Little did I think when I was writing my preview last Wednesday that I would be sitting here today writing about how I won the Open for a second time. Last Wednesday I was only thinking about being able to play let alone winning the Championship. I was so worried about my wrist after I aborted my practice round on Wednesday that I was genuinely worried about my participation. This was in stark contrast to how I was felling after winning the Irish PGA, I was confident about where my game was and how I was feeling and was really looking forward to the Open. It certainly wasn't the preparation that I was looking for, especially as it was a course that I didn't know that well so only getting to play nine holes in practise was definitely a disadvantage.
Thursday morning I was a little nervous and apprehensive as I didn't know what to expect when I got to the range. I had thought about every scenario and as usual I put a negative spin in my head. I took a couple of pain killers and started my warm up, it was a little funny to start with but once the pain killer kicked in there was no problem. I was able to hit without any pain which was great; now the only question I had left was how it was going to stand up to the rough, off course Ronan told me it would fine if I didn't hit it in the rough all day!
It was miserable morning, cold, wet and windy; very similar to the first day at the Irish PGA. My first tee shot put paid to the idea of not hitting it in the heavy rough as I pushed it right straight into it. At least I was going to find out quickly how it would stand up to the rough, gladly there was no problem. From here on I thought very little about my wrist, it was just a case of trying to grind out a score. The first few holes were really a struggle; I bogeyed the 1st and had to hole good putts on the next two for pars before bogeying the 4th. The big problem with the condition was that there was no easy hole and so it was hard to see where you were going to get shots back. Luckily I stiffed my second shot to the 5th which settled me down. The weather stayed consistently bad for us, I managed to turn in one over and get myself to the 17th tee at two over which I was very happy with as both the 17th and 18th were playing down wind. I was thinking to myself that I could finish one over for the round quite easily. However as what normally happens when you get ahead of yourself it all went wrong. I finished bogey, bogey to end up shooting four over; I was so annoyed as I knew that I had thrown a good score. In the end I finished up five behind but well down the field as the weather improved dramatically in the afternoon. My wrist was a little sore in the evening once the pain killer wore off but nothing too bad.
When I got to the tee on Friday the clouds rolled in and the wind was blowing heavily, I thought that we were in for the same sort of weather as we had on Thursday. Luckily it blew over quickly and we ended up having good conditions to play in. I played nicely through the front nine, making one birdie and one bogey to turn in level par but then two bogeys to start the back nine pushed me out to six over for the tournament. Looking back on it now one of the most important moments of my Open was on the 13th green in this round. I had to hole a four footer across the hill and down wind to remain at 6 over for the tournament, if I had missed it I would have reverted to thinking about the cut mark instead of thinking about getting myself into contention. I holed it and never really looked back; I went onto have a grandstand finish to get myself into a great position. I played the last four holes in four under, birding the 15th, par on 16th and eagle on 17th and then a birdie on the last to leave me on two over for the tournament and right in the mix.
All week the forecast had said that Saturday was going to be the windiest day of them all with gusts of up to 50 mph; and when I looked out I could see that they got it right. By the time I got to the 1st tee I knew that it was really a day for patience and just trying to dig in and grind out a score. I played very well through the front nine again, making two birdies and two bogeys to turn in level par. I bogeyed the 11th by three putting and then on the 12th I got a big gust when I hit my tee shot and it sent it flying over the green into the hay; from here I got it on the green and then three putted again but this time for a double bogey. From here I made two more birdies, both on the par fives, and one bogey to end up finishing with a two over par round for a total of four over. It left me two shots behind Greg Norman but more importantly it meant that I would play in the final group of a Major for the first time. This was exactly where I wanted to be, in with a chance to win the tournament. I couldn't ask for anymore.
The final day arrived and for the first time I would be in the last group on a Sunday of a Major. It was hard to know what to expect, I knew it would be tough to stay focused and do my own thing as we were the last group. Also there was a huge amount of media focus on the group because it was Greg Norman and I. Greg was getting most of the attention thankfully but as defending champion I was getting my fair share. One of the things that will stick with me forever was the noise when I walked to the first tee, Greg had got there before me and had gotten a huge welcome one I didn't think was possible to beat but as ever I under estimated the Irish crowd. It was like a Ryder cup the noise was so loud, it was brilliant. All week the crowd was amazing but on Sunday morning it went to a new level. It was similar conditions all week and Sunday was no different only a little warmer. I hit a good tee shot which I was happy with as I was nervous; it finished in the semi rough which was fine. My second shot came up short and left me with a 20 yard chip shot, not what you want on the first hole but I played it very well and knocked it stone dead. I parred the first six holes, some were after holing good putts and some were after missing birdie chances. I was feeling very comfortable, probably a bit too comfortable as I didn't quite commit to my tee shot on the 7th and as a result I missed the green left and made my first bogey. The problem was it started a bad run for me; I bogeyed the next two holes also to turn at 7 over par. I had no idea of what anyone else bar Norman was doing as I didn't look at any leader boards. I felt that someone must have been kicking on and that I needed to get my finger out. The 10th was a pivotal hole really as I had to hole a four footer for par to stop the run of bogeys, it was tough putt as there was a big break and the wind was blowing hard; I holed it and from here on I just kept going and doing my own thing. I pared the 11th and 12th and then made my first birdie of the round on the 13th after hitting a 5 iron to 15 feet. I still hadn't looked at any leader boards and wasn't sure where I stood; I just kept playing my own game and trying not to look around me. A par on the 14th left me 6 over with four to play, two of which were par fives. A good drive on the 15th meant that I was in range in two; it was a tough shot as the wind was blowing strongly across the hole and so it meant that I had to start my second shot over the gorse to get it on the green. I hit a majestic three wood out over the gorse and it drifted back on the green to set up a two putt birdie. After an easy par on the 16th I felt that I was doing alright at this stage, probably leading but not entirely sure. I hit a five wood off the 17th tee as I had done twice during the week; it left me 272 yards to the pin. It was perfect for another five wood especially as it is probably my favourite club and even more so under pressure. When I suggested five wood Ronan explained that I had other options, I could lay it up and play for a pitch and putt; I knew what he was really telling me. I was obviously leading, I asked him was I three ahead and when he responded that I was two I was happy to go for the green as I felt that Norman could still make a charge from where he was. As it turns out I probably hit one of my best five woods ever and the rest is history. It set up a short putt for eagle and the most comfortable walk down the last hole I could have imagined. This was uncharted territory for me as I don't normally make it this easy. I should be sweating it over a four footer not having a casual walk down the last and five putts to win!
It was an amazing feeling, totally different to the emotion of last year. I was able to enjoy this one! I felt after winning last year that I would win more but I didn't really think that it would be this quick, I mean you are not supposed to defend these!!!
I had a charity commitment on Monday in London which meant that I couldn't get home until late Monday night. Once I landed it was straight to the Sporting Emporium to celebrate with my family and friends. It was a great night, one I will never forget; I only hope there will be many more. For the rest of the week it is a case of taking it easy and enjoying the fact that I am still the Champion Golfer as it is back to normal next Monday.
I will enjoy sitting down to watch the final round during the week, I don't know if I will stop watching it!!!
What a week, what a year; it is only really sinking in now!! Thanks to everyone for all the support both at home and in Birkdale!