Open de France - Preview
After a week off I am back for another three week run that ends with the Open Championship; I am starting back at the French Open. I haven’t played here since 2006 when I finished second; I came here then in a need of Ryder cup points and effectively secured my place for the team at the K club. This year I am coming into it after missing my last four cuts, my last missed cut was the most disappointing as it was the US Open.
I spent last week working on my game, Bob came over and we spent a few days working on my swing. He had noticed a couple of things when he was watching the US Open coverage which needed to be looked at. It was a great couple of days as we got a lot done and by the end of it I really felt good about how I was striking it. I would have loved to have had another couple of weeks to work on it as it was going so well but I knew that I had tournaments to play and so I had to try and leave it and let it work its way in. Besides the practice and the work with Bob it was great to be home for a few days, even if it was a fleeting visit.
I came over to Paris on Monday afternoon, I wasn’t in early enough to get to the course but having played here before I know the course and wasn’t too worried about seeing it three days before the start. I went out on Tuesday morning and was full of optimism as my practice had gone so well last week but when I got to the range I hit the ball terrible. It was as bad as I have ever hit it; how quickly the optimism is knocked out of you! I spent quite a while hitting balls on the range trying to figure out what had changed over night but I just couldn’t figure it out. The more I hit the worse it got and the more annoying it was, but after a couple of buckets of balls I figured out what I was doing. I was getting the feeling of being underneath the ball at impact, once I thought about it it made perfect sense as I was hitting big hooks. I spent the next couple of hours working on fixing this and by the end of it I was hitting the ball very well and it was feeling really good. Having spent most of the day working on my swing I wanted to get out and play a few holes but I had hurt my hand hitting shots and wasn’t sure what it would be like. I got some treatment and went out playing with Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy; gladly there was nothing wrong with my hand on the course.
It was great playing with the two lads, there was some good slagging; it reminded me of our amateur days. I only played nine holes as I was tired after all the balls I had hit but I would have loved to have gone on as I was enjoying the round so much. On top of enjoying the craic with the lads I was hitting the ball really well with the thought I had from the range. The good thing about what I discovered is that it is something that Bob and I have worked on before but I never really got it, where as now after all the work I have done this year it finally makes sense to me. I played the pro-am on Wednesday morning and again I was very happy with how I played; it may be hard not to think about it this week but it is something that I can think about and it doesn’t really affect me. The hardest thing for me since Tuesday afternoon has been to leave it alone; I just want to keep hitting shots to perfect it as I believe it will make a big difference to my game but as I have a tournament to play I have to be disciplined about it.
As I was saying it was 2006 since I played here last and before that I can’t remember when I played it last. It just hasn’t fitted into my schedule over the last few years but this year the date changed and it fits in nicely as the start of my three week run into the Open. This is one of the best courses that we play all year and definitely one of the toughest or at least I think so. Anytime I have played here I have found this course extremely tough, as I played on Tuesday I was struggling to figure out how I managed to finish second here the last time I played. This year the rough is not so heavy and the course is playing a little longer as it is not as hard as normal. Paris National is a great golf course that just doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, hopefully with the change of date it will get a better field and it will be seen for the great tournament that it is.
The most famous hole on this golf course is the 18th, it is now a 470 yard par four with water down the left from the tee and water short and big of the green. It is definitely one of the toughest finishing holes in golf. No lead is safe on this hole. This is the scene of one of the best golf shots I have ever seen; it was when Malcolm Mackenzie won here. He needed a birdie to win and had a two iron in his hand; I don’t think he had won an event before. He took the shot on and hit the green to set up his win; it was a great shot under the pressure that he was under. Every time I come here I think of that shot.
I am here to try and perform well in this tournament but the most important thing to me is to have a good week ball striking wise so to give me a bit of confidence. I am very excited about the changes I am making as far as the long term goes but in the short term I know that I need to get some good results under my belt. I have two tournaments before the Open to try and get myself ready for my defense. I am here to start my preparation this week and that means trying to get myself into contention on Sunday.