A final round of three under par 68 sees Padraig finish the 2008 season in a tie for 13th place at the Volvo Masters. In a frustrating week, he drew the wrong half of the draw and had to contend with the worst of the weather which didn't help his quest for the European Order of Merit Title. After rounds of 76,71,71 and 68 he finished second in that race to his good friend and Ryder Cup partner, Robert Karlsson. It also ends the tours involvement with Valderamma as the Race to Dubai takes over as the 2009 Order of Merit.
Padraig now travels to China to play in the HSBC Champions before heading to Singapore for his last event of the season, the Barclays Singapore Open. It's been a year to remember!
The 2008 European Tour season is in its last week; we are in Valderamma for the Volvo Masters. This has been the last event on the European Tour for over twenty years now but this is the last time that we will be playing the final event here as we are moving to Dubai from next year. The Volvo Masters is one of the biggest events on the European Tour and as a tournament for the past two years I have come here chasing the Order of Merit, in 2006 I was trailing Paul Casey and last year it was Justin Rose that I was behind. This year I am in second place again, behind Robert Karlsson; after his win in the Dunhill Links he moved ahead of me.
There are a number of things to play for this week, as it is the last Volvo Masters it would be great to win it and also I have never won on Valderamma so I would like to rectify that. The other big prize this week is obviously the Order of Merit; I would like to add to my title from 2006. Both Robert and I have had great years so far but we would both love to add one more title to name for the year. We will be playing together on Thursday afternoon as we all tee off in our order of merit position. Robert is a great guy to play with as he is enjoyable company and easy going on the course; I have been in this position a number of times now and so I have learned that the most important thing that I can do for the week is to play my own game and concentrate on the tournament that I am playing in. There is no point in getting caught up in looking at Robert for the week, I have to go out and try to win the tournament and let the rest look after itself.
I haven’t played a tournament since the Grand Slam in Bermuda and that was only a two round event. Ideally I would like to have played an event last week to get myself prepared for this week but I am struggling with fatigue already so another event just wouldn’t have been beneficial. I arrived in Malaga on Thursday evening to play a couple of games to get myself into shape for the tournament. I played with Ronan on Friday and Saturday, he beat me both days! The good thing about playing the matches with Ronan is that they got me into concentrating on trying to get the ball into the hole rather than technical thoughts. For the week ahead I know that my best chance of winning is to accept that I have done the work and just concentrate on getting the ball in the hole and not on how to get it into the hole.
Valderamma is probably the most well know golf course in Europe and has been linked to the European tour for as long as I can remember. There have been a number of top events played here over the years, The Volvo Masters, The American Express and the Ryder Cup. The biggest possible events have been played here so for us to be playing here for the last time is hard to believe; I am sure that we will return at some stage in the future. For a long time I wouldn’t have been too bothered about not coming back here as I hadn’t had much success but in the past few years I have played this course much better and while I have not won here I have come close a couple of times. I will also always have a soft spot for Valderamma as I won the Order of Merit around this course two years ago.
I find this one of the toughest courses of the year, hitting fairways is not good enough on this course it comes down to which part of the fairway you hit. You can hit the fairway here and still be blocked out by the over hanging tress; this course is all about accuracy and very little to do about power. Normally when you come to a course you can pick out key holes for the week but on this course there are 18 key holes, there is no give away holes here. Every hole is a potential disaster waiting to happen. Invariably the tournament will come down to the last few holes of this course and very possibly the order of merit. I remember when I won the Order of Merit it came down to the back nine on Sunday, not unlike a major and like any major it came down to having to hole putts on the last few greens. The final holes, like all the holes here are very tough and pars are good scores.
The 14th, while it measures only 370 yards it is far from an easy hole. The second shot is straight uphill. The fairway slopes heavily from right to left and the green is narrow. Coming off the fairway this is a tough second shot but from the rough it is extremely difficult. If you miss the fairway here it is very hard to get to the green in regulation and so par becomes a tough task.
The 15th is a long par 3, 226 yards, which plays downhill and is in the most exposed part of the course. The green slopes heavily from left to right so anything missing the green left is a very tough up and down. Anytime you make a three here you are happy.
The 16th, this hole has caused me no end of trouble over the years. I have run up several doubles and triples here. This year they have put a new tee in, it is a little left of the old one and so it means that you are now hitting straight down the fairway as opposed to across it like in previous years. It has lengthened the hole a bit but I feel it makes it an easier hole as the drive is made much easier.
The 17th, the most famous of all the holes at Valderamma. At 536 yards this is not a long par 5 any more. The difficulty here is the water in the front of the green and the fact that the green is so narrow. Even with a lob wedge the green looks like a small target as it slopes towards the water. It can be reached in two easily but it all depends if it is worth it. This is a real risk reward hole.
The 18th measures over 450 yards but the toughest part about it is how tight it is for the tee shot. Every time I stand on this tee I think of the drive that Monty hit here in his singles match against Scott Hoch in the Ryder Cup; he hit a three wood over the trees and split the Fairway. I find this one of the toughest drives on the course as it is important to hit the fairway so that you can get to the green, when you are standing on the tee it looks like you have to thread the ball through the eye of a needle. I would take four drives on the fairway here and see what I can do from there.
The fact that there are so many things to play for here this week means that I just have to concentrate on my own game and not get involved in thinking about anything else. I know that if I win here then I win the Order of Merit, the only way that I can do this is to treat this like I do every other tournament and that is to stay patient and try to be in contention with nine holes to play.