I am back in Europe for one of my favourite tournaments off the year, the Dunhill Links. At the start of the year there are a few events that I put into my schedule straight away and look forward to playing and this is one of them. This is a tournament and a format that I really enjoy and have tended to play well in. There are a number of reasons for me liking this event and playing well in it - the course, playing with J.P. and the timing of the event. I have been in the states pretty much since I won the British Open so to get back here to play again on the European Tour is great; while I enjoy playing in the States it is hard to beat coming back here this week to play with friends.
The last few months have been very hectic for me, since winning the PGA I have only been home for a few days, on top of this we had the Ryder Cup which is always a very tiring and stressful week. The last few weeks and months have been tough as regards to getting back to normal, I feel fine physically but I know that I am fatigued mentally. There is a big part of me that is looking forward to the season being over but I know that there is still a lot to be played for before I can sit back and relax.
I arrived here on Monday evening with the aim of playing both Kingsbarns and St. Andrews in practice, I know Carnousitie well and also it is a big effort to get there for a practice round so I decided to leave it out. I played both courses in practice with a number of the Irish Amateurs that are playing in the tournament this week; I look forward to playing these matches every year. The thing about these matches is that there is a lot of pride and bragging rights involved, I end up trying every bit as hard in these matches as I do in the tournament. J.P. and I won our match on Tuesday around St. Andrews; it was a particularly enjoyable to win! I have played the two courses in practice but I have kept my actual practice to a minimum, this is a week that there is so much going on that the last thing you want to do is to wear yourself out by hitting balls. The tournament rounds take quite a while here and so it is important to be fresh.
One of the great things about coming back to play here this week is the fact that I haven’t played over here since the PGA and everyone is coming up to me congratulating me. At first I was wondering what they were congratulating me for as it seems a long time since I won the PGA now. However it is great to accept the congratulations and it gets it fresh in my head again.
The three courses that we play this week are well known, two due to the fact that the Open is held on them and the other because we have been playing this tournament here for a number of year now. Of the three courses the toughest is definitely Carnoustie although it is generally set up a little easier than it would be for an Open. However it is still a course that you are happy to get through with a reasonable score and then try and score on the other courses.
Kingsbarns is a really good test, normally it can be one of the easier ones but that is because the par 5’s are normally reachable. The course plays much shorter than its yardage as the fairways run quite fast. If you get this course in decent weather then you feel that it is a good chance to make a move up the leaderboard, however in practice the wind blew and it was a really tough test, much harder than normal.
St. Andrews is a course that everybody is familiar with. The key around this course is to try and miss the bunkers and to hit your pace putts well as you are guaranteed to have several long putts as there are quite a few double greens. This is the course that we play on Sunday, its one that all the pros know very well. However that can be a bad thing as we all remember the bad things that have happened to people over the years. One thing is for sure nothing is set in stone until you are through the road hole, no. 17.
I am looking forward to playing this week for a lot of reasons, it is a big week as regards to trying to tie up the order of merit and also because I enjoy playing with J.P. We have won this event twice before and would like nothing else than to add a third to it. I had a week off last week and did a bit of practice and so I have a few things distracting me but after a couple of practice rounds it is getting a bit better. The key for me is to enjoy the week and make sure that I get into my routines and focus properly; if I can do this then the rest will look after itself.