After two weeks off I am back in action this week at the London Club for the European Open. Since I have been a professional this event has previously always been played in the K Club so it feels funny having to come to London to play the European Open. After the US Open I came home and worked on my game; Bob Torrance came over to see me for a couple of days. As usual when I have time off I did quite a bit of practice as well as some fitness work. My time away from tournaments is when I do most of my practice these days. The reason for this is that at events I tend to only practice my routines and short game and not get into technical practice.
As I have been at home for the last two weeks I travelled over here on Sunday afternoon so that I could play the course on Monday. Most of the guys don’t arrive until the Tuesday which means that the course is normally very busy on a Tuesday and quiet on a Monday. I played the course for the first time on Monday afternoon; the morning was spent warming up and getting my clubs checked. It was great playing on Monday as there was hardly anyone around and so I was able to play at my own pace.
I had planned to play nine holes on Tuesday and do some testing with Wilson on some new drivers but when I was doing my exercises in the morning I did something to my neck and made an old injury flare up. I wasn’t able to hit any shots on the day and spent a lot of time on the physio’s table. In the afternoon I did some putting practice as it was the only thing that I could do without hurting my neck. Earlier in the day I was thinking that I might not be able to play in the tournament at all with my injury but by the evening after a few treatment sessions I was much more confident that I would be playing. It is the same injury that crops up a couple of times a year so I know what it is as soon as it happens. The biggest problem with it is not that I can’t swing but the damage that I do to my swing and then how long it takes for me to get it back to normal.
The pro-am on Wednesday was my test run to see if I would be fine to play on Thursday. I got some treatment before I went out, in my warm up it wasn’t too bad, but I could still feel it. On the course it was fine, it only really affected me on drives; my irons were fine as I am not normally hitting it flat out. I played the full eighteen holes without much discomfort so I was happy. As usual after a few weeks off my biggest problem is getting into my routines again. When I played on Monday I felt that my routines were poor and needed to be far better. This was the main aim for the pro-am for me as it was my last chance before the start. As the round went on I felt that I definitely got better with my routines and focus. They weren’t great but it was definitely better; but it is what I will be working on between now and the The Open.
This is a new course for the Tour and so everyone is in the same boat as no one knows it. It is always hard to know how a new course will stand up. I think that it is set up very fairly, the fairways are a decent width and there is a good chance to shoot a score but if you start missing fairways then you can be in trouble. It is a par 72 measuring 7,250 yards and is a similar course to the Smurfit Course at the K Club and the Montgomerie in Carton House. They are all of a similar nature, almost like inland links. This one is firmer than the two in Ireland though which makes it play much shorter. The biggest defence that this course has is the wind. It is quite open and can be very windy. Another feature of this course is that nearly every hole is a dogleg. When I played it on Monday it was warm and you could carry a lot of the doglegs, however, the problem with trying to cut the corners is that if you don’t make it or you take on too much you are in heavy grass where it is nearly impossible to find you ball. This is a course that you feel you should be shooting a low score on but if you try to take on too much it is easy to run up big numbers.
As this is my first week back after a couple of weeks off it is always a bit tougher than normal. I am very happy with my game as I have been for the whole year; it has been my putting that has been annoying me lately. I did some good work on it during my break and am feeling much better about it now. My neck injury will have curtailed my preparation for the week a little and so I am playing with limited expectations this week. This is the build up to my defence of the Open and so it is important that I get myself prepared; ideally I would like to get myself into contention come Sunday afternoon and that would really tell me what I need to work on before the Open. I will be trying hard to get myself into the mix but after hurting my neck I am a little unsure what to expect.