Sentosa Island, Singapore
I was very fortunate to make it into the field for the Singapore Open in 2010. At the time it was the largest purse on the European Tour (US$6,000,000) and Co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour where I was playing at the time. I had played well in Malaysia a few weeks prior, finishing 4th in Kuala Lumpur, changing my number in the rankings for entry into events. Given the stature of the Singapore Open, only 65 players from the Asian Tour qualified and I did not get into the field until the Friday prior. I was in Australia and scrambled to arrange my flights and hotels. Even in 2010 it wasn’t as simple as it is today, iPhone’s had only been around for 3 years and smart phones in general were not readily available, nor did they work everywhere in the world as efficiently as they do today. Long story short, my little brother and I arrived in Singapore on Sunday to prepare for the event.
For me, this was my first experience playing alongside the golf world’s big guns. The field was star studded. Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, then US Open Champion and fellow UAB alum Graeme McDowell, and recently crowned USPGA Champion Martin Kaymer. You name it, they were there. My highlight came on Tuesday. I’m hitting balls next to Y.E. Yang who had only the year prior beaten Tiger Woods in the USPGA to become the first South Korean to win a major. What happened next was truly legendary. My brother and I are working away on the range and I hear an ‘excuse me boys’ in a pretty thick Spanish accent. It is Miguel Angel Jimenez, ‘the most interesting man in golf’ or ‘the mechanic’ as he is nicknamed. I shuffle over toward Y.E. to make some room. To paint the picture, Miguel is wearing his trademark aviator sunglasses, a lit cigar in his mouth, carrying his bucket of golf balls in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other (I can only assume it was to enjoy during lunch, he is known to have a glass of wine with lunch before playing in the afternoon). Miguel puts the balls down, hands the wine to his caddy and then proceeds to pull out a cigar holder from his pocket. The cigar holder is a hollowed-out golf ball stuck on top of a golf tee. He places it in the ground as if preparing to hit a shot and gingerly slides the stogie in. He then pulls out a couple clubs and begins his trademark stretching routine. No less than a few minutes later he’s striping them on the range. Without a doubt the coolest golfer on the planet and one who truly enjoys life!
The Serapong course at Sentosa ranks as one of the best in Asia and 58th on Golf Digest’s World Top 100. The clubhouse is perched on top of the property with the Serapong and Tanjong courses working down the hill to the water below. Singapore is truly a beautiful place and one of the most westernized cities in Asia. It is home to the world’s second largest shipping port which runs alongside the par 5 7th, no more than 500 yards across the water from the fairway, a very busy spectacle! The conditioning of the golf course was as good as any I have played. The course was shut entirely leading up to the event and you couldn’t find a divot in the fairways or pitch mark on the greens. The design is challenging and puts a significant premium on placing the ball in the fairway. The course is long, measuring 7,342 yards from the Championship tees. The fairways narrow, typically around the 290-300 yard mark, often taking the driver out of your hand and further adding to the element of length. The greens are large and very fast, however the putting surfaces were perfectly true. The course is resort style with numerous white sand bunkers and water hazards throughout. Membership here does not come cheap, rumored to carry an initiation of US$300,000. Sentosa is a special place and one I will put on my list if I make it back to Singapore in the future.