My Season really starts properly this week. From now on I am back into the swing of things. The main thing for me over the next few weeks is to get myself competitive again. I have only played twice in the last ten weeks, so I am quite rusty, all the technical work that I did over the winter has taken its toll on my routines and focus. I noticed this when I played in Abu Dhabi and had planned to spend the two weeks between that event and this working on getting myself ready to play. However I was hampered by the shingles so I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked.
I am still not quite over the shingles but it is not effecting me too much. It feels a little like a pulled muscle in my rib area but most of the time I don’t feel it, its only when someone asks me about it that I tend to think of it. Last year was my first year playing in the AT&T, I really enjoyed the courses and the format but unfortunately I was particularly sick early in the week and it meant that I was only able to play nine holes in practice. This year, even though I am still not quite 100%, I have played four rounds in practice; twice around Poppy Hills and once at each of the two courses. I was at a real disadvantage last year as I hadn’t played the courses before but after playing this week in practice I am getting more comfortable with them.
I travelled over last Friday to San Francisco to get myself into the time zone. I played a couple of games over the weekend; one on Harding Park in San Fran and then one on the tournament course Spy Glass. The weather was very poor but I needed to play golf to practice my routines and to get myself into the scoring mode again. I played a few friends in matches and they were very competitive which really helped. The next three days were spent practicing the tournament courses; I played twice with Dermot Desmond and once with J.P. Again we had some good matches; I had to really try hard against them which is exactly what I needed. As this week is a pro-am there is no Wednesday pr am; most of the players are happy enough with this but I would prefer to have one as I always find them useful for getting me into playing. The fact that you are only playing one ball and the fact that you have to try and hole putts makes all the difference particularly at this early stage of the season. I have been trying to stay away from the range this week as I know that if I go there then I will only end up getting sucked into doing some technical practice. The majority of my time has been spent on the courses trying to get to know them and around the pitching green as you can never spend too much time practicing your short game.
There are three courses this week; Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills and Spy Glass. Pebble is one of the most famous courses in the world and as such doesn’t need much introduction to anyone. The other two are fantastic courses that just don’t get the recognition as they are in the same area as Pebble. Historically the hardest of the courses is Spy Glass and the easiest is Poppy; however I definitely find Poppy the hardest of the courses. It has more holes that you can have a disaster on than the other two; there are plenty of funky holes with hazards close to the green and a lot of elevation changes. I struggle to see the low scores that are normally shot on this course, where as I would find both Spy and Pebble easier as they are more in front of you - there are not so many funky holes. Pebble plays relatively easy as the course is set up some what easy. There is practically no rough and the greens are soft at this time of year; the fact that it is a pro-am means that they do not set the courses up very tough for the first three days anyway. The organizers want to see plenty of birdies and to see the amateurs enjoying themselves. The big factor with this tournament and the courses is the weather; running up to the tournament the weather has been terrible but the forecast is for a good week. The courses are quite wet at the moment and as a result I would expect that we will be able to lift and clean the ball for the first three days anyway. It can get very windy here in Monterey which can make the courses play very different, during practice there hasn’t been much wind so it has been like throwing darts as the greens are very soft. Over the years the biggest complaint about this tournament has been about the quality of the greens, these three courses are like most parkland courses at home. So at this time of year it can be a bit hit and miss with the condition of the greens. This year they are a little wet but nothing too bad, on a whole the greens are in good shape.
I am coming into this week having played only two events in the past ten weeks so I would not be advising anyone to put there money on me. I am here to try and get myself back into competition mode; it is a great event for me to come out to start at as there are three rounds guaranteed. It is also a pro-am format which I really enjoy, I am playing with my Dunhill partner; J.P. again. It is our second attempt at this one, unfortunately it is always a little early in the season for me and so I am not quite at my best. However we will both be trying hard to see if we can add to our Dunhill wins. This is a week that I really enjoy but it is not one that I would have huge expectation for as I am still unsure as to how I play once the gun goes off. I have been hitting it nicely in practice but I have definitely been struggling with my focus over a lot of shots. I am sure that there will be plenty of shots that I will struggle with my focus, during the week the key for me is not to get annoyed about it. I am starting with little or no expectations; what I would hope for is that I improve as the week goes on, if I can do this then the week will have been a success.
Padraigs Tour Diary
Even though I have played an event already this year, this week felt like I was just starting my season. Coming here this week I knew that I would struggle with my focus as I had spent so much time working on my technical game and not enough time working on my mental game. It is always the same for me after my winter break, my first few events are always like this; I tend to get stuck between the technical work and the fact that I am trying to play a tournament. However I knew coming here that I would be like this, which is why this is such a good event for me as it is a guaranteed three rounds no matter what.
Even though I knew coming here that I would probably struggle with my focus and routines it is always hard to accept it after the week is over. When I look back on each round I can pick out a number of shots that I left behind due to poor preparation. I shot four under for the four rounds to finish in a share of fourteenth position; while I wasn’t expecting much coming here it turned out to be disappointing as I was five under playing the last and bogeyed it; had I parred it I would have finished in the top ten.
Looking back on the week it really went as I expected. I knew coming here that I wasn’t ready to contend in a tournament but when you get there you try to convince yourself that everything will be fine. I suppose it is a little like the Ostrich, sticking your head in the ground and trying to ignore what is going on around you. I knew coming here and during the week that my routines and focus were not up to scratch and unfortunately you are only found out when there is little bit of pressure on it. The practice rounds that I played and the early rounds all improved the areas that I was poor in, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
The weather couldn’t have been any better for the week. The courses needed some good weather to dry them out before the tournament and thankfully they got it. When I played Spyglass on the Sunday before the event it was very wet and had it remained like that then there would have to be the lift, clean and place. But thanks to the warm weather early in the week it meant that we could play the ball as it lay. I started on Pebble Beach on Thursday. It was a perfect morning for scoring but I couldn’t take advantage of it, a three putt bogey on the first set me off. However I made three birdies, the 6th, 9th and 10th, to get me to two under and in a very good shape. At this stage I was cruising along and thinking that I would go on and make a few more birdies but that was not to be. Bogeys on the 13th and the 17th put me back to level par, where I finished; it was a disappointing score as the course was there for the taking. J.P. improved me by six shots in the team for us to shoot six under, only three behind but with a lot of people between us and the leaders. I knew leaving the course that I had missed a chance to shoot a decent score. For some reason the scoring wasn’t great and so my level par wasn’t that bad, but left us in a tie for 61st.
On Friday I played Poppy Hills, which has historically been the easiest of the courses on the rotation but I would consider it the trickiest. There are five par fives on this course but there is also a lot of trouble. I got off to a good start, with a birdie on the par five 10th. However on my tee shot on my third hole another par five I lost my focus and miss-hit it, it hit the trees and ended up out of bounds. This lead to a double bogey, a particularly bad score on a relatively easy hole! I bounced back with two straight birdies to get back to one under for the round and then made one more birdie and the rest pars to shoot two under. I played really badly, it was a real workman like round and I had to hole a three or four footer for par on practically every hole. I think the first time I was able to tap in, was on the 17th. This made for a very long and tiring round as the greens here were very bumpy and so any putt on these greens was tough work. In the team J.P. and I had one of our worst ever days, shooting four under to put us to ten under. Nothing happened for us on the day; it left us with a lot to do to make the cut for the weekend.
My third round started great and I came out of the traps like a rocket; making birdies on the 1st, 2nd and the 4th. Then a three putt par on the 7th slowed me for a while but another birdie on the 9th got me going again. This put me to six under for the tournament and one shot off the lead. However it would be short lived. After a good drive on the par five 11th left me well within range, I pulled a five wood left into a hazard; from where I dropped out and was left with a 58 yard pitch. I thinned this over the green as I was thinking I was going to “duff it” and then I “duffed” two chip shots and in the end I had to hole a four footer for an eight. It was a devastating blow, I had looked like I was going to join the leaders on seven under and instead I left the hole four behind. It was like someone had just burst a balloon; I was cruising along prior to this and couldn’t see any trouble. Another dropped shot on the par five 14th was the result of me hitting my second shot in the water again. I redeemed myself somewhat with birdies on the 17th and 18th to get me to four under par. In the team we finished with four birdies to record 18 under for the three rounds and make the cut for the weekend.
My final round was pretty much what I would have expected due to my preparation, I started nicely after birdies on the 2nd and 4th. A dropped shot on the 5th was offset by a birdie on the 6th, however I was a little jumpy all day as my focus was very poor. It was just a lack of competitive practice, exactly what I would have expected. I ended up making one more birdie on the 13th and three more bogeys; the 8th, 14th and 18th. The bogey on the 18th was the most annoying as it was a three putt and it cost me a top ten finish!
The main story of my week was how I played the par fives. I played them in three over par for the week; which was mainly due to my triple bogey and a double bogey. The main reason behind this stat was that I was going for the greens, tended to lose my focus and ended up getting punished particularly hard for it. It is easy to say that if I had played the par fives well that I would have contended the tournament but I don’t really think so as my mental game was not up to scratch and this is what caused me to make the big numbers on the par fives. I think I would have found some way of making a mess of other holes as the pressure came.
I know what areas of my game I need to work on before the start of the Northern Trust Open in L.A. next week. It will be all mental practice for me.
Overall the week went as well as expected. However it doesn’t ease the disappointment of three putting the last and of throwing away shots so easily in the last round. I could so easily have finished in the top ten which would have been nice for my first event in the US this year.