After two weeks off I am back in action this week in Korea. The European Tour is playing its first tournament in Korea this week and I have opted to play here as I am not playing next week in Doral. I have been at home practicing for the last two weeks, working on my swing as usual. I have always been the sort of person that needs to be working on something; if I wasn’t working on it I wouldn’t be happy. However now I have to leave it behind and get myself ready for the first major of the year and with this in mind I am playing in the Ballantine’s Championship this week. My swing work has been put on hold for the moment and now it is time to get back into competitive mode.
This is not my first time in Korea; I played in a tournament here on Jeju Island three years ago. It was an event that was sanctioned by the PGA Tour, but was held on a different course but in the same area. I enjoyed myself the last time I played here and so when I heard that this event was on the same island here this week it was easy for me to decide to play.
I am coming to this event still quite rusty as I haven’t played that much as yet and have been practicing a lot. My first three weeks in America were fine, nothing special but I showed some promise. After being knocked out of Accenture, I headed home for a two week break and spent most of the time working on my swing and trying to perfect a few changes that I have been trying to make over the winter & Bob came over for a couple of days to work with me to make sure that I was on the right track. The practice went well and I can definitely see improvement in the areas that I am working on but it will take some time for it to be where I want it to be. This is the part that I struggle with; I want it to happen as quickly as possible which means that I can end up doing too much practice. I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked on my short game in the last couple of weeks but from here on I will be concentrating on this area and working more towards getting ready for tournament play rather than technical practice.
We are playing the Ballantine’s on the Pinx course on Jeju Island off the south coast of South Korea. It is a relatively new course as are most of the courses here on the island, golf is booming here at the moment due to the success of KJ Choi and the lady golfers on the LPGA Tour. The course measures 7,345 yards and plays as a par 72. They have added over four hundred yards to the course in the past six months to get the course ready for the tournament. During the summer months this course would not play it yardage as the ball would travel further in the heat, however at the moment it will play more like the actual yardage. The weather here at this time of year can be very cold and windy, last week there was snow on the course! On Monday when I played the course it was cold and windy, the downwind holes played very short but the holes back into the wind played exceptionally long. A big feature of this course is the elevation changes; some holes have an elevation change of over forty yards from the tee to the green. When you add this into the windy conditions that are forecast for the tournament rounds it will make clubbing very difficult. The holes to look out for this week are the par threes and the eighteenth; the two par threes on the front nine are over water with elevation changes of over ten yards downhill. In practice they have played into the wind which has made them very difficult. Pars on these two holes will be good scores, the problem with them is that if you miss the green short you are in the water and if you miss them anywhere else it is a tough up and down. The two on the back nine are over 200 yards; the fourteenth is the longest of all the par threes. The green is banked up around it and again anything missing the green is a very tough chip and putt. The seventeenth is a tricky hole as it is quite exposed which makes clubbing very difficult. The hole that will cause a lot of trouble this week is the eighteenth as it is a tight drive as there are two fairway bunkers and water; however this is the easiest part. The second shot is over water to a green that has a bunker on the right and more water up the left. A par here is really a good score and making a four to win on this hole will be a tough task for whoever has to do it!
I have spent the last couple of weeks working on my swing but I have also spent some time testing clubs and as a result I am using a brand new set of irons here this week. I have the Wilson P.I. 7’s in the bag this week for their first competitive outing. They are the new version of my old Wilson irons. I have been testing them for a while now, and I have also had them made a little shorter and flatter than my old ones. I find it impossible to get a real feel for clubs until I have used them in a tournament. After the week I will know if they are properly set up for me or whether I have to make a few more adjustments to them.
I am coming here a little rusty but I am looking forward to getting back on the course and getting into the swing of things again. My season really kicks off in earnest now and it is important to get myself tournament ready by the time the Masters comes around. This is the reason that I am here this week, to try and get myself into contention on Sunday so as to test myself under pressure and see how I get on. As usual I am looking to keep myself in the tournament over the first three days so that I can give myself a chance of winning on Sunday. I am happy with my game but am unsure as to what to expect as I haven’t played much.