Honda Classic - Review
I said at the start of the week, PGA National is a very hard golf course. It has tended to play like a major course over the years, although this year it may have been a little easier than previous years as the rough wasn’t as heavy. However even with that there was still only one player that finished in double figures under par, Camilo Villeagas. I finished on four over par for the week, well down the field.
It was an unusual week for me in terms of my performance and play and looking back on it I know that I left a lot of shots behind me. I can’t say that I played well enough to win the tournament but I know that I played well enough to finish four or five under par as opposed to the four over par I did.
To finish four over par for the week was a disappointment. The main reason behind it was the fact that I had a terrible week on the greens. I would say that it was probably my worst putting week of my career - it was a combination of struggling to read the greens and also struggling with my alignment. I had spent some time in practice talking to a guy who works with pros on their putting as to how he reads greens. I was explaining that I had been struggling for a while with my reading of the greens; I reckon that in nearly two weeks out of four I am finding it hard to see the breaks and to get a feel. We talked about it in detail and about how he reads greens; he does a lot of it based on walking the greens and feeling the undulations with his feet. It was very interesting stuff and certainly I think it will help me in the future but last week I was completely confused. I was struggling to read the greens anyway and then when I tried his method it just made it more confusing. On top of this I never felt good about my alignment with the putter all week - every time I looked down I felt like I was aiming way off. With all this going through my head I just wasn’t able to commit to my putts and as a result I putted terribly. I had a number of three putts and also missed a number of short putts. It really is hard to play golf when you are struggling to get the ball in the hole.
I was happy with my game from tee to green - I felt that I drove the ball well and hit a lot of very good shots. I struggled with a few of my grips that I wasn’t happy with - I had them changed earlier in the week and thought they were fine but when I got into the tournament I realized that they were a little out. It was the grip on my three wood that really felt bad and I struggled with it for the week; I tried not to hit it unless I had too. The only other area of my game that I wasn’t happy with was my bunker play. I felt that I wasn’t getting a great strike on my bunker shots - I was hitting the spot where I wanted to pitch them on the green but they were releasing a lot as my strike wasn’t great.
The best of my rounds was on Sunday when I managed to hole a few putts early on and get myself to three under through six holes. I was playing nicely, had holed a few putts and feeling good about myself but unfortunately I made a few mistakes over the rest of the round and dropped a few poor shots, ending up shooting level par. However I felt that I had made progress with my putting so it wasn’t all bad.
In terms of the week overall, it was disappointing but I did get some very good work done with Bob Rotella. I felt that I was much more into my target this week than I had been in my first three tournaments of the year.
I know for the week ahead in Doral that I have to spend more time working on my routines and putting. There is nothing technical that I need to work on; it is all about getting myself ready to play and back into practicing my routines and mental approach.
Honda Classic - Preview
I am in West Palm Beach for the start of the Florida swing, which opens up with the Honda Classic. This event saw my first win on the PGA Tour in 2005, on a different course; it moved to PGA National a few years ago. I’ve played it once since it moved and I have to say that this is a really tough course. After the Accenture Match Play I went home and did some work on my game; Bob Torrance came over for a couple of days and we worked out a few kinks. It was good to see Bob after the few weeks away - even though I was happy with the progress I made during the three weeks, I was still a little uncomfortable with a few things, so to see Bob and iron them out was great.
I arrived here in Florida on Sunday evening; I must admit that it was nice to get away from the cold weather back home. I came out on Sunday so that I could tweak my clubs on Monday. I have always put my grips on crooked but over the last year or so I have had them put on a little weaker than they have been, so I am going back to my original way. It can take a while to get them done as I have to look at and hit each one myself and be sure that I am happy with them. I also worked for a couple of hours with Bob Rotella while I was doing this. Its great when Bob is at a tournament as I am then not tempted to do any technical practice; he manages to get me to do all mental work. It is so much better when he is on Tour than when I am on my own.
Tuesday was a terrible day here; there was a thunder storm which meant that the course was closed for most of the day. I had a press conference to do and then talked with Bob again for an hour or so, which took up most of the delay. Once they opened the course I played seven holes and did some practice. On Wednesday I played in the pro-am with my sponsors FTI, who have their Executive Offices here in West Palm Beach. The course played tough as it was exceptionally windy; this course is tough enough without the wind but when you add that in it is close to unplayable. We had a good day but just not good enough to make the prizes.
This is my second time playing the Honda here at PGA National. The first time I played it I thought that it was a really tough course; now that I am back I know it is! This is definitely one of the toughest courses of the year; it measures over 7,100 yards and plays as a par 70. When you add in the wind that they get here it can play exceptionally long. It is a tough course from the start but the thing that makes it as tough as it is is the finish; known as the Bear Trap after Jack Nicklaus, who redesigned the course. The Bear Trap refers to the 15, 16 and 17th, both the 15th and 17th are par threes and have water on them. When you stand on the tee boxes of these holes, all you are thinking about is how to keep the ball dry and get onto the next hole. When the wind is blowing, these holes become a nightmare, with no real bailout area. You have to take on the shot and hit it, which is something that you don’t normally have to do. The 16th is a tough par four; there is water all down the right and two fairway bunkers to avoid. Making par on these holes is a great score and you are more than happy to come through these level par.
Having worked with Bob Torrance for a few days last week I am very happy with my swing; so much so that I am here to concentrate on playing golf and not worrying about how I swing it. This week I have been working with Bob Rotella to help me get away from spending time on technical swing thoughts.
As far as this week goes I am here to try and win the tournament; I know that the best way for me to do this is to work on my focus for the week. I have to practice that on the range as much as I have to practice anything else. This is a tough course and the tournament can play like a US Open as it tends to wear players down. The key to doing well here is to remain fresh all week and not to get caught up doing too much. I know that if I can get myself into contention with nine holes to play then I have a good chance to win. This is a week that you have to stay patient and just keep your head, as the course is tough and anything can happen.