David Drysdale back in Qatar with ‘nothing but good vibes’ despite play-off agony
March 23, the day the first official Covid-19 lockdown began in Britain, is one of two dates etched in David Drysdale’s memory from that month last year. The other is March 8, the day he was denied a first European Tour victory in the cruellest way imaginable.
Three times in a sudden-death play-off in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Education City Golf in Doha, the Borderer looked to have one hand on that elusive trophy only for Spaniard Jorge Campillo to roll in long putts.
The first two kept him alive before the last one secured victory at the first extra hole. “I don’t know what I have to do to win a golf tournament,” admitted Drysdale, who was playing in his 498th event on the circuit, at the time.
Twelve months on and back at the same venue as part of a 10-strong contingent Scottish contingent for the 2010 edition, the 45-year-old still shakes his head in disbelief at how that play-off panned out, especially after he’d made up three shots in the last three holes to force it.
“Yeah, I didn’t do too much wrong, did I?” said Drysdale, speaking to The Scotsman. “He just holed a whole bunch of putts in those five extra holes. I was just unlucky. I would probably have won any other golf tournament on any other given day, I suppose.
“I hit it inside him every hole but fair play to him for holing some ridiculous putts. I did a video call with the golf director and pro at Education City Golf Club and they reckon he holed 90 feet of putts in those five holes, which is just unheard of.
“They were in the middle and all perfect weight and, in fairness, Jorge is well known out here for being a great putter from 10-30 feet. To hole them that day took some courage.”
The event in Qatar was the final one before the European Tour went into lockdown due to the pandemic, with Drysdale having to wait until late July to clock up his 500th appearance in the Hero Open at Forest of Arden.
The Oman Open, scheduled for last week, was postponed due to ongoing Covid restrictions, with upcoming tournaments in Spain and Portugal also in jeopardy as the pandemic continues to have an impact.
“Who would have believed what was going to happen?” said Drysdale as he reflected on the world having been turned upside down since this time last year. “I suppose we got a bit of an eye-opener arriving in Oman the week before Qatar and they stopped some different nationalities, including Chinese and Italian, from coming into Oman.
“Then, in Qatar on the Saturday morning, we got the news that Kenya had shut its borders and that event was cancelled. After Qatar, I think you naively thought it was a Chinese or Italian problem at that time, little did you realise that world travel was continuing and, before you knew it, it is everywhere around the globe.
“India was called off pretty quickly after that and that was it, home and into lockdown a week later on 23 March. Let’s be quite honest, it’s been lockdown of some sort of description for a year for a lot of people.”
After arriving home from the three-event Middle East Swing at the start of the new season, Drysdale had to quarantine for 10 days under the current Scottish Government travel restrictions before starting to gear up for a trip that will also take in a new double-header in Kenya.
“There’s a whole lot more admin involved, more filling out forms, passenger locator stuff and testing,” he said of a golfer’s life in the Covid-19 world. “Basically, you have to get a pre-travel test for every flight you get on nowadays.
“Obviously at tournament venues we get tested to get on site and then we are locked up in a bubble for the six or seven days we are there. But we are very lucky to still being able to play some golf and travel about. All in all, it’s small sacrifices to make to still be able to play, which is great.”
On having wife Vicky with him – the pair always travelled together to events before she took up on-course duties - he added: “I’m lucky that she caddies for me as she wouldn’t be allowed on site, basically. It’s been great that way.
“The hardest thing for us is that you are locked up every week. That sounds pretty selfish, but it is difficult to get your head round the fact you are on the golf course and then you are in your hotel.
“Most weeks it’s Deliveroo or room service for dinner, which is very strange for mine and Vicky’s world. We generally don’t stay in players’ hotels and we’ve found nice places to stay and eat, different places to go on any given week. That’s been a bit of a culture shock for us, but you’ve just got to make the most of it.”
Drysdale spent part of last week working with his coach, Jamie Gough, in Dubai, and insists he doesn’t feel any scars have been left from the events a year ago in Qatar.
“I have nothing but good vibes about the place and I am still putting in the effort in my bid to land that win,” he said. “ My game is in a good spot and I just need to capitalise on it in tournament rounds.”