The first major of the season is over and all the talk of the Paddy Slam has come to an end as well. I finished in a share of 36th position, which was well below what I would have hoped for but it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying. I would have loved to have been in contention with the back nine to play on Sunday; for the last two years I have been in with a shout on Sunday afternoon and the buzz is amazing. This year I was out well in front of the leaders, so much so that when I was starting my back nine the leaders hadn’t teed off yet. I definitely missed the excitement of the back nine but there was nothing I could do about it. I tried hard all week but I just wasn’t able to get enough momentum to get myself moving in the right direction. I shot rounds of 69, 73, 73 and 73 to finish on level par for the week, leaving me well behind the eventual winner.
I came here in good shape as far as my game and everything related to it is concerned. I was in a good frame of mind for the week and looking forward to having another run at the Masters. After the last two years when I have been in the last few groups teeing off on Sunday I looked forward to this week even more. To be in contention on the back nine here on a Sunday is great, the biggest problem that I have with it, seeing as I have not won here, is that I have to wait another year before getting another chance to win the green jacket. This year I came into the Masters with the added pressure of the so called “Paddy Slam” however I have to say that it really didn’t distract me that much; yes I was asked a lot of questions about it and had to cover it in my press conference but other than that I just kept to myself and went about my own business.
I have always put Augusta National down as one of my favourite courses; one of the main reasons for this is because it asks so many questions of you as a player. Another reason is that the members of Augusta have such control over the scoring; they can set it up for whatever scoring they want to see. This year the course was set up to allow players to make birdies if we hit good shots and to penalize those of us that didn’t. It was really a great tournament but then as far as I am concerned it is always a great tournament; this tournament always produces a great champion.
I opened up with a solid three under par on Thursday. The scoring was good and I was lying five behind Chad Campbell, but it was a solid start. However after my first round I wasn’t able to break par again, three more rounds of 73 were not good enough to get into contention. In the end I just didn’t quite play well enough, on top of this I definitely didn’t get the “rub of the green” this week.
While I was happy enough with my opening round it still could have been better but it was the second round where I missed my chance to move forward. I made three bogeys on the front nine on Friday against one birdie to be out in two over for the day. One of the bogeys, the seventh, was almost a two shot swing as my second shot looked like it was going to be perfect. I thought that it was coming down on the pin but it pitched just over the bunker, about four yards short of the pin, and jumped back into the bunker. However I was still plugging away and not getting caught up in the fact that I wasn’t making many birdies and then I made a good putt on the 13th for an eagle to get me back to 3 under for the tournament. This got me going; on the 14th I hit my second shot to 10 feet behind the hole but missed for birdie. Then on the 15th, a hole that has caused me a lot of grief over the years, I had to lay up as I was in the trees from my drive. I hit a lovely sand wedge to 3 feet and was looking like going to four under. But then the 15th came back to bite me again; I was standing over my putt and I wasn’t quite comfortable so I stood off it to have another look at the line. I stood away from the ball for about 20 seconds and then as I went in again a big gust of wind came along and moved the ball 3 feet. This had happened to me in Houston two years ago and it was deemed not to have been a penalty as I had moved away but this time it was a penalty as I had grounded my putter the first time I stood into it, whereas in Houston I wasn’t deemed to have addressed the ball as I hadn’t taken up my proper position. It took a while and a couple of referees to sort it out; I had to replace the ball and then hole out for a par. A very disappointing par! This stopped my momentum really; I made a par on 16 and then a bogey on the 17th after a poor chip. On the last I drove it in the fairway bunker, from where I hit an eight iron to about 10 feet; it was a good birdie chance. I hit a really nice putt and was going down to pick it out of the hole, but unfortunately the ball had other ideas; it horse-shoed back at me. I couldn’t believe it.
As rest of the week went on I got more bad breaks - on the second hole on Saturday I was hitting my second shot from the trees on the left and I hit a tree twice and both times it went back into the hazard, leading to a quadruple bogey 9. In the final round my drive on the ninth hole hit the trees on the left and stayed up there; I had to go back and hit another ball and eventually made a triple bogey 7. Over the course of the week there were a few incidents but these things happen; in the end I didn’t quite play well enough and so the bad breaks just emphasized it. I have got my fair share of breaks over the last few years so I am certainly not moaning about being unlucky. By the end of the week it was actually quite amusing to Ronan and I.
I am disappointed to be leaving here having not contended at all, but more disappointed with the fact that I have to wait another year before I get another chance. I am not leaving feeling sorry for myself as I came here and did everything as I wanted. My preparation for the week was very good; there are a few areas when I look back at the week I feel I could have been better; chipping for example. I will work on these areas over the next couple of weeks and look forward to getting back to action at the Quail Hollow Championship. I am by no means despondent because I didn’t win the Masters, it now a case of looking forward to my next event. There are a lot of big events coming up and as ever I will be looking forward to coming back here next year to have another run at winning the green jacket.
In the end it was a very exciting Masters - both Phil and Tiger gave everyone a lot to roar about and then for it to end up in a three way play-off was fantastic. As always with the back nine here on Sunday nothing is over until you are walking off the 18th green; it looked like Kenny had it sown up only to open the door for the others and then in the play-off it looked like Angel was out of it on the first hole after hitting it in the trees. It only shows what a funny game golf is!
What a great week the Masters always is!
Talk to you soon, Padraig