After winning the US PGA I went to North Carolina for a family holiday I had planned for quite a while and as it turned out it was the best thing I could have done. I got to sit by the pool for a week doing nothing but resting and recuperating. I am back in action this week in New Jersey for the Barclays Classic, which has moved venue from Westchester where I won a few years ago. Having won around Westchester I am obviously disappointed that it has moved but Ridgewood Country Club is a great golf course.
This is the first of the play-off events for the Fed Ex Cup; after the main season all the jockeying for position is over. The points have been reset and now there are four events left to decide the winner; I finished fourth in the points and so I am in a good position heading into the play-offs. However it is not just about your position coming into the four events, this year the points for the four play-offs have been adjusted so that it will be more volatile. Basically for me it means that I have to probably win at least one of the events and have a couple of solid finishes in the other three. The way it is set up this year it gives more people the opportunity to win the Fed Ex, whereas last year there was very little movement in the table during the play-offs. Whoever wins will have to have played well over the next six weeks. It is six weeks this year as the Ryder Cup is in the middle of the run so the Tour have decided to play three events and then take a week off before the Ryder Cup and have the Tour Championship the week after.
Since I arrived here at Ridgewood I have been inundated with media requests, and various other things, to discuss the PGA. I have had to try and curtail these as much as I can as I am here to concentrate on the Barclays Classic, which is the most important thing this week. It is important to make sure that I don’t get carried away by everything that has happened over the last few weeks and also that I don’t get distracted by the Fed Ex Cup. There is nothing that I can do about the Fed Ex Cup this week, all I can do is take it one week at a time and see how I get on.
This week we are playing the Barclays Classic at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. It is a new venue, we are here for only one year, which is good for me as it means that nobody knows the course that well and as I am coming in a little unsure of where I am. With regards my game and fitness it helps to bring everyone back to a level playing field. I took it very easy last week but even still I am not sure how ready I am for playing a tournament; I won’t really know until I get started on Thursday. When I got to Sunday and I was packing up to come to New Jersey I thought to myself that I would like another week by the pool. I knew that there were still a lot of things to play for in the season and so I had to get myself back into it. I am looking forward to getting started on Thursday as it is a big event and the first step on the way to the Fed Ex Cup. With the new system there is quite a buzz around the course during the practice days.
Seeing as I am still quite tired I have taken it easy in my preparation this week, I have played 30 holes over the three days and kept my practice to a minimum. It seems to be a running theme for my last few events as I feel I have been playing catch up with regards to my fitness and tiredness levels.
The course this week is designed by the same architect as Winged Foot; it is an old style course with plenty of mature trees around the course. Ridgewood has 27 holes and this week they have picked the best 18 holes of the 27; they have come up with a par 71 that measures 7,304 yards. It plays quite long as there are several elevation changes and also the fairways are not rolling out much. On Monday I played twelve holes, the first four and the last eight; I thought that it was very good course that cold yield some birdies, however after playing the course in full on Wednesday I have to say that it is much tougher than I originally thought. There are a few funky holes but in general the holes are tough and pars are a good score around here. There is a great mix in the holes with a drivable par four, a short par three and par fives that are out of reach and on a couple that are on in two.
Two of the holes that stick out for me are the fifth and fifteenth:
The fifth is a 290 yard par four, it plays uphill and is heavily bunkered; it is drivable but the green is very narrow and so even if you go for it there is plenty of trouble around. The members call this hole the ‘five and dime’ as they used to hit five irons and then a ten iron (now a wedge) to the green. I prefer to go for a hole like this in one as I always feel that I can chip it closer than I can pitch it.
The fifteenth hole is a 155 yard par three; this is a great par three that we don’t see too often anymore. It is a small green with plenty of bunkers around it, anything on the green means that you have a reasonable chance of birdie but anything missing it is a tough up and down. You just don’t get holes like this one on modern courses.
The course is set up very tough this week; it is almost US Open like. The rough is not quite as long as it would be at a US Open but it is very tough anyway. Another big feature of the course is that if you get above the hole on these greens then you have a tough two putt.
I am not quite sure how ready I am for this week. I feel a little tired but not too bad but it will become clear to me once I get started. I am here to concentrate on the Barclays Classic and as normal I am here to try and get myself into contention with nine holes to go. I know that I can’t win on Thursday but I can certainly lose it so the main thing for me is to stay focused and give myself a chance on Sunday and see how I get on from there.
I had hoped coming into this event that one week off would be enough to recharge my batteries and get me ready for the first play-off event; however it just wasn’t the case. I did everything I could during the practice days to get myself ready to play; made sure that I didn’t do too much practice and took it easy in the evenings. I liked the golf course and was looking forward to playing it in a tournament but it just wasn’t a good week for me to be playing; as I look back on it I can see that I was still very tired and probably needed another week off.
When I played the course in the pro-am on Wednesday I thought that it was a really tough course and felt that if anyone shot six under for the week they would have played very well. In practice it played long and there didn’t seem to be many birdie holes out there. I started early on Thursday morning and while it didn’t play quite as tough as Wednesday I still thought that the course was playing tough enough. I opened up with a birdie on the par three 10th; a five iron to about four feet, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. It was all very steady after my opening hole; pars at the next seven holes. I missed a couple of chances in these holes and made a save as well but I was still going along nicely. The 18th was the beginning of my downfall in a sense; I pulled my tee shot a little left into the rough and got a bad lie. From here I hit my hybrid to just short of the green but in the rough, it wasn’t a great spot but nothing too bad either. I miss hit my pitch and left it short of the green and then took three more to get down and ended up taking a double bogey six. It was very annoying as it was down to my short game really, I could easily have made four on the hole but a sloppy pitch cost me a six. I came back straight away with a birdie on the first and then missed from five feet on the second for another. I was level par for the tournament and doing fine although I knew that I could be a lot better. On the third hole I went for the green in two and came up short and took four to get down from 10 yards off the green again. I was very annoyed again as it was my short game once more; I parred my way in from here to shoot one over par. In the end I made a couple of good saves in my last few holes which made it a reasonable one over.
When I finished my first round I couldn’t believe how good the scoring was. Hunter Mahan had shot nine under par and the there were a lot of rounds under par. I was well down the field when I was leaving the course. By the end of the day I was lying on the cut mark. I would never have predicted this before I started as I felt that it was a really tough course. However I wasn’t worried as I felt that I could improve on Friday and get myself back into the tournament. It wasn’t to be though; I started slowly on Friday with four pars. The first few holes were scoring opportunities and I didn’t take any. I birdied the fifth after driving it up pin high on the right and getting it up and down but then I gave the shot back straight away by three putting the sixth. I made a good putt for birdie on the eighth to get back to one under for the day but it was to be short lived again as I three putted the tenth. I was struggling mentally, just fatigued. I knew that I was on the cut line and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make a move away from. Every time I made a birdie it seemed that I gave it back quickly after it; this continued on as I birdied the 13th after making a good up and down from the greenside bunker but then a bad tee shot on the 14th cost me a bogey. I followed this bogey up with another one on the 15th; I came up short with my approach and then failed to get it up and down from the bunker. This bogey put me to two over for the tournament and outside of the cut; I needed to play the last three in one under to be around for the weekend. I hit a nice lob wedge to 16 to set up a birdie to get me back to one over and looking like making the weekend. I was thinking on the 17th that if I made a four that I would get myself back into the tournament rather than just making the cut; however I pulled my drive into the trees and then it took me two more to get back to the fairway. Four more shots later I was three over par for the tournament and missing the cut; I parred the last to finish three over and missed by two shots. I was so annoyed with myself as it was a bad drive on 17 that cost me.
The most annoying thing about it all was the fact that missing the cut was disastrous for my FedEx Cup standing. With the new system this year there is a huge weighting to making the cut, anyone making the cut got at least 2,000 points. By missing the cut I dropped from 4th to 23rd and in danger of not making the Tour Championship. If I had made the cut and finished last then I would still be in the top 10. It makes it very hard for me to win the Fed Ex now. Looking back on it I took four to get down from the edge of three greens and also had two three putts. This is normally an area where I am reasonable, but it showed me that I was still tired and wasn’t quite ready to play.
I am off to Boston for the second play-off event and hopefully after the weekend off I will be a bit more refreshed. I need to play well in the next two events to give myself a chance of winning the Fed Ex as the points that I lost this week leave me a long way back.
Talk to you all soon,