Once the Tour docks in Europe, it stays there for pretty much the remainder of the season. I have to admit that I always look forward to this period on home shores as a chance to get more settled.
We have spent the past four months catching long haul flights, eating strange foods in foreign cultures and hitting ball after ball in hot, sticky climates. Our ventures have brought us through the Middle Eastern Swing in the desert in January and February, followed by the increasingly extensive Asian Swing, which only finished at the start of May.
I dont want to sound like I am complaining, because I genuinely do love having the opportunity to travel and see new places. While it can be a pain living out of a suitcase at times, I do appreciate that the experience of visiting all of these obscure places is really a perk of the job.
Besides, I gained my first European Tour win in almost four years in the Ballantines Championship in Korea in March, along with a few invaluable top fives in other events on that side of the world this season, so Asia has been good to me recently and I am very aware of that.
I was proud to receive the European Tour Golfer of the Month award for March, and also the one for Shot of the Month for my approach to the third play-off hole in the Ballantines. After Jeev Milkha Singh landed his second shot within a few feet of the 18th pin, my 7-iron approach from 179 yards landed inside 12 inches from the cup. Theres no doubt its in my top five best shots Ive ever hit under the gun.
But there is nothing like coming back to Europe. If nothing else, it just makes it easier to get home a bit more often, which in turn brings a bit more balance to what is a hectic lifestyle. It can be hard to stay focused and compete when you are unsettled and there is no doubt that it is easier to feel settled and at home in Europe than it is in Asia purely because it is so far away.
Speaking of home, we couldnt kick off the European leg of the season in a better place…. You guessed it the Irish Open at Adare Manor in County Limerick. As I write, I am looking forward to staying at a house on the Adare Manor Estate with my family and management team.
Like all Irish players, I would love to do well at the Irish Open, and you never know, if I managed to pick up the trophy
at the end of the week I might just have to indulge myself in a pint of Guinness or two. By the time you read this, you will know whether I had the excuse to do so!
Or maybe it will have been one of the other Irishmen who will have been celebrating. The recent run of Irish winners on Tour has been mind boggling. I won myself in mid-March out in Korea, but what happened in three weeks following the break for the Masters is absolutely unprecedented in Irish golf.
Damien McGrane set the chain of events in motion by winning the Volvo China Open in style by a nine-shot margin. It didnt surprise me to see Damien win at all, as I had played with him a couple of times this season and he was showing great consistency with some good finishes in some of the Asian events, not to mention his two-day face off with Tiger in Dubai.
The week after Damiens win, my Northern Irish compatriot Darren Clarke got back into the winners circle after a tough couple of years by winning the BMW Asian Open in China. This win was huge for Darren and I am sure it is only a sign of things to come from one of the most talented and colourful players on Tour over the past 10 years.
Then to round things off, Peter Lawrie from Dublin won the Open de Espana in Seville in a thrilling play-off against Ignacio Garrido.
This brought the tally to three Irish winners in consecutive weeks on the European Tour. I dont really go in for stats, but I would bet my bottom dollar that nothing like this has ever been done before, particularly by an island of people with a population of a mere four million!
All of this means that Irish golf fans had an Irish Major winner and four recent Irish European Tour event winners to cheer on at Adare Manor.
On top of this trio of Irish winners, I was also delighted that my former amateur partner Michel Hoey won on the Challenge Tour in Morocco, the same day as Peter Lawrie won on the European Tour in Spain.
Myself and Michael played a lot of amateur golf together, first as boys playing for Ulster, then for the full Irish Senior team, and ultimately in the Walker Cup for Great Britain and Ireland in 2001. Michael is an exceptionally talented player and hopefully I can look forward seeing him out on the European Tour in 2009.
Following the Irish Open comes one of the European Tours flagship events, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. This year my preparation for the event might have had a distracted air about it, as the Champions League Final in Moscow is played on the eve of the tournament.
I am an avid Manchester United fan and, hopefully, by the time you are reading this, Sir Alex Ferguson will have celebrated his second Champions League success.
That might just be the perfect excuse for another Guinness!