Getting up for the Cup
At the Memorial last week there was some talk about this year’s Ryder Cup. Of course, the hype and anticipation surrounding the event will intensify the closer it gets, but it is certainly already beginning to build. Funnily enough, I was asked by a journalist at Muirfield Village what it is I ‘enjoy’ about the Ryder Cup. I had to smile. ‘Enjoy it?’ I replied, ‘That’s not the right word!’
Basically, the Ryder Cup is an experience that you can get nowhere else. That's why players who have played in it want to play again. I think when you play in it for the first time you don't know what you're getting into, but you try your hardest to get into it. And when you get there it is a really, really tough experience. Though maybe not enjoyable as such, it is unmissable.
I suppose it's a bit like going on the worst type of roller-coaster or something like that. It's kind of fun…but really isn't! Maybe it can be compared to a parachute jump or something. It's an exhilarating experience, but it's a different sort of fun.
The pressure zone
The Ryder Cup is one of those things you try your heart out to get there. But when you do, you say, ‘Wow, this is such a tough week, just so much pressure’. It's such a hard week in that sense. If you play it, there's no way you'd want to play a Ryder Cup the following week. You don't want to see a Ryder Cup for two years. Once the week is finished you're glad it's over for two years. As you get farther away from the Ryder Cup and close to the next one, you can't wait to play it. .So it is a great week, yes. But once every two years is plenty.
It’s the Buick Classic.
Talking about the Ryder Cup, there’s a load of guys at this week’s Buick Classic who will be eager to be on Bernhard Lange’s European team in September. A quick look through the field shows that Darren Clarke, Thomas Björn, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Sergio Garcia, Alex Cejka, Jesper Parnevik and Freddie Jacobson are all playing.
Actually, I’m drawn with Jesper for the two first rounds here at Westchester Country Club. We’re paired with the American Glen Day and our tee-time on the first day is 12.10.
It’s definitely a really strong field this week. As well as the European contingent, most of the PGA Tour top guns are playing, including Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III. It should be a really great tournament and one I would love to do well in as a positive stepping stone ahead of next week’s US Open
Westchester is a tough test and great preparation for the US Open. It wouldn’t be the longest track we play by any means, although it is hilly. Measuring just over 6,700 yards, it’s a par-71 which places importance on accuracy.
You have to be gun-barrel straight off the tee on most holes as well needing to hit precision iron shots into the greens. If you do miss with the driver, you’re likely to be in heavy rough.
The greens are small and very quick. You definitely need to have an ‘on’ week with the putter to get competitive.
Here’s hoping for a good one…
Best wishes – and thanks for taking the time to catch up with me. I’ll write again soon.
So close to first PGA Tour success
Seeing what happened, it makes sense to start at the end. In short, I had a good opportunity of winning my first ever PGA Tour title at The Buick Classic, but it just didn’t happen.
After four straight rounds of 68, I was in a playoff with both Sergio Garcia and Rory Sabbatini. The first hole we played was the par-5, 18th, and I probably held the upper hand throughout it. Both of them missed the fairway while I was okay up the left side.
Anyway, it ends up with them both facing birdie putts of over 20 feet while I had around a 10-footer to win it. I hit a good putt, it had a very good chance running down to the hole but just straightened out a little bit and just missed on the high side, edging the cup. It was a pity as I certainly thought the ball had a good chance of going in.
The next hole we played – all three of us were still in – was the par-4, 17th. Again, I found the fairway but my approach was fractionally short, ending up in the fringe 15 foot away. I’d made birdie on the 72nd hole, chipping in from 16 feet and might just have been slightly too confident over it.
As it turned out, I got a bit aggressive and knocked it eight feet by. It was a difficult green to have that putt on. It was a very awkward green, you see. I had watched putts earlier in the day break in different directions and I just wasn't too confident of the line and didn't hit a great one as a result and that was me out as a result of that bogey.
After Sergio had won, I was asked in the press conference if I was happy to have been bang in there contending when – on my own admission – my game was not at its sharpest.
Well, in a sense I was delighted. Of course I wasn’t delighted with the result but, in truth, I’d struggled throughout the week with my golf, so it was good to have involved almost right to the end.
Ideally, though, before a US Open I would have liked to have just played nice golf and just sauntered in the middle of the field with a great swing. I've done the opposite. I had a poor week swinging the golf club and kept myself in contention, so it's been a tiring week mentally. I haven't got really too much confidence out of it as regards swing-wise. I haven't got the ball under any control, didn't know where it was going to go next.
You know, it was one of those weeks you knuckle down, you get aggressive and make as many birdies as you can and hopefully don't make too many bogeys. That’s how I kept myself in contention.
Next stop Shinnecock
I’m at Shinnecock already getting ready for the year’s second Major. Like everyone, I want to play to my full potential, but I know I’ve got a bit of work to do on my swing before we get started on Thursday. I’ll be back with a few thoughts ahead of the first round. Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me,