays there’s less of it.
When I first started, I think my first season I was away for nine weeks in South Africa, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore. It was like that for four or five years and that was good fun, away with all your mates, but times change. A lot of my pals don’t play anymore, but that’s just sport, it’s just life and that’s how it is. We’re very lucky on the European Tour, there are so many great lads out here, and it’s incredibly friendly, everybody is pals with everyone, which isn’t the same on other Tours.
The biggest change though is that people work harder these days, and there’s definitely more gym work involved now. There was no such thing as the gym when I started, you’d just do a few press ups in the room to get the guns up. It’s very different in that respect.
I think golf really started changing around the time I started, which was when Tiger was going berserk. He was bringing so much more money into the game and it really changed the attitudes of so many of the lads. Everyone started to knuckle down, realising that it was important, especially for the amount of money that was available and the new tournaments that were coming up. The whole thing really began changing, and the big difference is that it’s now so much more professional.
I’m definitely more golf focused and family focused than I was when I first started, but my motivations haven’t changed too much. It’s just a part of golf, everyone’s got targets and you’re always trying to hit them, because without them you’re just drifting in the wind.
To be able to get into the U.S. Open would be fantastic. We’ll see how this week goes and take it from there if I have a good week, but playing six tournaments in a row is a lot for me. I’m nearly 45, but I want to get back there. Majors are the be all and end all of our sport and what you want to be playing in.
In those twenty years, the highlight of my career from a golfing point of view has to be The Ryder Cup and nothing else would get anywhere near it. It’s not even just because of how it happened for me. To win a tournament to get into the team, to be part of the winning team, and to hit the winning shot at Gleneagles, was all great. But it wasn’t just because it went so well for me, it’s because The Ryder Cup hands down is better than any other golf tournament, nothing else gets near it. For me the Masters is the greatest golf tournament in the world outside of that, but nothing comes close to The Ryder Cup.