A surprise pairing

Chris Paisley is back on the European Tour, and is joined by a star pairing for a practice round in Switzerland

As I write, I’m sitting in a beautiful apartment in the Swiss Alps on the Wednesday of the Omega European Masters, one of my favourite weeks of the year.

I played last week in Sweden, my first event in five weeks, but unfortunately missed the cut. The strange thing is that I felt as though I played a lot of good golf. My driving was a big positive and I hit about 80% of fairways, plus I hit some beautiful shaped iron shots in some strong winds. My putter was stone cold and I got off to a really poor start in round one, which put me behind the eight ball straight away. I didn’t feel discouraged in the slightest; your first event back after a break is always hit and miss.

Preparation has gone well in Switzerland. My sharpness is returning and I had a fantastic and unexpected experience yesterday. I walked to the first tee with my caddy planning on playing nine holes and Rory McIlroy’s caddie Harry was there. He told me to go ahead as Rory was having a game with an amateur. I teed off and then Rory came over and asked if it was ok for them to join me. Of course I said yes. It turned out that the amateur was Justin Timberlake! I immediately text my wife Keri as she’s a huge fan. He stopped to take a picture with her and Ella, and he couldn’t have been nicer.

My relaxed solo nine holes turned into something pretty special. It was great to meet Justin. He’s a full on golf nut and was so easy to talk to. Despite Keri’s giddiness, I was way more excited to play with Rory, I felt like a little kid again. I’ve met him several times and know him well enough to chat to, but I’d never had the chance to play with him. What a lovely guy he is, and what a player. Statistically he has just played one of the best ball striking seasons ever on the PGA Tour, so it was great to see that close up. He was only a club longer than me with the irons, but my word he is on another planet off the tee. He had me by about 40 yards and he hits it extremely straight. Golf must be very easy from where he plays his second shots!

We chatted a lot about reading. We have read many of the same books and he recommended several more for me. He is really into the ‘Stoic’ philosophy, which has been a big part of my development over the past year. When talking to him you realise what a down to earth guy he is. He had just won $15m and he was out there chatting to me and giving Justin putting and short game tips. He didn’t have to join up on the first tee, but I’m sure he realised what a big deal it would be to me, and that says a lot about his character.

Hopefully this week will continue to be as much fun!