After eight weeks off from competitive play I am very happy with how things went in Abu Dhabi. It was my third year opening my season there and each time I have been unsure as to what to expect. This year was no different; I have been working on a few adjustments to my swing during my off-season and this was the first time I could see how it was coming along. No matter how much I practise it at home and play non-tournament rounds I never really know how the things I am working on are coming along until I get into a tournament. For that reason this week has turned into one of the most important weeks of my year; I get to play in a great tournament and find out how my winter work has faired and then I get two more weeks off to fine tune a few things and get ready for the rest of the season.
Going out there I hoped that I would be competitive but felt that I would struggle, so to end up finishing in a tie for fourth was good start to my season. Even though I never really got myself into contention I am very happy with how things went. The four rounds of the tournament felt a little like how I feel when I am playing a few tournaments in a row, the first round I definitely felt a little rusty but as each round went by I was getting more comfortable with my game. As ever with my early season tournaments this week was no different to every year; I can look back on this week and pick out several mental errors. I can see where I dropped shots because my routines and decision making wasn’t up to scratch. This is always an area that I struggle with after a long break; although it wasn’t quite as bad this year as normal. That said I know that I have to do a lot of work on this area over the next couple of weeks to make sure that I am ready for my next tournament.
Another great thing about this tournament now was to be able to play with the new equipment that Wilson had for me and see how it performed in a tournament. I played with new Wilson FG Prototype irons and was very happy with how they looked and how they played. With a couple of tweaks they will be in the bag for good. It is an ideal week for both Wilson and I as we can figure out what needs to be adjusted.
I am coming away from Abu Dhabi very happy with how everything went. I have done a lot of very good work in the gym with Liam Henessey, the equipment side of things went very well and I look forward to getting the small refinements done. As far as the golf itself goes I am happy with how my winter work has gone, but it is not to say that I am finished with it. I will be working away on the same things for the rest of the season but from now on it will not be my main focus; my focus shifts more to the mental side of things from now on. To come here in my first event of the season and shoot 17 under par on a tough golf course is very encouraging for me. If someone had told me during my practice rounds that I would shoot 17 under par for the tournament I would have snapped there hand off and assumed that I would have won the event by four or five shots. This golf course seemed like a brut to me in practice, the rough was like US Open and it played very long. Thankfully they moved a couple of tee boxes up for the first round so as not to make us look too bad! My first round was a rusty affair; I started from the 10th and opened up with ten straight pars; nothing too exciting about it. In the end I made two birdies and one bogey for a round of one under; the most exciting thing about my first round was the fact that we were called in from the course due to hailstones! Not what I was expecting in the desert. After getting off to a slow start I improved substantially over the next three days; rounds of 66, 68 and 66 again on Sunday left me on 17 under for the week. The amazing thing about each one of those rounds was that I came off the course each day thinking that it could have been better. I felt every day that I had left a few shot behind me; for instance on the last day I got off to a flier of a start making five birdies in the first eight holes and then I pushed my tee shot on the ninth and it cost me a bogey. This put an end to my run as I didn’t make another birdie until the 15th, so even though I shot 66 to finish on 17 under I really felt like I should have been another couple of shots better on the day. I have to admit that I would prefer taking this feeling from the week than having come here and feel that I couldn’t have done any better. I have a lot of positives to take away with me, for instance I only made three bogeys all week. But I am not leaving here thinking that my game is in great shape, I am leaving here knowing that I have a number of areas to work on to get myself fully ready for the season ahead.
All in all I am very happy with my first week back, there is no doubt it would be great to come out and win straight away but I don’t think that I would learn as much about where my game is at if I had won here. I am leaving here having played fine; I managed to get on the fringes of contention and got a good feel for what I need to work on as a result. The other areas that I was concentrating on this week all went well too. The training side went well and the new irons look great, I am looking forward to keeping them in play. For now it is back home, I have two more weeks off before I head to the States for four events. I will be spending my time concentrating on the area that wasn’t up to scratch; namely the mental side.