After a three week break during which my wife, Caroline gave birth to our second son, Ciaran, I am back in action for the last time in 2007. It is my usual end of season tournament, the Target World Challenge or Tiger’s tournament which it is also known as. I have played here for the last seven years and performed quite well, having won it once and finished in the top three a number of times. Normally I come into this event at the end of a run of tournaments but this time it is different as I have been at home for three weeks. It was busy as our second son arrived and also I had a number of interviews and other commitments that kept me on the go. I launched my book which also took up quite a bit of time, however I did manage to get in some practice during my time off and as it is nearly the end of the season I began working on some technical changes. This is not normally a good sign for my performance in a tournament, as it normally takes me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things.
I traveled out on Sunday to the States and spent a couple of days in San Francisco doing a company day and catching up with my friends out there. I traveled down to L.A. on Tuesday, so my first look at the course this year was on Wednesday in the pro-am. I played the pro-am on Wednesday morning with a different Flood on my bag; Kitt, Ronan’s brother filled in for him as Ronan hurt his back and was actually in doubt for the week until he got some treatment on Tuesday. It is a course that I know very well and so it is not one that I need to play too many times in practice.
This is a funky course, not what we are used to playing week in and week out on the tour. There a number of holes where anything can happen, holes that you can just as easily make a birdie on as a double bogey. That’s why it makes for good viewing. One of the trickiest things about this course is the extreme elevation changes, some of the holes have 20 yard changes from the tees to the fairway and then from the fairway to the greens.
On this course every hole has a potential disaster lying around the corner and as a result I could tell you to pay particular attention to them all but the ones for me that are worth a look at as they will no doubt have a big say in the outcome of the event come Sunday are the 15th, 16th and 18th.
The fifteenth is the signature hole of the course really; it’s the one that everyone remembers. It is a 185 yard par three that is played over a canyon, anything short or right is in the water; the green is only 20 yards deep and slopes from back to front so if you hit it big you have a very difficult up and down. This is a hole that you are happy to make par on, in general you are trying to hit your tee shot twenty feet past the flag. It is a great looking hole when you are watching but when you are standing there hitting the shot it is tough, as the green looks no bigger than a postage stamp.
The sixteenth is a par five but not your normal par five as you will hardly see any players hitting a driver off the tee here. For me it is nearly always a five wood from the tee which should leave me another five wood or a three wood into a long narrow green that is protected by a big tree on the left and a water hazard all down the right. This is a hole that you feel you should be making a birdie on but if you try too hard you can easily rack up a big number. This one is best played conservatively from the tee and then see how you lie.
The 18th as always will be a crucial hole, it measures 446 yards. This hole is no give away, in fact it is as a good finishing hole as you will get any where. You know that you don’t have anything won until you have finished this hole as you could end up taking any number on it. The tee shot is tight again and is normally not a driver as it narrows in at driver range; with trees left and right it is important to hit the fairway; anything left or right is dead. Having hit the fairway you then have anything from a 5 iron to a 9 iron into a tiered and sloping green with water in front of it and like the 15th anything big means it is nearly impossible to get up and down. There is no real bail out shot here; you have to take on the shot as there is no easy up and down. It is a hole that you would happily take 4 pars and walk away.
This is a great course for a tournament like this as there is a small field and the players are more relaxed than at a regular tour event. As there are five par fives it means that there will be plenty of birdies and eagles and with the fast and undulating greens you will see plenty of putts holed and plenty missed so all in all it makes for a great week.
I am coming here after my longest break of the year and it is also my last event for 2007. For the players that are here it is like our Christmas party, everyone is here to play well and enjoy themselves and if they don’t play well it’s not the end of the world. This is the attitude that I am taking this week; I will be trying to get myself into contention so as to give myself a chance of finishing the year on a high note but if it doesn’t go as I would like I will not be beating myself up.
Padraigs Tour Diary...
My season has come to an end and what a year it has been; my last tournament didn’t quite go as I would have liked it to but then considering that I came into the event after having three weeks off it was not a big surprise to me. I came to the Target World Challenge with limited expectations but had hopes of doing well as I have performed well here in the past. In the end, hope and my previous record were not enough to guide me to a strong finish to the year.
The pro-am was the first round of golf I played since the final round of the Dunlop Phoenix, which was a break of 24 days. This coupled with the technical practise that I had done during that break made getting into tournament mode very difficult. When I teed it up on Thursday I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was torn between thinking about the technical stuff I had been doing and just thinking about my target and forgetting about all the practise. I knew that for me to perform at my best and give myself the best chance of wining the event come the final day that I should approach it the same as I have done all year and not get technical. However it is easier said than done. I really struggled the first day as I couldn’t get things right in my head, some shots I would be purely focused on my target and then some I would be thinking about the practise I have done. This made scoring very tough as my head was scrambled and everything felt like a battle. I opened up with a par and then hit my second in the water on the second to take a bogey six. Throughout the round I was finding the course very difficult, which considering that most years I find this course relatively easy it was a real sign that my head was all over the place. I rallied with a few birdies on the back nine to recover from two over at one stage in the round to finish on one under. When I finished it felt like a terrible round but when I looked at the scoring it wasn’t that bad and I was only three shots behind. When I looked back at my round I knew that I had left a number of shots out there as I had three putted a couple of times and also hit a few poor chip shots, but I was happy with a round of 71.
Friday was much better than the first day. There was no wind at all and the pins seemed to be a lot easier. I was getting a bit better as regards my head but still not anything like I would have liked it to be. I was out in four under and then birdies on the 11th and 13th put me six under for the round and seven under for the tournament. I was cruising along and it all seemed so easy. On the 14th I hit my second shot to 20 feet left of the pin and in a mad moment I hit my putt 12 feet past and then missed the one back. This killed all my momentum and in the end I struggled to par my way in, holing a couple of good par putts and missing a good chance on the 16th for another birdie. I was disappointed with my score when I finished but even more so when I looked at the leaderboard as the scoring was very good; I didn’t make any ground up on the people in front of me and I finished the day seven behind Tiger after his round of 62. Tigers round effectively finished the tournament for everyone as he had such a commanding lead. We were all pretty much playing for position. I finished the day lying fourth on six under; all things considered it wasn’t too bad.
Having got myself into a reasonable position over the first couple of days, the weekend was not kind to me. My rounds over the weekend were more of what I would expect after all the work I did in the previous three weeks and my poor preparation in the build up to the event caught up with me. Rounds of 75 and 73 dropped me from fourth place after two rounds to tenth place after four rounds. In my third round I had a bit of melt down in the opening few holes; I three putted the first for bogey and then made a bad par on the second but my real disaster came on the third hole, which was really the end of my tournament for me. I was being a bit aggressive with the club selection and as a result I took on too much and was going at the pin. I took a four iron and pushed it into the water right and then did the same again; With my third ball from the tee I pulled it left and actually made a very good up and down for a quadruple bogey seven. I followed this up with a three putt bogey on the next to put me six over for the day. In the end I managed to get three shots back and shoot 75; the funny thing was that I should have still managed to break par with the way I played from the seventh on, as I missed a few good chances coming in. Sundays round was not as exciting, I made a few birdies and got myself to five under through 14 holes but then I finished poorly. I hit a bad tee shot on the par three 15th which cost me a bogey and a badly judged third shot on the 16th cost me another. To round it all off I three putted the 18th to finish on two under for the week. The only consolation about my finish was that even if I had parred my way in I still would have finished in the same position. All in all the week went pretty much how I would have expected it too as I hadn’t really prepared properly.
It wasn’t quite how I would have liked to finish the season off but I am not worrying about it. I knew I wasn’t really ready to play a tournament going in so I can’t be annoyed with my performance. I am off for four weeks now, it is time to recharge the batteries and take it easy. I can sit back now and reflect on what was the biggest year of my career; since July I haven’t had too much time to myself to sit back and really enjoy the fact that I am the British Open Champion. It has been a year that I will never forget. Winning the Irish Open was very special but to go in the same year and win The Open was unbelievable.
Talk to you all soon, have a great Christmas and good golfing in 2008!