One good Sunday delivered as Padraig shoots consecutive 66's to deliver his third Major in thirteen months and in the process break all sorts of records for a European Tour player. First European to win back to back Majors, fourth person in history to win the Open and USPGA titles in one season and the first European to win the USPGA Championship since Tommy Armour in 1930. A sparkling mornings work where he was up at the crack of dawn to complete his weather interrupted third round included four birdies in a row from the 13th to leave himself at one over par for the tournament and only three behind going into the afternoons final round. The golfing Gods decreed that he would play with an old sparring partner as Sergio Garcia and Charlie Wi made up the second last three ball of the day. The Spanish prodigy threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Padraig as he opened up a three shot lead over Padraig going into the back nine but this is now Padraigs playground and he knew that if he hung around long enough he would get a chance to wrest the title from the would be pretenders to Major glory. A stunning 32 shots later ending with a 15 foot putt for the title on the 18th green broke all hearts. The famed Claret Jug now has the Wannamaker trophy for company on Padraigs kitchen table Padraig so often dubbed the "nice guy of golf" has long since learned the value of ruthlessness and the treachery of sentiment on a golf course. Augusta National and the other true exponent of this art beckon.
Play was suspended on Saturday due to electrical storms and will resume early Sunday in a two tee start. The leaders have to play 36 holes but Padraig has completed nine holes in an impressive one under par and now stands at four over and five behind the lead group. One good Sunday needed. Second round of 74 leaves Padraig just outside the top twenty going into the weekend at Oakland Hills. On a tough day only one player now stands at under par as the course won hands down. Two finishing bogies put paid to an otherwise good round but anything under par on Saturday will leave Padraig with a chance come Sunday. Solid opening round for the Open Champion of one over par 71 leaves Padraig in a tie for 16th place and only three off the lead at the last major of the year. A flying start of three birdies gave him something to play with around this tough Oakland Hills course and he played well to finish with 71. He tees off early Friday and would hope to consolidate his score to give himself a chance to become only the 4th man ever to win both the Open Champiosnhip and USPGA Championship in the one year. Padraig returns to Oakland Hills for this weeks USPGA Championship. It's a course he knows well and likes playing witnessed by his performances in the Ryder Cup at this venue. Hogan famously called Oakland Hills a "monster" when he won his 1951 US Open here. It is long, difficult and has sloping greens which are divided into shelves. The greens remain largely untouched from the original 1917 Ross design as Trent Jones reckoned they were difficult enough, thus they have survived the test of time. Padraig tees off late at 1.15pm local time in round one and at 8.05am in round two with Masters Champion Trevor Immelman and Angel Carbrera. Click "more" for a tour of Oakland Hills and Padraigs scorecard and statistics for the week.
The last major of the year has arrived, even though it doesn’t seem that long since I played the Masters or won the Open. This is the last chance for everyone until April next year when the Masters rolls around again. The fact that there is such a long wait until the next major adds little bit of pressure to this one; as most of the top players build there season around the majors it means that there is a lot of disappointment as there are only four of them. I am here as the Open Champion again which makes my build up for this week somewhat easier as I am not putting to much pressure on myself. If I hadn’t won the Open I would probably be here trying extra hard to add to my major tally.
Over the years I have learned from my mistakes and these mistakes have helped turn me into the player I am now. My preparation for the majors has come about from looking back at the tournaments that I have done well in and probably more importantly the ones that I have done poorly in. In general the events that I have performed poorly in the past I can look at my preparation and see mistakes. These days I come to the majors and I realise that I can’t cover everything in practice; I am no longer looking to hit every shot on the course and play every chip and putt possible. I have learned that the best approach for me is to try and do as little as possible all week; only what is necessary. I have worked hard on getting this right over the last few years and it has definitely helped no end. I can look back over the last few years and I have won two Opens and managed to get into contention in the Masters and US Open. The only one that I have consistently performed poorly in is the PGA, my best finish being tied 17th.
This year I am in a far better frame of mind than last year, which I came into after winning my first major and having done a huge amount of media work. I was totally drained, whereas this year I haven’t done anything like I did last year; I suppose it is experience and the fact that I was more aware that I still had a lot of big tournaments to play in. I arrived here in Oakland Hills on Sunday night and have taken a relaxed approach to my build up. I am very much aware that the most important thing for me this week is to be mentally fresh. It is a tough course which means that the man that is freshest come Sunday afternoon will have a good chance of winning. It is a fine line though as you have to get out and see the course; I have played 36 holes over three days. The only other time that I played here was in the Ryder Cup but it was much faster and firmer then and they have also added a few hundred yards too. I haven’t spent much time on the range this week as I am very happy with how I am swinging it; I have only warmed up before play. I spent a bit of time practicing my chipping and working with Bob Rotella; nothing new in that but its good to see him and have him remind me what I am supposed to be doing.
Having played 36 holes now I have to say this is one tough course. Its funny, I don’t remember it being that tough when we were here for the Ryder Cup; I must have played well that week! It is a par 70 that measures 7,395 yards and has a lot of elevation changes. The length makes it tough but it is nothing to what the rough and the greens add to it. The rough is like a US Open of four years ago, before they started grading it; this week if you miss the fairway by a couple of yards then you are pretty much pitching out. However the biggest defense that this course has is the greens. They are probably the funkiest greens around; a lot of the greens have only three or four pin placements as there are so many slopes and undulations on them. The way the greens are designed means that you are actually trying to get the ball into certain areas or, more to the point, trying to avoid certain areas. For the first two days they were quite receptive but I played my last 18 holes of practice on Wednesday afternoon and at this stage the greens were getting very firm and crusty; they were so firm that if you shot level par you would be delighted.
Picking out holes that will be key this week is particularly tough as there are 18 of them; a lot of the holes are lined on both sides by bunkers which you would be happier to hit in rather than the rough. Every hole that you stand on you are thinking that you have to hit the fairway or else you are struggling. Hopefully this is only the case in practice and maybe the course will get easier when the tournament starts.
As I was saying I have played 36 holes over three days and tried to do the bare minimum as I feel that more than any other course this one is best played when you are mentally fresh. The course is so tough and the greens are so funky that the worst thing you could do is spend too much time trying to prepare for it. I am happy with how I am playing and looking forward to getting going; last week I struggled because I was tired so I have spent a lot time resting and getting ready for the week.
I am looking forward to playing as I am very happy with my game. Like last year I am drawn with the Masters Champion but as Tiger is still injured we are playing with Angel Cabrerra. As ever I am looking to get myself into contention come Sunday afternoon. This week is more of a marathon than most as the course is tough. Hopefully this will suit me as I don’t mind tough courses. If I can get myself into contention come Sunday afternoon then I have done the right things during the week and I will be happy. All I can ask is that I give myself a chance to win and then take it from there.
When I won the Open in Carnoustie last year I realized that the work I have been doing for the last number of years was worthwhile. I also made me realise that I was good enough to win the big events and that the way I prepare for them was correct. After my first Open win I also felt that I was definitely capable of winning more majors once I gave myself the opportunity. When I won at Birkdale I wasn’t so much surprised that I had won my second, I just didn’t expect to win it so quickly. Now I am here writing about my third major, it seems totally bizarre that in such a short space of time I have gone from having none to having won three.
When I arrived here in Detroit I felt that I was in good shape but as the week went on I realized that I was definitely more fatigued than I had thought. I made sure in my preparation during the week to keep it to the bare minimum and not to over do things. There were a couple of reasons for this, one was the fact that I was still struggling to get over the Open and the other was because the course was so tough that I knew it would come down to mental strength more than golfing ability. Most majors come down to the mental strength but this one I knew would have more of an emphasis on it than others due to the course. I had to try and convince myself all week that I was here jockeying for position until Sunday afternoon and all I wanted was to be in with a shout for the back nine on Sunday.
I started late on Thursday but it was worth waiting for as I came out of the blocks like a greyhound, birdieing the first three holes and missing good chances on the next two. In the end I made four birdies and five bogeys in my round to shoot one over par 71. It was actually a good “one over” in the end as I made a good par on the last after driving it in the rough. On Friday I really struggled on the course, I felt like I was swinging it badly and just didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t play all that well but even still I was three over for the tournament with two holes to play, the eight and ninth. By this stage I was mentally fried, my coordination was gone and I didn’t know where the ball was going. On the eighth I hit a drive that made my tee shot on the 18th in Carnousite look straight! It ended up in a hospitality tent; from there I got a free drop and went on to make a bogey. Then on the ninth hole I pulled my four iron 40 yards left of the green and again made a bogey. It was a poor finish and I was delighted to get off the course. I felt that I had no chance in the tournament the way I was playing and feeling. I went back to my house and slept for most of the afternoon, but it wasn’t until I spoke to Liam Hennessey, my trainer at home, that I realized that it could be dehydration. Liam asked me a few question about how I was feeling and from this he believed that I was dehydrated. This made me feel so much better as it meant that it was something that I could control for the weekend. I had to make sure to get more liquids into me.
I was lying six off the lead going into the weekend which considering how I felt I had played I was delighted as I hadn’t blown myself out of it. The key for me was to remember that I was just trying to get myself into contention for the final nine holes on Sunday. The third round was tough conditions, it was very windy when I started and the course was very firm but I knew that there was thunder storms forecast for the afternoon. I managed to make three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine to be out in one under for the day and four over for the tournament. As I picked the ball out of the hole for my third birdie on the ninth the hooter was blown to suspend play. I was somewhat disappointed as it meant that the leaders wouldn’t have to play in the wind like I did and also that the course would be softened up quite a bit for them. We ended up sitting around for about four hours, they made a few attempts to get us back out in this time but each time the storm came back in. In the end they decided that we would come back in the morning and finish the third round and then play the final round in the afternoon. I was happy with this as it meant that I would get some more rest and also that everyone would get similar conditions.
It was an early start for me on Sunday morning as I always get up three hours before my tee time so as to do my routine of exercises and my warm up on the range. We were back in position at 7.20 am. My back nine went very well; I parred my first three holes but could have birdied any of them. Then on the 13th I hit it to eight feet and made a two and from here my tournament really started; I holed from 30 feet on the 14th, 20 feet on the 15th and then eight feet again on the 16th to get five under for the round and level par for the week. I missed from eight feet on the 17th for another birdie and then disappointingly I gave back a shot after a poor bunker shot on the 18th. In the end I shot 66 to leave me on one over for the week; I headed back to my house for a couple of hours sleep while the leaders were still playing. This way I was able to go through my normal routine again. By the time I got up again the leaders had finished their rounds and I was lying four off the lead and in the second last group with Sergio and Charlie Wie. It was pretty much what I was looking for at the start of the week, to be in contention come Sunday afternoon.
I knew going out on Sunday that the front nine was all about keeping in touch, as I have learned over time. In the majors the real tournament starts on the back nine on Sunday and up until then it is only a case of not blowing yourself out of it. I started off fine, making a par on the first and then a birdie on the second. Sergio got off to a flyer of a start by making a birdie on the first and then an eagle on the second. I dropped my first shot on the fifth after a poor second shot; I was trying to hold it up in the wind and instead I let it go. I hit a poor chip from over the back and then two putted; at this stage I was three behind Sergio. I wasn’t looking at leader boards but I obviously knew what Sergio was doing. I made a good up and down for birdie on the next, it was a 30 yard bunker shot which are always tough. I got it up and down on the 7th for par from a similar distance in a bunker again to stay level for the tournament and three behind Sergio. Sergio was my marker really, even though I knew that there were others in the event I was playing with him and he was ahead of me. On the eighth I hit the green in two with a good five wood, my playing partners failed to get there but they both managed to get up and down for par. On the ninth I made a good par from the right trap and Sergio also made a very good save. At this stage it seemed like it was going to be his day as he had played the front nine very well and made a couple of good saves. However I reminded myself that nothing really happens until the back nine though.
I birdied the 10th after hitting an eight iron to about 15 feet to get me to one under for the tournament. A par on the 11th was followed by a bad drive on the par 5 12th; it went right into the crowd. When I got down to the ball it was sitting nicely but I had a tree in my way; I could chip it out sideways or hit a five wood right of the tree and hook it to the green. It was a risky shot but I felt that at this stage I needed to make some birdies and this was the only way of giving myself a decent chance. I hit a big hook with a five wood around the tree and it pitched on the middle of the green and ran over the back; from where I got it up and down for birdie. This got me to one behind Sergio as he made a par. I caught Sergio on the 13th after I hit a five iron to eight feet and holed. We were both three under for the tournament at this stage but it was to be short lived for me. I bogeyed the next hole after hitting my eight iron from the crowd over the back. At this stage it felt like it was Sergio’s championship; he hit the flag with his second shot on the 15th and I hit my second to 12 feet just outside his. We both missed and tapped in for pars to stay one shot behind. It was the 16th that everything changed. After two good drives it was Sergio to play first. He was quite a bit further back than me; and hit his second shot in the water. It was the first opening I had, but I hit an eight iron and in trying to make sure that I kept it safe I ended up pulling it in the bunker. I hit a really good bunker shot but a stone got between the clubface and the ball which meant that it didn’t spin and so I was left with 14 footer for par. Sergio had four footer for bogey after a pitch to the green. I knew that this was my opportunity and that I had to take it. I hit a great putt and it went in for a par to put me level with Sergio with two to play. Ronan reminded me that it wasn’t a case of match play as Ben Curtis was also in the tournament as up until now I had really just been playing Sergio. As I walked to the 17th tee I knew that this was my tournament for the taking. I then hit a five iron straight at the pin on 17, as did Sergio. When we walked onto the green there were two balls close to the pin but I wasn’t sure which was mine until I got up to them. Mine was the furthest away which meant that I would be putting first. However I holed my putt for a birdie and then Sergio missed his. Then I knew that I had great chance of winning if I could par the last.
As always I have to make it difficult. I pushed my drive a little and it caught one of the bunkers. It was close to the face and I had an awkward stance so I wasn’t able to go for the green. I hit an eight iron out of it but caught it fat and it didn’t get out of the rough. Luckily I got a good lie and I was able to get a club on the ball. I was only 143 yards out from the pin but the rough was going to take a lot out of the ball and also it was into the wind; I hit a good seven iron just right of the pin to about 18 feet. Sergio had hit his drive right and hit second into the greenside bunker; from where he put it to nine feet. As I lined up my putt I felt that this was the putt to win the Wannamaker Trophy; even though I knew that Ben Curtis was behind me I felt that if I held it I would win. It was a nice putt to have as I saw the line straight away; a double breaker but I knew that it would come back from the left at the very end. I hit a really nice putt, once I hit I was pretty sure I had holed it but I wanted to see it go in and it did!!!
After it went in I heard that Ben had bogeyed the 17th to be one under par for the tournament which meant that he had to eagle the last to catch me. I sat in the recorders hut watching him play the last and once his second shot came to a stop on the green I knew that I was the PGA champion. What a feeling, it was hard to believe!
It was unbelievable! I never thought that I would be writing about my third major so quick after the second. It was only in my post round press conference that it began to sink in; to hear that no other European has ever won two majors in the same year was hard to believe.
What a feeling, what a season so far and it is only two thirds of the way through. I am off for a family holiday this week and then back in action for the Fed Ex Cup Play-offs. I am now looking forward to sitting around during this week doing nothing and savoring my win.
Talk to you all soon at the Fexex cup!