Schedule update - Padraig has added the CA Championship to his schedule as he feels he needs more competitive practice
Padraig's Tour Diary
I have had limited success in this tournament over the years and this year was no different. The last two years I have exited in the second round but this year I fell at the first hurdle to Pat Perez. It is always disappointing to go out in any round but to lose in the first round is particularly frustrating as it is like missing the cut in a regular event and when you have missed the previous two cuts the feeling is even worse. The nature of this tournament is that it is unpredictable. Matchplay tends to throw up unusual results or what people think are unusual. However the reality is that there are no easy matches as you have the top sixty-four players in the world here and every one of them are capable of beating anyone else.
I came into this event struggling a bit, not with my golf game but with my focus and routines. As I was saying in my preview I did a lot of good work with Bob Rotella on this area in practise; it definitely helped me a lot and I felt far better in my match than I had in any of the previous weeks. Even though I felt much better I still wasn’t as good as I should have been and in the end the fact that I haven’t done enough good work on it in the previous few weeks was ultimately my downfall. I struggled to get properly focused at the start of my match and let some chances go by. As the match wore on and was getting tight I found it much easier to focus properly but I had just left myself too much to do.
I got off to a poor start by hitting my tee shot into the waste area on the right which left me chipping out; I hit a sand wedge to six feet and then missed the putt for a half. It wasn’t how I wanted to start but these things can happen although, I wasn’t too perturbed about it. Over the next couple of holes I managed to turn things around nicely. On the second I miss hit my second shot to short left of the green. Pat pushed his second shot but it carried far enough to catch the green and ended up a foot from the hole which I gave him for an eagle; I holed my 35 yard chip shot for a half and then followed it up with a winning birdie on the par three third to get back to level. Standing on the fifth tee we were level. I hit a really good drive down the middle leaving me with a seven iron; Pat pulled his tee shot into the waste area and had to take a drop. He ended up with 12 footer for bogey; I missed the green with my second shot and then chipped to four feet. Pat holed his which meant that I had to hole mine to go one up but I missed and let him of the hook. This was definitely a big hole in the overall context of the match as it turned out; looking back on the match I can see that this hole was the pivotal moment.
I lost the next hole to a par after I hit a poor tee shot and failed to get up and down from the bunker. I birdied the eighth hole to get back to level but then Pat made a birdie on the ninth to get it right back. Another birdie on the eleventh got me back to level again but like before Pat made a birdie on the very next hole to put me one down again but this time I lost the next hole as well; I missed five footer for birdie and a half on the 13th. It was from here on that I felt I got more focused; I suppose it was easier as I had no option. We halved the 14th in pars, I just missed a 15 footer for a win. On the 15th we both went for the green. Pat hit his in the left greenside bunker and I pulled mine into the waste land; I had to take a penalty drop. I pitched it to four feet and managed to hole for a half, an unlikely half. On the 16th I holed a 25 foot putt for a birdie and a win to get back to one down; on the 17th I holed another good putt to keep the match alive. I was one down playing the last; I hit three wood from the tee and pushed it into the fairway bunker. Pat laid it up of the bunker and hit his second shot to 20 feet; it meant that I had to make a birdie if I was to go down the 19th. I had 148 yards to the pin from the bunker; I hit a nine iron down the pin as I wanted but it drifted just right and pitched a yard past the pin leaving me with 12 footer for birdie. It was a good shot but unfortunately it was outside the range where it was a definite birdie. It was tricky putt I was left with to take it up the 19th. It was downhill and breaking right to left looking like it was going to break a lot at the start and then straighten out; because of this I couldn’t get comfortable with it. I wasn’t convinced with how it was going to break and as a result I hit a poor putt that had no chance of going in. I was very annoyed with myself afterwards as I knew the putt never had a chance!
It was another disappointing week for me; more so this week as I was making good progress on my mental side. I would really like to have had another couple of rounds to get it right. Having lost so early here it means that I would have nearly four weeks off before I come back for Bay Hill. Knowing that it isn’t my golf game that is the problem I have decided to change my schedule and only take one week off and then come back for the CA Championship in Doral. I had originally planned a three week break but seeing as I never really got into proper playing mode on this trip I feel that having another tournament will only benefit me. So I am home for a week and half and then back to Florida for one week.
It has been a disappointing few weeks but the good thing is that I know what the problem was and have plenty of time to rectify it.
Padraig's Tour Diary
I am in Tucson, Arizona for the Accenture World Match Play Championship. This is the third year of it being held here in Tucson. However this year we are playing at a new course at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain; it is a Jack Nicklaus design. This is always a strange tournament due to the matchplay factor and as with any knockout event it is unpredictable. Over the years I have struggled in this event as it has always been so early in the year for me; I have never come to here or La Costa, where it was originally played, feeling overly confident about my game. This week is no different. I have missed the last too cuts and been struggling with my game; however the fact that it is matchplay means that you can get away with not being at your best. I know from my amateur days that it is not about how you hit the ball in matchplay, it is about getting the ball in the hole and not giving up on any holes. One of the big keys is not to give away any easy holes, you have to make sure that your opponent has to play to beat you; you never want to beat yourself.
I arrived here on Saturday evening as there was no need for me to stay in L.A. By coming here early it meant that I could comfortably play 36 holes practice over three days. The tournament starts on Wednesday this week as there are seven rounds to be played for the winner. As there is the prospect of playing so many rounds I felt that it was best to play two rounds over three days; I played 18 on Sunday and then 9 holes on both Monday and Tuesday. Sunday was a quiet day at the course as there were only a few players here; it was an ideal day to look at the course. I played on my own and took my time going round so as to hit a few chip shots and putts on each green. During the two nines I played on Monday and Tuesday I spent more time around the greens trying to get a feel for where the places to miss were. They are “funky” greens so it is important to have a good mental picture of them come Wednesday.
It is no secret that I have been struggling to get into tournament mode so far this year. I have been practicing too much and not concentrating on the right areas to be competitive; pretty much the same as every year since I turned professional. This has been the story of my last three weeks; thankfully the great thing about this week is the fact that Bob Rotella is here for a few days. It is the first time this year that I have worked with him and the first time I have seen him since the US PGA last year. We had a great chat over breakfast on Monday morning; I explained what I had been doing for the past three weeks and what I felt I needed to do. It was nothing Bob hadn’t heard me saying before but gladly it was helpful talking about it. We worked some more on the range; the usual stuff, getting into my target and going through my routines. It was hard to believe how tough it was for me to actually hit one shot without thinking about some part of my swing or stance or set up. I must have hit about thirty shots before I decided to just not worry about the outcome and hit a shot. This was the first shot I have played this year where I wasn’t thinking about something in my swing. The funny thing about doing what Bob tells me is that every time I do it I actually hit a good shot; the only time I don’t is when I get distracted by something in my swing or elsewhere which means that I am not focused properly. I had dinner with Bob on Monday to discuss it some more and then worked with him again for a couple of hours on Tuesday. By the end of my practice on Tuesday I was feeling so much better about myself and my game as a result of the work I did with Bob.
As I was saying at the start, this is a new venue. The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and measures over 7,800 yards from the back tees. In yardage terms this is extremely long however it doesn’t play it full length because we are at altitude here and the ball travels further than normal. When it gets warm the ball can go up to 10% further than normal. The fairways are also firm so anything hitting them is running a long way; all of this helps make the course play substantially shorter than its yardage. However long this course will play in the tournament it is not the length that is its defence; the main protection against scoring here are the greens. These are some of the funkiest greens that I have played on; it is very hard to know where to hit the ball to at times. Normally you can hit it to the middle of a green and be able to putt to the hole no matter where it is on the green but not this week. You could hit it up the middle on these greens and be luckily to get down in three; every green has a number of big mounds and slopes on them. No matter how tough the course plays or the greens are it doesn’t matter as much as a normal week as it only about hitting one shot less than your opponent. A funky course like this is a great venue for a matchplay tournament; it throws up so many different bounces. This week you will see good shots go unrewarded and bad shots get lucky; it will be something like playing links golf in that respect. It is as much a mental test as a golfing test; the person that wins this week will have to be very patient and accepting. There will be a lot of frustrated golfers around this week!
This tournament has been overshadowed by the announcement that it would be Tiger’s first tournament back. He announced it last Thursday and since then the media has gone into over drive; every interview I have done since has asked about him playing. I have to say that it is great to see him back but it is not something that I have spent much time thinking about. I have enough things going on in my own mind, let alone worrying about other players.
I am playing Pat Perez in the first round; Pat has won already this year and is playing very well. The thing about this tournament is that there are no easy matches; every player in the field is capable of beating anyone else in the field. I know that I will have a tough match on my hands; I just have to get on with my own game and not worry about my opponent. After the work I have done with Bob this week I am feeling a lot better about my game; now it is just a matter of bringing it onto the course.