Last week saw me unsuccessfully defending a title at the BMW Asian Open. This week, I’m back in Europe and defending another crown – the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe. Like in China, the course is different to the one I won on last season. We’re at St Leon-Rot near Heidelberg whereas my playoff victory in this event came at Gut Kaden close to Hamburg.
Of course, I have great memories of the event. It is a big one as far as our schedule goes and everything about it was perfect last year. It’s how you would dream of winning a tournament, holing a putt on the last green to clinch it. But that’s all in the past and I’m fully focussed on this week.
St Leon-Rot is a long track at 7,255 yards – and you need to hit it straight as the rough is quite penal. The course will put a premium on straight hitting over the next four days while you will need to putt well on top of that if you’re to contend. Gut Kaden last year required a lot more wedge shots and in my opinion probably offered up more birdie opportunities. In fact, last years course would not be anywhere near as tight or as long as this.
Here, we do have a couple of early chances with the first and the third holes both being par-5s of under 550 yards. But after that there are some seriously testing par-4s before the turn, the fifth, seventh and ninth all measure 460 yards-plus. On the back nine, the par-4s are not so long, although the par-5 17th is a genuine three-shotter at 603 yards.
I’m generally happy with the way my game is going. One thing of concern is that I putted poorly last week at the BMW Asian Open. That and my bunker play are areas I will be concentrating on ahead of my first round. With putting, for me it’s just a case of putting the hours in. If I spend time on the practice green eventually I can pinpoint what’s going wrong. I maybe have 10 different levels of key points. I’ll start off on the first key points – am I moving my head – and then the second key point – is the backstroke too long? I have all these little keys that I just go through, checking and checking. In the end, you’ll find out the specific thing that is breaking down in the stroke. As I mentioned, it’s tough off the tee here and you’ve got to drive it well to prosper. But I’m not too worried about that aspect of my game.
Jet-lag, what jet-lag?
As for how I’m feeling, I have been struggling with a cold and a bit of a chest infection, which has left me run down. But I hope I’m over the worst of it. Certainly, I’m not feeling any jet-lag as some people wondered at my pre-tournament press conference. I find it very easy flying east-to-west. I actually like jet-lag when I fly in that direction. It means that I’m tired at night, I sleep earlier and wake up in the morning quite refreshed. When I’m at home, generally I’m the opposite.
Somebody was asking me earlier this week, who are the main dangers, who are you worried about? I never allow myself to think about things like that. You have to be well focused on what you're doing and not looking around you. Rest assured that I’ll be locked into what I’m aiming to do this week as I’m keen to perform well before a week off.