I am back in Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf event which I played for the first time last year. When I was leaving here last year I wasn’t expecting to be coming back so soon! I played here last year as the British Open Champion whereas this year I am here representing the British Open and also the PGA Championship. This years field is made up of myself, Trevor Immelman (the Masters Champion), Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk. As Tiger is still injured he has pulled out and the fact that I won two majors means that they have to invite two other players. So both Retief and Jim are here as the best performing players in the majors this year who have won a past major. This is very much a fun event for us pros, there is no real pressure involved as everyone is just happy to have qualified; as it is a made for television spectacle there is no world ranking points and the money won doesn’t count on any money list. We are all trying to win but it is not as intense as a normal week. Last year I finished second to Angel Cabrerra. I was leading through most of the second round and with three to play I was three clear. Angel finished with two birdies and an eagle to my two pars and a birdie to force a play-off which I lost on the second play-off hole. It was disappointing to lose but it didn’t feel like losing a regular tournament.
We are back at the Mid Ocean Club for this year’s event again; which is a very nice course. It is a funky short course that is a great venue for this sort of tournament as so much can happen.
The Mid Ocean course is a really good test; it is short by modern standards, measuring only 6,666 yards. However there is an elevation change on practically every hole which makes it very hard to get the clubbing right, the elevation changes vary from 1yard up to 25 yards. They have the course in fantastic condition for us, the greens are really good and the ball sits up great on the fairways. The real defences of this course are the greens and the wind. It is designed with the win in mind, and there are a lot of exposed tee shots. If the wind blows here it would certainly make the course at least two shots harder. The second defense is the greens, as they are heavily undulating. While the course is relatively short it is very tough to get a ball close to the pins as there are so many slopes on the greens; par can be a good score on a lot of the holes. There are a lot of really good holes here. It is hard to pick out key holes but the ones that I would see as being key are the 11th, 15th and 18th.
The 11th is 487 yard par five, not a long one by any means, which doglegs left at almost 90 degrees. It is well on in two but the key thing here is to hit the fairway. It is possible to hit driver over the trees and leave yourself with a short club in but it is very risky as anything left or right with driver is in big trouble. It is a hole that you feel you should be birdying easily especially as there are only two par fives. However trying to over power this one could lead to a big number. It is still on in two after laying up from the tee, but the key is to play it sensibly.
The 15th is normally a par five here but this week it has been reduced to a 504 yard par four that plays up hill. It a semi blind tee shot and then the second shot plays 10 yards up hill. The green is a shaped a bit like a punch bowl which is where this hole got its name from. This hole will play tough as it normally plays into the wind so two pars here would be good shooting. There is trouble down the right for anyone going for a big drive and not quite catching it. It is important to hit the fairway here to give yourself a chance to hit the green in regulation.
The 18th by its nature, as the last hole, will be key this week. However I believe that it would be a key hole even if it wasn’t the last as it is the second of the two par fives. Normally this is a par four but they have decided to make it a par five for this week and so we are using a tee box from the second hole. It now measure, 521 yards and runs down the side of a cliff with the sea to the right. It is on in two but it is a tight drive as anything pushed has a chance of heading over the cliff, yet it is a hole that you feel you should be making a birdie on. The drive is the key shot here as anything on the fairway puts you in range.
As I have been saying this is a totally different week to normal. Firstly it is only 36 holes and also there are only four of us playing. This year I will be sticking to a very similar game plan for the course which was to play it sensibly and not hit too many drivers. It is a short enough course and so you don’t have to hit too many drivers. My game plan worked well last year as I nearly won. Hopefully this year I can go one better and take the trophy home with me.